This season, the UCLA Anderson School of Management has abridged its primary essay question and shortened the word limit from 750 to just 500. However, it has also added a “short-answer” question (read: mini essay) that in many ways recollects the “lost” element of the main essay and reinstates those other 250 words. As the program has been doing for as long as we at mbaMission have been offering essay analyses, it asks applicants about their short- and long-term goals, this time along with the oft-seen “Why our school?” element. And the newly added short answer prompt focuses on what candidates will bring to the school’s community. Given this rather modest essay portion of the UCLA application, you will need to make the most of your recommendations, resume, and interview to ensure that the school gets the full story of who you are as a candidate. In this post, we offer our advice on approaching the school’s 2017–2018 queries.
Essay 1: Describe your short-term and long-term career goals. How can the UCLA Anderson experience add value to your professional development? (500 words maximum)
UCLA Anderson has done away with the preamble to this question that last year outlined the school’s defining principles and plunged straight into a forthright request for your career goals. And considering you have just 500 words available for this entire essay, we recommend that you exercise this same kind of expediency with your response. Avoid going into excessive detail about your past, but be sure to offer enough information to provide context and support for your stated goals so that the progression from one stage of your professional career to the next is clear and reasonable.
Once your goals have been firmly stated and given context, explain how being a UCLA Anderson MBA student is a key step in achieving them. You need to demonstrate that you have dedicated just as much thought—or maybe even more—to why you want to study at UCLA Anderson as you have to where you want to go in your career. Think carefully about what you need to learn or experience (with respect to skills, network, and knowledge base) to be able to reach your stated aspirations and then detail which specific resources and opportunities at UCLA Anderson you believe will allow you to do so. Your goal is to convince the admissions committee that the school is the missing link between who and where you are now and who and where you envision yourself in the future.
The basic components of this essay prompt are elements of a traditional personal statement, so we encourage you to download your free copy of the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide. In this complimentary publication, we offer a detailed discussion of how to approach such queries and craft an effective essay response, along with multiple illustrative examples.
And to learn more about UCLA Anderson’s academic program, defining characteristics, crucial statistics, social life, standout faculty members, and other key features, download a copy of the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the Anderson School of Management, which is also available at no cost.
Short Answer Question: Describe how you would contribute to the UCLA Anderson community. (250 words maximum)
Before you begin writing or even brainstorming for this one, you must familiarize yourself with the characteristics and tone of the UCLA Anderson community. As you do, pay special attention to the aspects and areas that speak to you personally in some way, and do not limit yourself to course work and academic offerings, but also consider social events/clubs and professional development opportunities. Business school is meant to be a comprehensive environment and experience that enriches students in ways not just related directly to business in the conventional sense, and perhaps your greatest potential for contribution lies in one of these areas. If you are a quant wizard, you can of course help your fellow students with class work and projects. If you have a depth of knowledge or years of professional experience in a particular business area or industry, you could serve as a kind of subject matter expert for those around you in the program or as a valuable component in someone’s recruiting network. If you are particularly funny, creative, or athletic, you may be the ideal fit to lead an extracurricular group or play a significant role in a nonacademic project or event. Work to cultivate a thorough understanding of all aspects of the UCLA Anderson program and identify the areas that catch your attention most. Like all other application questions, this one has no “right” answer, so do not try to guess what you think the school wants to hear. Authenticity and enthusiasm are the keys to your success with this mini essay.
Optional essay: The following essay is optional and can be submitted by either first time applicants or reapplicants. No preference is given in the evaluation process to applicants who submit a response to the optional question.
Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? Please use your best judgment. (250 words maximum)
Here is your opportunity—if needed—to address any lingering questions that an admissions officer might have about your candidacy, such as a poor grade or overall GPA, a low GMAT or GRE score, or a gap in your work experience. Do not simply try to fill this space because you fear that not doing so would somehow count against you. And however tempted you might be, this is not the place to reuse a strong essay you wrote for another school or to offer an anecdote or two that you were unable to include in your required essay. However, if you truly feel that you must emphasize or explain something that would render your application incomplete if omitted, write a very brief piece on this key aspect of your profile. We suggest downloading your free copy of the mbaMission Optional Essays Guide, in which we offer detailed advice on deciding whether to take advantage of the optional essay and how best to do so (with multiple sample essays), if needed.
Reapplicant essay: Please describe your career progress since you last applied and ways in which you have enhanced your candidacy. Include updates on short-term and long-term career goals, as well as your continued interest in UCLA Anderson. (750 words maximum)
Whether you have improved your academic record, received a promotion, begun a new and exciting project, increased your community involvement, or taken on some sort of personal challenge, the key to success with this essay is conveying a very deliberate path of achievement and forward momentum. UCLA Anderson wants to know that you have been actively striving to improve yourself and your profile, remain focused on your goals, and have seized available opportunities during the previous year, because an MBA from its program in particular is vital to you. The responses to this essay question will vary greatly from one candidate to the next, of course, because each person’s needs and experiences differ. We are more than happy to provide one-on-one assistance with this highly personal essay to ensure that your efforts over the past year are presented in the best light possible.
