MBA essay questions and answers are helpful in tackling the MBA application essay. Knowing the MBA essay questions or prompts ahead of time lets you know what top MBA programs are looking for and reading some sample essay answers is a great way to begin brainstorming your own answers. The MBA essay is a critical part of your application, so many students consider hiring a grad school essay tutor to coach them on the writing aspect. Others can rely on MBA admission consulting to provide feedback on their essay draft. MBA essay questions typically stay the same year to year, but you might be thrown a curveball once in a while. In this blog, we’ll look at what you can expect from MBA essay questions and answers, as well as some prompts from top MBA programs and sample answers for each. 


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MBA essay questions and answers

Many of the top business schools use MBA short essay questions and prompts as part of their applications. The MBA essay is different than the MBA statement of purpose or MBA personal statement, which both focus on your personal motivations and future career goals. Most MBA programs provide specific prompts for the MBA essay, with questions curated by the admissions committee.

While the MBA essay questions and prompts may change from year to year, most schools stick with what works and ask all applicants the same probing questions about their personal motivations. A common essay question is “why do you want to pursue an MBA”. These type of questions are designed to gain a deeper insight into the applicant’s personal, professional and academic life. Admissions committees ask these important questions to see if you can both write a concise, insightful and poignant essay, and also to determine whether you are a good fit for the MBA program. For many programs, the essay is vitally important to the overall application, and can determine whether you’ll need to start your MBA interview prep or not. In fact, many of the most common MBA essay questions are similar to MBA interview questions, and ask applicants why they chose to pursue an MBA, why they chose particular school or how their strengths will contribute to the school’s MBA program.

However, a number of the top MBA programs ask the same questions each year, and the admissions committee are looking for certain traits and strengths in their applicants. Below we’ll look at some of the MBA essay questions asked by top MBA programs, as well sample answers.

Stanford MBA essay questions and answers

The Stanford Business School requires all its applicants to submit two MBA essays. Both essays have a maximum word count of 500, so they are asking for short essay format. For Essay A, Stanford MBA asks applicants to answer: “What matters most to you, and why?”. For Essay B, the question is a simple: “Why Stanford?”. These both seem like simple questions, but they can be tricky to answer in practice. Read the sample below for an answer to the first Stanford MBA essay question.

Prompt: What matters most to you, and why? For this essay, we would like you to reflect deeply and write from the heart. Once you’ve identified what matters most to you, help us understand why. You might consider, for example, what makes this so important to you? What people, insights, or experiences have shaped your perspectives?

I have found both in business and in life, that having direction, having a purpose and goals, are vital. And the root of direction, in my experience, is organization. Organization might seem a strange thing to prize so highly, but to me it is essential to be organized lest we become disorganized. In disorganization, nothing can be planned, no goals can be accomplished. It breeds only aimlessness and purposelessness.

My dislike of disorganization can be traced back to my grandfather. For over 25 years, he owned a hardware store and handyman shop which he operated alongside my grandmother. Grandma’s office in the hardware store was tidy as a church. She did the books, hired and fired the staff, dealt with customers, sales and payroll. She was the skeleton, the structure holding the business together for decades. My grandfather’s shop could be featured on an episode of Hoarders. Shelves of boxes in disarray, tools laid haphazardly on benches or tables, sawdust and wood shavings littering the floor. Yet in this madman’s chaos he was never lost. He always found what he needed. His skill and passion for carpentry, for craftsmanship was undeniable. His creations were sold out of the store, and his expertise was highly valued by customers. It was a business marriage that somehow worked.

When my grandmother passed of a sudden heart attack, everything changed. The existing staff did their best to fill my grandmother’s shoes, but business started a slow decline anyways. My grandfather let disorganization creep into his time management. He ran behind on projects without my grandmother’s prompting and refused to enter her office. When I took it upon myself, I discovered an organized, if dusty, office. I managed to slide into my grandmother’s old job, but not her old role. My grandfather resisted attempts to organize his shop, saying it was organized the way he liked it. After some fruitless fights, I decided to try a new approach. I asked him to take me through his organization system and explain it to me. The way I saw it, the business he had built and nurtured his entire life wouldn’t survive if we couldn’t learn to balance his creative genius with organized structure. I wanted to understand his way of thinking so I could preserve the side of the business that was my grandfather. My grandmother, in her hyper-organized glory, had left behind everything we needed to continue. If my grandfather were to pass, there was no one who could replace him and keep his business and legacy behind. There was no sense of direction. Of organization.

