MBA essays- How to write (an overview)

MBA application questions

I’ve been quite busy- writing my essays, getting them reviewed and rewriting them, for some weeks now. I’ve also been giving a couple of admission interviews over the last month. I was a Round 2 applicant, although I wrote my GMAT in July 2013. Why didn’t I make it to the Round 1?

Well, it took me a lot of time to figure out what I wanted to do. I had no idea how/where to start. I knew that the GMAT was Step 0, but what next? I was confused.

Almost all schools claim to put an emphasis on your holistic profile over any singular aspect. I took this quite seriously and applied to 20 schools!!! I just did’t know which one would pick me ‘for certainty’ and which one wouldn’t.

To me, doing an MBA was important and in the process, I failed to consider a lot of other aspects that were more important than just the desire to do an MBA. From hindsight, I guess  I discovered a lot of answers about myself during the application process – more than I did before starting one. In this post, I shall try to give an overview on my take-aways from this process:

To begin with, you need to have a very clear idea on ‘why you want to pursue an MBA’. To most Indians, it is all about getting better opportunities ;climbing up the rungs of the organizational heirarchy; making more money etc. But, these reasons are clearly not enough. You need to have a better focus. Let’s suppose you are in consulting, and you want to change job functions within consulting (from tech consulting to strategy). You need to have a clarity in your thoughts as to where you want to see yourself  2-3 years down the lane. It could get as specific as : “I wish to function as a senior consultant in strategy for a leading consulting firm such as Deloitte or McKinsey”.

Next,you need to figure out why you think you have it in you to succeed. Do you have great analytic skills? Problem solving abilities? Great communication skills? You need to be able to substantiate your points with examples of when you’ve achieved that.

Now, if you are looking for a career shift- from say Marketing to Finance, you need to enunciate your goals with specific reasons as to why you think you are a good fit for this change -NOTE: your ‘interest‘ is not a satisfactory response.

Next, you need to know why that particular school is the ‘best one’ for you. Is it the-

  • Location/ Weather conditions
  • Experiential learning opportunities
  • Internship opportunities
  • Reputation/Rank
  • Career focus
  • Academic curriculum/ concentrations
  • Collaborative culture etc.

In stating any of the reasons above, you need to get specific. The answer should be written in a manner that replacing school X with Y should make no sense. In other words, this answer must not be generic and should be as specific as possible.

Of course, you can get a lot of ‘gyan’ on how to write application essays on a lot of websites. You can refer to the following sites:

To gain an understanding on the school’s reputation, rankings and records, you may research on:

If there was one thing that I really wanted, it was the ‘sample essays’. I really couldn’t get hold of them- as much as I would have liked to. So, I’m attaching files of my draft essays for the UNC Kenan Flagler Business school (I made it to this school with these essays). I shall attach more essays and write more on my experiences in my forthcoming posts.


UNC Kenan Flagler essay 1

UNC Kenan Flagler essay 2

UNC Kenan Flagler essay 3

Interview Experience (UNC Kenan Flagler):

My interviewer was Mr. John Hughes, the associate director of admissions at UNC. He was an entrepreneur in the telecom industry who sold his business before joining UNC. I thought he liked listening to my hobbies much more than listening to my academics.
The interview was a blind one. It was very conversational and informal. He began with questions on my location(Bangalore) and moved on to questions such as :

  • Why UNC?
  • ST/LT goals?
  • What is it that you enjoy doing the most?
  • How would your boss describe you?
  • If I gave you a day off, what would you do
  • I’ve not seen your GMAT score, nor do I want you to say that, but, is your score a true reflection of your potential?
  • Is there anything else that you want to add? 
  • Do you have any questions for me? etc.

From my experience I can say that he evaluates your communication skills, and gauges your  enthusiasm for the MBA course.
He smiles throughout the conversation, and expects you to be “yourself”. When he senses clichés in your answer (I thought I gave a standard reply at one point), he turns the direction of the conversation to get more honest answers (or that’s what I felt!).
In all, it’s a feel-good interview (for about 30 min). You don’t feel the stress!


I’ve also been selected for the Dean’s fellowship at UNC. Here’s my fellowship essay:

Dean’s fellowship essay- Apeiron


If you have questions, feel free to comment on this post and I shall reply 🙂


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