The Next Step—Mastering Your UCLA Anderson Interview: Many MBA candidates find admissions interviews stressful and intimidating, but mastering this important element of the application process is definitely possible—the key is informed preparation. And, on your way to this high level of preparation, we offer our free Interview Primers to spur you along! Download your free copy of the UCLA Anderson Interview Primer today.
Stanford GSB MBA Essay Topic Analysis 2017-2018
Since the Stanford Graduate School of Business just released its essay questions for the 2017-2018 admissions season, we are following up with some advice for GSB applicants on how to approach Stanford’s essays. Stanford has asked applicants to respond to the same two questions it has asked the past few years, maintaining the 1,150 word limit from last year, with the allowance of 50 more words for those applying to both the MBA and MBx programs.
Stanford GSB MBA Essay Analysis 2017-2018
Let’s take a closer look at each of Stanford’s required essays.
What matters most to you, and why? (Suggested Word Count: 750 words)
For this essay, we would like you to:
- Do some deep self-examination, so you can genuinely illustrate who you are and how you came to be the person you are.
- Share the insights, experiences, and lessons that shaped your perspectives, rather than focusing merely on what you’ve done or accomplished.
- Write from the heart, and illustrate how a person, situation, or event has influenced you.
- Focus on the “why” rather than the “what.”
Stanford’s “What Matters Most” essay is one of the most challenging prompts from a top business school. An answer to this essay has the potential to be profound and reveal a side of an applicant that the admissions committee cannot find anywhere else in the application, which is why Stanford has asked this question for more than a dozen years. However, the question can be quite intimidating in the context of a strategic application.
Part of the reason that so many applicants struggle with this topic is because they opt to begin their brainstorming by searching for a direct answer to the question of “what matters most” – rifling through common themes like ‘helping others’, ‘the pursuit of knowledge’, ‘revolutionizing an industry’, and any number of textbook replies. With each passing idea, candidates find themselves losing steam and fearful of getting lost in the shuffle of applicants who espouse similar views. While starting with an answer to “what matters most” and working into the body of the essay does seem tempting (and even quite logical), our years of experience advising Stanford GSB candidates tell us that this is often a dead-end. The good news is that we have another approach that has been wildly successful for more than 10 years.
The advice we are about to offer here may seem counterintuitive, but we actually encourage applicants to ‘work backwards’ when crafting this essay via a simple exercise (outlined below). In short, since the purpose of this question is to let the admissions team get to know you better, you should start with who you are and all that you have experienced and accomplished, and then work backwards to find the overarching theme of “what matters most.” Keep in mind that your direct ‘answer’ to the question here is NOT what is going to make you stand out (it may even be somewhat pedestrian), rather it is the series of anecdotes and supporting evidence you provide around that theme that will help you convey your unique candidacy to the admissions team.
So in short, if you find yourself struggling with how to answer this question, try this simple exercise:
- Write down the 15 to 20 most important events, accomplishments, interests, or experiences in your life. Include the good, the bad, the astounding, the ugly, etc. Also, remember that no time frame is off limits–think of events from your early childhood to the present day.
- Look at the list you have generated and try to determine the themes that unify the important events, interests, and ideas in your life.
- Select a small number of diverse items from the list that best support a given theme and use them to define your approach and kick off the drafting process for the essay.
This exercise of working backwards allows you to not only arrive at a “what matters most” theme that really resonates with you, but also helps you find specific examples and anecdotes to help you show how you have explored what matters most to you in your life.
Why Stanford? (Suggested Word Count: 400 words; 450 for applicants to both the MBA and MBx programs)
Enlighten us on how earning your MBA at Stanford will enable you to realize your ambitions.
- Explain your decision to pursue graduate education in management.
- Explain the distinctive opportunities you will pursue at Stanford.
- If you are applying to both the MBA and MSx programs, use Essay B to address your interest in both programs.
Stanford’s second essay steps away from the philosophical to focus on the candidate’s career goals and reasons for going to Stanford. Although this essay is more specific than Essay A, the “Why Stanford?” prompt is far less specific than the career goals questions of other top business schools. Instead of mapping out a specific career path in this essay, applicants should focus on defining the broad impact they hope to make on a service, a sector, or society at large through their chosen career. Essay B is strongest when it connects with Essay A. Essay A is your opportunity to lay out a philosophical explanation of what matters most to you, while Essay B gives you the opportunity to show how you would use your time at Stanford and your career to further what matters most to you.
In Stanford’s additional prompting for this question, the admissions committee asks you to “explain the distinctive opportunities you will pursue at Stanford.” The key word in that sentence is distinctive. In this essay, you need to show the admissions committee that Stanford offers you benefits you can’t find at any other schools. Talk about specific classes, programs, collaboration with other parts of the school, dual degree offerings, clubs, conferences, or other offerings that set Stanford apart from other top business schools. Learning about the school’s curriculum, special programs and extracurricular activities–whether through a visit to campus, conversation with alumni or reading the Clear Admit School Guide to Stanford–will help you craft a response to Essay B that really stands out.
Clear Admit Resources
Thanks for reading our analysis of this year’s GSB MBA essay topics. As you work on your GSB MBA essays and application, we encourage you to consider all of Clear Admit’s Stanford offerings:
Posted in: Admissions Tips, Application Tips, Essay Topic Analysis, Essays
Schools: Stanford GSB