What Is an MBA Essay?
The term MBA essay is often used interchangeably with MBA application essay or MBA admissions essay. This type of essay is submitted as part of the MBA admissions process and is usually used to provide support for other application components like transcripts, recommendation letters, standardized test scores, and resumes.
Why You Need to Write an Essay
Admissions committees sort through a lot of applications in each round of the admissions process. Unfortunately, there are only so many places that can be filled in a single MBA class so a vast majority of the candidates who apply will be turned away. This is especially true of top MBA programs that receive thousands of applicants each school year.
Many of the applicants who apply to business school are qualified MBA candidates - they have the grades, the test scores, and the work experience needed to contribute to and succeed in an MBA program. Admissions committees need something beyond a GPA or test scores to differentiate applicants and determine who is a good fit for the program and who is not.
This is where the MBA essay comes into play. Your MBA essay tells the admissions committee who you are and helps to set you apart from other applicants.
Why You Don't Need to Write an Essay
Not every business school requires an MBA essay as part of the admissions process. For some schools, the essay is optional or not required at all. If the business school does not request an essay, then you don’t need to write one. If the business school says the essay is optional, then you should DEFINITELY write one. Don't let the opportunity to differentiate yourself from other applicants pass you by.
MBA Essay Length
Some business schools put strict requirements on the length of MBA application essays. For example, they may ask applicants to write a one page essay, a two page essay, or a 1,000 word essay. If there is a desired word count for your essay, it is very important to adhere to it. If you are supposed to write a one page essay, don't turn in a two page essay or an essay that is only a half-page long. Follow instructions.
If there is not a stated word count or page count requirement, you have a little more flexibility when it comes to length, but you should still limit the length of your essay. Short essays are typically better than long essay. Aim for a short, five-paragraph essay. If you can't say everything you want to say in a short essay, you should at least stay below three pages. Remember, admissions committees read thousands of essays - they don't have time to read memoirs. A short essay demonstrates that you can express yourself clearly and concisely.
Basic Formatting Tips
There are some basic formatting tips that you should follow for every MBA essay. For example, it is important to set the margins so that you have some white space around the text. A one inch margin on each side and on the top and bottom is typically good practice. Using a font that is easy to read is also important. Obviously, a silly font like Comic Sans should be avoided. Fonts like Times New Roman or Georgia are typically easy to read, but some of the letters so have funny tails and embellishments that are unnecessary. A no-frills font like Arial or Calibri is usually your best option.
Formatting a Five Paragraph Essay
Many essays - whether they are application essays or not - utilize a five-paragraph format. This means that the content of the essay is split into five separate paragraphs:
Each paragraph should be about three to seven sentences long. If possible try to create a uniform size for the paragraphs. For example, you don't want to start with a three sentence introductory paragraph and then follow up with an eight sentence paragraph, a two sentence paragraph and then a four sentence paragraph. It is also important to use strong transition words that help the reader move from sentence to sentence and paragraph to paragraph. Cohesion is key if you want to write a strong, clear essay.
The introductory paragraph should start with a hook - something that captures the reader's interest. Think about the books you like to read. How do they start? What grabbed you on the first page? Your essay isn't fiction, but the same principle applies here. Your introductory paragraph should also feature some sort of thesis statement, so the topic of your essay is clear.
The body paragraphs should contain details, facts, and evidence that support the theme or thesis statement introduced in the first paragraph. These paragraphs are important because they make up the meat of your essay. Don't skimp on information but be judicious - make every sentence, and even every word, count. If you write something that doesn't support that main theme or point of your essay, take it out.
The concluding paragraph of your MBA essay should be just that - a conclusion. Wrap up what you are saying and reiterate your main points. Do not present new evidence or points in this section.
Printing and Emailing Your Essay
If you are printing out your essay and submitting it as part of a paper-based application, you should print the essay out on plain white paper. Do not use colored paper, patterned paper, etc. You should also avoid colored ink, glitter, or any other embellishments designed to make your essay stand out.
If you are emailing your essay, follow all of the instructions. If the business school requested it to be emailed with other application components, you should do that. Do not email the essay separately unless you are instructed to do so - it could get in someone's inbox. Finally, be sure to use the correct file format. For example, if the business school requested a DOC, that is what you should send.