5 Keys to Your MBA Application Essay and Interview

MBA Application Essay and Interview: A Chance to Stand Out

A 3.5 GPA and a 700 GMAT don’t guarantee that you’ll be accepted into your preferred MBA program. When you’re compared to fifty other MBA candidates with the same GPA and GMAT score, that’s not necessarily what helps you stand out. In fact, if that’s all you have, you might be a little boring. Your MBA application essay and interview are your chance to demonstrate that you’re more than just numbers on a page.

uniqueMBA programs aren’t looking solely for applicants who excel at tests and school. Yes, you need to show that you can handle the coursework before the program even considers you, but the key to your application lies with your unique experiences and personality. Your acceptance is the sum of your whole application—it’s how all the pieces work together that makes you a viable and valuable candidate.

The top schools want to know who you are as an individual. And it’s the free-form sections of your application—the essay and interview—that allow you to demonstrate your personality most effectively. That’s why it’s so important to focus your efforts on those areas that are open to interpretation. While we can’t guarantee acceptance, there are five keys to crafting a great MBA application essay and interview.

  1. Focus on Silver Linings

No matter what situation you find yourself in, there’s a silver lining. Whether you have a lot of business experience at a company and job you despise or little to no business experience because you just graduated with your undergrad, there’s always something positive you can share in your essay and interview. We talked to Joseph Rogan, a current MBA student at the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University to get his input. He had this to say, “I’ve learned a lot more doing things that I don’t enjoy or want to continue, compared to what I have learned at a job that perfectly matches my skills and passion.” Everyone finds themselves in situations that are less than ideal, that doesn’t mean you can’t make every situation work for you. Just find the silver lining.

  1. Admit Your Weaknesses

The admin committee knows you have weaknesses. Everyone has weaknesses, and when you’re in your MBA program, it’s going to be impossible to hide them. Instead, be upfront about what you’re good at and what you struggle with. That doesn’t mean you have to say, “I’m terrible at management” and provide no other information. Instead, go back to the first point and find the silver lining in your weakness. For example if you struggle with management, focus on how you plan to use the MBA program to improve and what you hope to learn. Don’t beat around the bush, but don’t sell yourself short either.

  1. Use Positive Language

Even weaknesses can sound better with the right language. Your essay and interview rely just as much on your voice as your content. If you blatantly say, “I hate my job,” that illustrates very little value to the admissions committee. Instead, Joseph recommends using the following phrases when presenting difficult topics:

  • I’ve learned a lot
  • I have gained a lot of experience
  • I had challenging opportunities
  • It gave me an opportunity to create ambition toward further education

Positive language can transform an impossible situation in an opportunity for advancement.

  1. Emphasize the Future

futureThe purpose of an MBA program is to improve your skillset. If you were perfect or in the exact dream position you’d always wanted, you wouldn’t need an MBA program.

Don’t ignore the fact that a great MBA candidate is someone who has plans for the future and will strategically use their MBA to achieve those plans. If you feel you don’t have a lot to talk about in your current situation, emphasize where you want to be and how you expect your MBA to get you there.

Potential language you can use in your essay, as recommended by Joseph, includes:

  • I’m ready for the next step in my career
  • I’m ready for the next challenge
  • I’m pushing myself with a new experience
  • I’m following my passion
  1. Be Specific

At the end of the day, while all of the above is important, if you keep your essay and interview responses as generic as we’ve outlined in this article, you’ll come across as bland and contrived. The best MBA candidates understand that specific examples are the key to success. If you’re going to share a weakness, provide a specific example from your experience. Tell the admissions’ committee about a time when you failed, what exactly you learned from the experience, and what steps you put in place to prevent the same failure in the future.

If you’re talking about your future, provide a specific plan or goal that you want to reach. “I want to get a better job,” tells your admissions’ committee member nothing. Instead, saying, “I plan to gain employment in blank industry in blank position and perform blank duties for blank reasons,” is much more interesting.

While it’s vital to focus on every aspect of your application, don’t spend so long studying for your GMAT that you forget your MBA application essay and your interview preparation. It’s you—your experiences, your challenges, and your personality that will help you stand out and make a statement as an MBA candidate.

For more information related to MBA applications make sure to check out the following articles:

  1. How To Make Sure Your Job Enhances Your MBA Application
  2. 5 Tips to Improve Your Résumé for Your MBA Application
  3. How to Succeed at Your MBA Interview: Part 1
  4. How to Succeed at Your MBA Interview: Video Interviews
  5. How to Succeed at Your MBA Interview: Putting Your Best Foot Forward


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About the Author

Kelly Vo    

Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and personal development.

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