MBA Essay Dos and Dont’s

Learn the key points to out-perform the competition in your personal MBA essay.

The MBA personal statement can be very daunting, not least because you are summarizing your life experiences and goals in a taut 500 words. Yet the essays are perhaps the most crucial part of your application, a chance for you to highlight to the admissions officer that you have considered how business school fits into your journey. This article discusses some dos and don’ts for tackling the MBA essay.


Do describe specific career goals and ways that an MBA will help achieve those goals.

One common mistake of MBA applicants is to deliver half-baked reasons for why they are pursuing the program. Rather than simply state that you hope to “learn management practices” or “understand how businesses are run,” it is important to have clear career objectives, whether it’s moving into a managerial position or starting your own enterprise. These goals should be clearly stated in your personal statement, and you should describe specific ways that an MBA can help you, whether it’s certain classes or case studies that are pertinent to your career.

Most people applying for an MBA are at a stage in their career where they’re ready to move into a managerial position but find themselves lacking the skills to run a team. The MBA program was particularly designed with this problem in mind, and it would be helpful to highlight this goal in your essay. If you’re looking to start your own business, state what kind of business you’re hoping to start, or at least a sector you hope to tackle.


Don’t just repeat your resume.

You’ve already submitted your resume, so why repeat the same information in your personal statement? A common mistake of MBA applicants is to list their experiences in chronological order in the essay. Aside from being a good way of boring the reader, this method does little to boost your application.

While it is tempting to simply regurgitate your past experiences, a more effective strategy would be to find threads that connect your experiences and note the commonalities in the essay. If you have unconventional job changes in your resume, your statement would be better spent dwelling on some of the reasons for those changes. If you took a career break or had a long stretch of unemployment, the essay is another excellent place to explain those gaps. Use the essay as an opportunity to add something your resume does not have.


Do talk about your failures.

Stories of success are not compelling without stories of challenges and failures along the way, but it can be difficult to talk about one’s failures so openly, and in an essay being read by a stranger. Nonetheless, it is imperative to talk about obstacles and setbacks in your MBA essay in order to help the admissions officer understand how you have grown. Bad decisions, failed ventures, unmet goals — they all make for good stories that show people that you are a risk-taker and willing to learn from setbacks.


Don’t use jargon.

A common misconception in business school essays is that using jargon — industry-specific terms like ROI, KPI or CRM — will demonstrate your knowledge of the business world. Instead, it will more often leave readers scratching their heads and struggling to understand what the acronyms stand for. The old adage goes that people who don’t actually know about a topic hide behind jargon. Since an MBA essay will be read by a person with general knowledge, it is best to avoid industry-specific words. If you do need to use them, especially if you are trying to explain an achievement at work, write out all acronyms and define the jargon. Not only does this make your essay easier to read, it also demonstrates that you actually understand the topic you are writing about.


Do tie your personal story with your professional experiences.

The best MBA essays are not purely personal anecdotes, but they are also not purely about careers. An ideal statement should find a way to meld both by talking about how lessons from personal life have been reflected in your professional career. For example, was there a family experience that influenced your personality that has led you to make certain decisions in your job? Or perhaps your race, sex or socioeconomic background has had an influence on who you are, what opportunities have been made available to you or what career decisions you have made. Regardless, take the essay as an opportunity to be candid about yourself and find personal stories that tie back to decisions you have made in your professional life.


If you’re interested in applying for an MBA and deciding on the right program, Crimson can help. Don’t hesitate to reach out to one of Crimson’s expert advisors. We can’t wait to meet you!

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