My grandfather spent an entire day explaining his system to me. I followed behind him, taking notes and making labels. I recorded his organizational system, nonsensical though it was to all but him, so I could preserve the spirit of his goals and direction for the business. But without knowing how it was all organized, I would not be able to carry on his role. (word count 496)

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Harvard Business School MBA essay question

For those who want to know how to get into Harvard Business School, there is only one required essay for the MBA application. This year, the school has imposed a maximum word limit of 900, though it is acceptable to stay within the 500-to-700-word range. The Harvard Business School essay is considered vitally important to the admissions committee, so it can be a significant factor in your overall application. Hiring an MBA essay consultant might be a good idea to tackle the Harvard essay, so you can be sure to submit a polished and succinct document. Or read some Harvard MBA personal statement samples to get an idea of what to write about.

Prompt: As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA Program?

I’ve often been accused of being unable to commit to anything. Of being too flaky. Of changing my mind or jumping from opportunity to opportunity, hobby to hobby. This has always been said with an air of censure and disappointment. It’s always set off my internal defense mechanism because I never understood why having many interests or pursuing them could be bad. When I decided to apply to this MBA program, there were plenty of naysayers. Those who thought I wouldn’t be able to commit to this program. Yet I arrived at the decision to pursue an MBA after learning a vital lesson about myself, and it is this lesson I would like to share with you.

My apparent flakiness comes from my childhood upbringing. As all children of military parents, I was often moved around, bounced from school to school. We never learn to put down roots, and we get used to changing environments and having to start over from scratch over and over again. This creates a pattern, but it also builds resilience and flexibility. It plants the seeds of determination to see things through when they really matter. As I grew up and applied for university, I received some surprising feedback from family members when I was rejected from the programs I applied to. Their response was to shrug their shoulders and tell me I wouldn’t have been able to commit to a four-year degree anyways. So it was for the best. At first, I believed them, but eventually my decision not to try again weighed on me. I reapplied for school, and this time I was successful.

Throughout school and even after I graduated, I bounced from job to job, never really satisfied. Once again, it reinforced the view others held of me and the view I held of myself. I couldn’t commit. I had no structure. But I came to realize that it wasn’t me. I wasn’t satisfied with my job because it wasn’t a good position for me. It wasn’t what I really wanted. I quit my job. I booked a ticket to travel abroad for a year. In this short year, I truly examined what I wanted to do and what I did not want to do with my life. I landed on business, and realized I needed an MBA. It was a thought I’d always kept in the back of my mind, and now it was inescapable.

My view of myself as someone who couldn’t commit was shifted. I’m not flaky. I’m adaptable. I know how to pick myself back up again and rise to a new challenge. I am ready for the challenge of getting my MBA and working in business. If I don’t get accepted, I know I can try again and succeed. I believe my apparent inability to commit was really evidence of dissatisfaction. And my background hasn’t made me flaky, it’s made me strong enough and adaptable enough to succeed in business. (word count 494)

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Kellogg MBA essay question and sample answer

The Kellogg Business School focuses on values and leadership in its essay question prompts. Below we’ve included one of the essay prompts provided by the Kellogg Business School for its MBA applicants, as well as a sample answer. The essay prompts all have a word limit of 450 words.

Prompt: Kellogg’s purpose is to educate, equip, and inspire brave leaders who create lasting value. Provide a recent example where you have demonstrated leadership and created value. What challenges did you face, and what did you learn?

My first opportunity to step into a full leadership role at my job came very recently. I have been working as an assistant manager of a restaurant for many years, and the last eight months as the assistant manager. In this role, I have been able to cultivate in myself many useful skills of team management and leadership. But I have always had my manager to back me up and act as my leadership mentor. She has always been able to provide final say and take the reins as needed. Months ago, she was placed on short-term leave to treat an unexpected injury, and with our operation being typically short-staffed, I was thrust into the role of temporary, full-on manager. At first it felt like diving out the plane without the skydiving instructor strapped to your back for the first time. It was intimidating, and it took some time to adjust. And, of course, it didn’t take long for the first real test of my leadership skills to present itself.

