Updated: Apr 21
Many components of the MBA application package are number-based: GPA, undergraduate transcript, GMAT and/or GRE score etc. The essay portions, by comparison, are your chance to focus on your personality and unique story. This article will help you do just that: how to write the best version of your MBA personal statement.
Purpose of the Personal Statement
One of the main objectives for the personal statement is to provide more context for who you are - showcasing the personality behind the quantitative details. Admissions teams look at your personal statement as a way to better understand your unique point of view; what makes you you? Put yourself in the shoes of your admissions reviewer: your personal statement should help them ‘fill in the blanks’ of your overall application narrative, revealing the key details that can’t be learned from the other parts of your app.
Writing Your Statement - What to Include (and what to Leave Out)
Depending on the schools you are applying to, you will be provided with either a specific essay prompt to respond to or a general open-ended personal statement request. If the school doesn’t have specific questions or prompts, your personal statement should generally address who you are, what you want to do, why you’re doing it, and most importantly, why going to this specific MBA program makes sense for you. Before drafting your essay, be sure to review the school’s specific prompt, including topics to address, any questions they have, word count, and other formatting requirements.
Once you have a solid understanding of what the school is looking for, outline the specific points you definitely want to highlight. For example, if you just finished an internship you are proud of, be sure you find a place to put it in your essay. Anything you want to share that is not made obvious by your resume, grades, and test scores, include it in the essay! Common topics you may address include:
Previous work successes and challenges
Hardships you’ve overcome personally
Short term and/or long term career and personal goals
With your essay, look to highlight unique but complementary aspects about yourself and your background. Consider the wider story your full application tells and what information you share within each component. For example, if you have a strong academic record shown through your transcripts, focus your essay on something besides your undergraduate performance. If the application requires multiple essays, don’t discuss the same experience in more than one essay.
Also, be sure to frame your response in a concise but clear way. For each piece of the essay (again, for example, if you want to talk about that internship), start by setting the context or situation, explain your role, and finish with the impact you had - and how the information you’re providing shows that you’re a perfect candidate for the school. When writing out the full statement, be sure to include a clear introduction and conclusion to guide the reader through the statement as well.
Polishing Your Final Draft
Once you’ve drafted out a full version of your essay, it’s important to leave time for review and refinement. Plan to have your draft done at least a few days, if not weeks, before the submissions deadline so you have time to seek feedback and review.
Your statement should go through two key review steps:
Content review: After you’ve had a few days away from the statement, come back to it with fresh eyes to make sure it communicates what you want it to say. You can also ask trusted friends and mentors to review your essay. To make it easier for them to provide useful feedback, ask specific questions to consider while they review. Questions like “What stands out to you?” “ What’s the main theme you get from this essay?” and “Does this align with your understanding of my application and background?” Include the essay prompt when you share your essay as well so the reviewer understands what your essay is responding to.
Grammatical review: Once you’ve perfected the content of your statement, don’t forget to do a final grammar check as well. Platforms like Grammarly can help with copy editing, or you can ask a friend or advisor to review your essay for grammar issues.
Final Best Practices
The MBA personal statement is often a daunting part of the process for applicants. However, by starting early and following the steps outlined in this guide, you’ll be on your way to a strong application statement in no time. Once you have your personal statement crafted, you can even use the same base essay to create additional versions for other school applications - although it’s important to tailor each version to that specific school. You can also share your personal statement with your recommenders so they understand more about your goals and how they can support your application through their recommendation.
If you’re feeling stuck in the application process, you can always reach out to an admissions expert from Crimson Education. From brainstorming your initial outline to revising your final draft, Crimson will help guide you through your personal statement and the overall MBA application process.