Are you ready to dig into your essays? Application essays are specifically and cleverly designed to get into your head. We like to turn the tables on the admissions committees and get inside their heads. Why are they asking these questions? What are they looking for? Read on as our experts break down application essay questions to help YOU plan the attack.
Ross MBA Essay Analysis: Essay One
What are you most proud of professionally and why? What did you learn from that experience? (400 words)
Similar to one of Haas’s questions: “What is your most significant professional accomplishment?” In fact, we see no real important difference between the two. While Haas specifies “accomplishment,” so too does Ross, essentially.
Your CHOICE of “thing you are most proud of (professionally)” will say something. The admissions committee will have access to the full slate of your professional list of greatest hits on your resume.
The one that you are “most proud of” will reveal something the resume is not likely to convey. For example, perhaps you talk about a small achievement during your very first job that inspired you to embrace RISK. Or you can talk about a virtually consequence-less accomplishment of turning a company adversary into your greatest ally through some kind of tactical brilliance. The most significant accomplishment may not have anything to do with “the bottom line.” Whatever you decide to talk about, it must make us more convinced that you are the type of person who is likely to succeed in the future. We will get that feeling from witnessing self-awareness, humility, and determination in your response.
Structure for this one can go something like this:
- SETUP the aspect that makes this story interesting. If you write about something that REVEALED something about you, set that up (for example: “My background was in fashion. That was my family business. Imagine my surprise when the head of IT at Company X fell sick, and the COO turned to me to step in and run the show.”
- Walk us through “the event, the actions, the stuff.”
- Now, for the second HALF of this essay (so at least 200 words), explain why this is meaningful. Explain what this revealed to YOU about yourself and your abilities (or whatever it is), and specifically what that implies about your FUTURE.
We’re not writing in a vacuum folks… this must suggest your ability to “win” down the road. You have to articulate that as you’re explaining why you chose to write about this particular episode. Those who address that CONTEXT, will crush this question. First drafts here may successfully answer the “why this is significant” piece, but will likely MISS the “and here’s why this demonstrates that I will be a future success” aspect.
Ross MBA Essay Analysis: Essay Two
What are you most proud of personally and why? How does it shape who you are today? (400 words)
A very cool opportunity to reveal exactly what you’re all about. The best responses here will be incredibly revealing. This is your chance to let your guard down, and not seem like you’re trying too hard to “say the right thing.” It is always always always transparent. And whether or not it can work, here’s what’s undeniably true of the opposite response—the one that is written WITHOUT that intention, the honest response: it is ALWAYS successful. We prefer those odds.
Here’s one litmus test. Imagine writing down two or three responses to this, and sharing it with someone who knows you EXTREMELY well (your mom, your spouse, your sibling, your closest friend, etc.). If, in response to one of your responses, this person says “Hunh, in all the years I have known you I NEVER knew that about you…” it is a pretty good indication that you’re on the right track. If on the other hand they say “yah, that’s a great story…” there’s a chance that either the STORY ITSELF is uninspired, or that there is room to reveal something more INTERESTING with that story—something that has the power to SURPRISE someone who knows you best.
Why are we hung up on the “surprise” element? Simple. It is the best way to ensure the type of earnestness that inspires confidence in the author. Shows self-awareness. Shows comfort with the ability to admit something personal. People who don’t really have what it takes tend to be less willing to take risks here in the form of being too “open.” In fact, vulnerability, open-ness, all of that tends to suggest extreme confidence and self-assuredness.
Take some chances here, and allow yourself to be/seem vulnerable. It will have (perhaps counterintuitively) the opposite effect of showing yourself to be unusually confident.