UCLA’s essay topics for the 2011-2012 admissions season are quite similar to last year’s, in terms of the content of the school’s two required essays. Meanwhile, the program has eliminated an optional response inviting applicants to share something about themselves that others might find surprising, meaning that most candidates will have just 1,500 words to work with this year in presenting their candidacies to the admissions committee.
In the process of preparing for this task, applicants may want to consider Anderson’s preamble to this season’s essay set:
We are interested in getting to know applicants on both a professional and personal level. We encourage you to be introspective, genuine, and succinct. Remember that we are more concerned with the content of your essays than their form or style.
By explicitly stating that they value content over delivery, UCLA suggests that they want applicants to focus on thoroughly answering the questions rather than sacrificing detail in order to find a creative method of expression. Based on these instructions, candidates should also ensure that in describing their past experiences and future plans, they provide a mature and accurate portrait of themselves.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the school’s required responses:
Essay 1: What event or life experience has had the greatest influence in shaping your character and why? (750 words maximum)
Returning for a second consecutive year, this prompt centers on a singular event or experiences that has played a major role in shaping the applicant’s character. While the formative experience you share will ultimately be a large part of your response, the first real task presented by this essay will be to clearly define your character to the admissions committee. What aspects of your personality, values, and personal principles most central to who you are? Once you arrive at a set of core beliefs and/or traits, take some time to reflect on some meaningful experiences through which you arrived at these. The topic you select could be drawn from childhood or adult life; from the professional or personal realms. For example, perhaps a growing up in difficult socio-economic circumstances developed your work ethic, or working abroad has made you an open-minded and adaptable person. In responding to this essay, applicants should also ensure that they depict themselves as self-aware and introspective, as this is integral to responding to the “why” component of the prompt as well as satisfying the preamble’s requirements.
Essay 2: What are your short-term and long-term career goals, and how will an MBA from UCLA Anderson specifically help you achieve these goals? (750 words maximum)
This is a fairly standard career goals essay. While it’s important to provide a candid account of your professional objectives and interest in Anderson’s program, remember that a compelling set of essays will complement each other, and thus the way in which you describe your character in the first essay should correspond to the goals you have set for yourself in the future. For example, an applicant who discusses his or her commitment to social justice or poverty alleviation in the first essay would support this argument by unveiling his or her plans to join the World Bank after business school or start an NGO focused on a mission in line with these values.
The second part of the question, meanwhile, focuses on the ways that UCLA’s MBA program will satisfy one’s learning objectives and advance the applicant toward his or her stated professional goals. In order to tailor your response to Anderson’s unique merits and offerings, you will need to be able to identify certain programs and courses that are relevant to your goals and stated interests. Taking the time to learn about the school’s curriculum, special programs and extracurricular activities – whether through a visit to campus, conversation with alumni or reading the Clear Admit School Guide to the Anderson School of Management – will pay dividends here.