3 Important Qualities to Feature in Your Business School Essays

By - Dec 3, 12:26 PM Comments [0]


by Tyler Cormney, MBA Prep School, Chief Executive & Co-Founder

Your primary objective in writing your application essays is to provide evidence that you possess the qualities that admissions committees care about. A critical step in developing a sound application strategy is to decide which qualities to spotlight.

In this article, we’ll discuss three important qualities that we believe admission officers at the best business schools are specifically looking for in candidates: (1) leadership, (2) a collaborative nature, and (3) self-awareness.

At the planning stage of your essay writing, you’ll want to choose essays answers that will supply evidence that you possess these three qualities. At the drafting stage, you will want to evaluate your work to ensure that you’ve taken advantage of every opportunity to feature these characteristics. By doing so, you’ll move one step closer to an acceptance letter.


Leadership is the ability to rally other people and motivate them to work together to achieve an important shared vision or goal.

If you were an artist applying to a Master’s in Fine Arts program, admissions officers would expect to see a portfolio of your work. Business school admissions officers are also interested in your portfolio – your Leadership Portfolio -- the collection of past experiences, initiatives, and accomplishments that are indicative of your leadership strengths.

Some candidates struggle to distinguish between an individual accomplishment story and a leadership story. The best way to tell the difference is that a leadership achievement is something that you couldn’t have accomplished on your own. Leadership is about achieving your goals by harnessing the energy of other people.

Simply claiming that you are a leader isn’t sufficient – you must supply the admissions committee with stories that prove that you are.

A Collaborative Nature

A collaborative nature relates to your ability to be a team player and your willingness to contribute to the success of your teammates. It's the opposite of selfishness and self-interest.

There are always more qualified candidates than there are seats in the class; so the admission committee wants to know that you are going to be the type of student who will go out of your way to help your classmates learn and grow. Remember that evidence of a collaborative nature is what counts. Making a claim that you’re a team player is never as convincing as sharing a story about the things you did to enable the success of others when you were on a team.


Self-Awareness, relates to your capacity to see yourself objectively, assess your own strengths and weaknesses, and learn from your mistakes, growing beyond existing limitations.

The main reason that essay questions are the centerpiece of the business school application is that they serve as a test of self-awareness. The HBS Accomplishment Essay doesn’t just ask what you’ve achieved; it also asks why those accomplishments are meaningful to you. For years, Stanford’s first essay question has asked what matters most to you and why. Answering those kinds of essay questions requires a high degree of self-awareness.

The admissions committee wants to know if you are capable of self-reflection, self-evaluation, and self-expression. Deciding what stories you will tell and writing a good essay requires you to look at yourself, reflect on your experiences, and express clearly what you see.


In this article, we’ve discussed three qualities that we believe are important to business school admissions officers. These aren’t the only three that matter. In our Essay Writing Boot Camp Email Course, we discuss six other qualities admission committees at the best business school are looking for. Click here to sign up!

In our free, 6-lesson email course Essay Writing Boot Camp: Basic Training for the MBA Essay Writer, we share:

  • The 8 Most Frequently Asked MBA Essay Questions
  • The 9 Qualities You Should Feature in Your Essays
  • How to Choose Your Topics and Stories
  • How to Outline Your Stories

To take advantage of this free course it takes only a second to sign-up by clicking here.

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