An ongoing conflict flared up among the waitstaff soon after our manager was placed on leave. It had started as a scheduling conflict, with two members of the waitstaff each wanting prime shifts but not wanting to work alongside one another. The newer member of staff often accused the more senior member of being controlling and using their seniority to win workplace disputes. The interpersonal conflict was spreading and affecting the rest of the staff, but no compromise had been reached. I had tried to resolve it in the same ways my manager had when creating the schedule or assigning sections. We reached a turning point during a particularly busy shift where I asked the senior staff member to assist on the lounge bar. I noticed her proficiency behind the bar. An idea formed.

I proposed to her that she move behind the bar full-time. That way, both she and the other staff could keep their desired shifts, but they wouldn’t need to interact directly. As a bonus, the senior member of staff wouldn’t suffer on tips and the remainder of the staff wouldn’t be caught in the middle. The reason she hadn’t been moved behind the bar already was no one had realized how much she was suited to it before. I spoke with her and discovered how much she enjoyed working as a bartender. Upon speaking with the other staff member, I was happy to hear how much better their shift went when they didn’t feel “supervised” by the other senior waitress.

By the time the manager returned to work, the interpersonal conflict had fizzled, both parties were happy with their change in positions, and the rest of the staff were visibly less stressed by the entire thing. In managing this conflict, I realized the importance of seeking new solutions, keeping open and honest communication and establishing clear outcomes with both of the staff members. It also taught me to really listen and observe my staff’s behavior. (word count 499)

Other top business schools MBA essay questions

There are many other top business schools which require an MBA essay, MBA cover letter, an MBA motivation letter or otherwise ask students to submit optional essays as part of the application process. Below we’ve covered some other essay questions and prompts from top business schools in the US.

FAQs

1. How do you write an MBA essay?

To write an MBA essay, use short essay format and stick to 500 words or less, depending on the word count limit. Your MBA essay should be succinct and well structured, with appropriate personal anecdotes and plenty of detail. It’s important to grab the reader’s attention with this and provide some insight into yourself and your experiences. Also don’t be afraid to use a bit of storytelling and creativity to get your point across!

2. How do you write a strong MBA essay?

The best MBA essays will of course address the prompt provided, but the key is to do so in a way that is authentic, insightful and meaningful. Storytelling can be a powerful tool here, but make sure you are also making a strong and clear point. Answer the question you are being asked and provide as much detail as you can in the space provided. Go beyond a surface level answer and give the admissions committee a look into your personal experiences.

3. Are MBA essay questions the same every year?

Usually yes, schools keep the same MBA essay questions or prompts every admission cycle. Once in a while the admissions committee will shake things up, but you can expect to see the same type of questions asked each year.

4. How do you answer MBA essay questions?

To effectively answer MBA essay questions, be sure to address each part of the question fully. Don’t leave anything out of your answer and keep a genuine, authentic voice. Also be sure to remain within the word count limit. Keep your writing concise and make your point clearly.

5. Is the MBA essay required?

Yes, the MBA essay is typically a required part of the application to any MBA program. For top MBA schools, the essay is critically important to your overall evaluation. 

6. Should I write an MBA optional essay?

If an MBA program offers an optional essay, it is a good idea to write one or respond to one of the provided prompts. Any additional essay can only strengthen your application, and optional essays are great ways to expand your application profile.

7. How do you introduce yourself in an MBA essay?

Start your essay with a short introduction of who you are, where you come from or what your goals are. Most MBA essays have a word count of 500 words or less, so it’s important to introduce yourself right off the bat and tell the admissions committee what they need to know about you. 

8. Is the MBA essay important?

Yes, the MBA essay is a very important part of your MBA application. Most admissions committees consider the MBA essay a critical evaluation factor when reading your application, and it can determine whether or not you get an MBA interview at the school. 

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting


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