My MBA Essay Gauntlet

by Mark Wong on August 30, 2010 · 10 comments

in Admissions, GMAT

I didn’t want to be doing essays and GMAT study at the same time, but things don’t always work out as planned.  This year, I’m planning to apply to six different schools.  This is up from five because I got worried about the competition this year and decided to apply to Michigan as well.  In order of second round due dates, they are:

  • Haas – Dec 2nd
  • Wharton – Jan 4th
  • UCLA – Jan 5th
  • Ross – Jan 5th
  • Stanford – Jan 6th
  • Harvard – Jan 11th

Below is a snapshot of the spreadsheet I’ll be using to track my essay completion through December.  You have to click on it to see any detail.  Every school likes to be a little different.  One thing that did surprise me was the word limitation, with some as low as 250 words.

There are 29 essays total with a total of 13,400 words.  However, some of them are 2 out of 4 or 3 out of 4 and not all essays are required.   If I only do the required ones, it would be 20 essays total and 10,400 words.

A lot of the essays overlap in terms of content I can use.  I’ll be writing unique essays for every school, but there are a few key themes that will to every essay application:

  • Unique Personal Story – This I already have, I just need to articulate it well and get it under the word limit for each school.  This is probably the one that applies to the most schools.
  • School Research – Every school has a “why do you want to go here” question and listing “it’s a Top 10 school with a big brand name” simply won’t be sufficient.  I probably don’t have to do actual visits to complete this task, but it will definitely require a bit of digging to learn about the various different programs and concentrations.
  • Career Direction & Goal – This is probably what I need to work on the most.  Right now I probably have 2 or 3 possible and desirable career paths for business school.  I just need to pick one, research it well, and link it to the school.
  • Work Experience Examples – I feel like I have a lot of good work experience examples to choose from; I just don’t know which ones put me in the best light.  I’ll probably create a summary of my top 5 or 6 work experiences and pick from that list for my essays.  I also have to consider balance within each school application, so that for one particular school, I can show breadth and diversity of experiences.
  • Leadership Examples – This is similar to Work Experience and while not all schools specify this, I think it’s safe to say that all schools want to see examples of your leadership and learn about the outcomes.  I definitely have good examples around this topic, but again, it’s about picking the right one to use.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

sh00nyaNo Gravatar August 31, 2010 at 7:21 am

nicely organized and all the stats makes it look like a mountain..:) so you are focusing mostly on R2? none in R1. When is your GMAT?

MakoNo Gravatar August 31, 2010 at 8:19 am

Thanks sh00nya! And yes, it definitely looks like a mountain, but better to just face the reality and deal with the pain now. ;) I’m focused on Round 2 because the date of my GMAT is mid-October which won’t make the Round 1 cut-offs. Additionally, I feel I need the few extra months to turn in a really good application. I also hear there is a slight (very, very slight) advantage in applying in Round 2 because there are some people who apply in Round 1 who get wait-listed (not a fun experience) who would otherwise have been accepted if they applied in Round 2. This may not be true, but this is what I’ve heard.

David ParkNo Gravatar September 1, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Nice article Mark! You really have your work cut out for you. Good luck with the essays!

PranayNo Gravatar September 2, 2010 at 7:49 am

Nice work Mark. All the key themes you mentioned seem perfect fit to me too. Have my gmat in a couple of weeks. Hoping for the best! will revisit once I start writing the essays.

Cheers,
Pranay.

MakoNo Gravatar September 6, 2010 at 10:12 pm

Thanks Pranay. Good luck on your test. Hopefully we’ll both be focusing on just essays soon. :)

EvanNo Gravatar November 20, 2011 at 7:57 pm

Hi Mark, great website. I know its been a while now, but I’m applying to similar schools and was wondering if you still had an excel or document where you jotted down some “program differentiators” to color the “Why Haas/Anderson/HBS?” portions of your essays. If so I’d really love to see what you dug up. Thanks again for all the info you’ve collected up here! Great work!

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