MBA Admissions Essay Topics

by Annie Rose Stathes,December 2013

Clear Admit, a blog and website devoted to “news, advice, and resources for business school applicants”, provides applicants with a list of essay topics and prompts from colleges, universities, and academic programs throughout the United States and world. The following article provides a summary and brief analysis of five different business program’s essay topics, as reported by Clear Admit.  

Oxford/Said Essay Topics 2013-2014  

This essay prompt asks applicants to answer three primary questions within three essays:  

oxford-mba-admissions-essay-topics-20141. What can Oxford expect from you?

2. How do you hope to develop your career and how will the Oxford MBA program help you do so?

3. How do you view business? Oxford gives applicants an option to answer this question within the context of a provided phrase or by comparing the spirit of business to the spirit of competition in sports.

Berkeley/Haas Essay Topics 2013-2014

This essay prompt asks applicants to answer four primary questions:

berkeley-mba-admissions-essay-20141. What is one song that expresses who you are? Explain why it does.

2. What is your most significant accomplishment?

3. What is one way in which you have failed in the past three years? What specific insight did you gain from the experience and how has it shaped your development?

4. What are your post-MBA short and long-term goals? How have your professional achievements prepared you to meet these goals? Also, how will an MBA from Haas help you achieve these goals?

In addition, the prompt provides students the option to discuss anything else of importance not covered in the essay and to describe their quantitative abilities or plans for strengthening them.

Harvard Business School Essay Topic 2013-2014

harvard-business-school-mba-admissions-essay-2014This essay prompt gives the option to applicants to write an essay or not, and to determine the essay’s topic and length. The specific prompt is as follows: “You’re applying to Harvard Business School. We can see your resume, school transcripts, extra-curricular activities, awards, post-MBA career goals, test scores and what your recommenders have to say about you. What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy? (No word limit)”.

Duke/Fuqua Essay Topics 2013-2014

This essay prompt asks applicants to answer three short-answer questions and two long-answer questions. The three short-answer questions are:

duke-fuqua-mba-admissions-essay-20141. What are your short-term goals, post MBA?

2. What are your long-term goals?

3. Life is full of uncertainties, and plans and circumstances can change. As a result, navigating a career requires you to be adaptable. Should the short-term goals that you provided above not materialize what alternative directions have you considered?

The long-answer questions ask students to:

1. Share a list of “25 Random Things” (in list form, within two pages) that allows the Admissions Committee get to know your “personality, background, special talents, and more”.

2. Share your reasons for applying to Duke (in essay format) with your family members, friends, and colleagues as the audience.

3. Complete an optional essay that explains extenuating circumstances of which the Admissions Committee should be aware (this essay, if completed, should be completed along with the other ones).

London Business School Essay Topics 2013-2014

This essay prompt asks students to answer three questions in 1200 words:

london-business-school--mba-admissions-essay-20141. What will your future look like after completing your MBA?

2. What value will you add to London Business School?

3. What I the School’s responsibility to you and what is your responsibility to the school?


Writing Essays and Answering Questions

When applying for grad school programs, writing essays can take a long time. While you will likely need to adjust each essay to answer its specific questions and to fit each essay’s audience (either the school to which you are applying or an audience recommended by the prompt), you can develop answers that will easily transfer from essay to essay. For example, each of these essay questions, while completely or relatively different, ask applicants to do three primary things:

  1. Illustrate the relationship they intend to have with the school
  2. Describe their personality, personal goals, and circumstances
  3. Explain their future goals and plans

By sitting down and carefully considering the relationship you intend to have with each school (this will need to be considered within the context of each program’s mission and intended outcomes); your personality, personal goals, and circumstances; and future goals and plans, you might be able to produce material that can be easily adjusted (in most cases) to fit a specific essay question and format.

Prior to sitting down and producing such material, conduct research to determine the goals and outcomes of each of the schools to which you want to apply. Then, once you have an idea of your audiences, start exploring and writing about your personality (what makes you uniquely you, for example), your personal goals (what you hope to accomplish in life, what is important to you, etc.), and your circumstances (what might help you through school, what might present challenges, and what might otherwise influence how you participate in the program, for example). Then, write about your future goals and plans. Even though you’ll be writing about your future, consider your past, present, and future: consider what experiences led you to pursue a graduate education, what you hope to accomplish while in graduate school, and what you dream of doing in the future. Once you have done all of this, start mapping your answers to the goals and outcomes of each program or school. Ask yourself: how do I, as a package, interact with the school? What can I contribute to them? What can they contribute to me? And how can we engage in a mutually beneficial relationship?

This exercise may help you on your way to creating solid, interesting, and relevant essays no matter the prompt or subject. And, when writing each essay, remember to keep your responses fresh and creative but closely tied to the prompt; ultimately, it is important that you demonstrate your uniqueness, your compatibility with the school and/or program, and your ability to follow instructions.

Happy writing!   

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