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.
UNC Kenan-Flager MBA Essay Analysis: Essay One
Please describe your short and long term goals post-MBA. Explain how: your professional experience has shaped these goals; why this career option appeals to you; and how you arrived at the decision that now is the time and the MBA is the appropriate degree. (500 words maximum)
Very typical goals essay that covers the gamut of just about everything one could in a “goals” essay. There’s no secret sauce necessary here, ladies and gentlemen. However, it is worth pointing out their curiosity about “how you arrived at the decision that now is the time and the MBA is the appropriate degree.” Outside of the typical responses, it’s worth allocating a solid 75 words or so to really DIG into this. And there’s no better way here than to literally take it head on.
- Establish The Problem/Identify the Opportunity (75 words)
Typically, there’s an opening in an industry. Or a system that’s broken. Or a status quo begging for a revolution. An opportunity in need of SEIZING; a problem in need of FIXING. Bring us into “the thing,” whatever it is. Establish it. Set it up. Make US see… what YOU see. Bring us on board, and we will root for you. This “buy-in” is an essential part of any career goals essay setup.
- High-Level GLIMPSE of Long-Term Aspirations (50-75 words)
Without getting into the nitty gritty, reveal what it is you wanna DO. Not the job title, not the position, not the company… but rather, the result that COMES FROM all those things. What it is you wanna actually ACHIEVE. What NET RESULT are you hoping for? What will the consequences be? Paint us a picture. No details, just enough for us to get the gist.
- Walk us Through The Career Path/Take us on a Journey (100-125 words)
This is NOT just giving us your resume. Far from. We want to feel the INEVITABILITY of your next moves (MBA, short term, long term, etc.). This happens ONLY when you take us through a chronology that has a logical direction. Highlight the most meaningful aspects of your work experiences—aspects that (1) connect your past achievements to your future goals, and (2) prove to us that you’ve been successful in things that therefore promise success in those future goals.
- The Short-Term Plan, into the Long-Term Plan (100-125 words)
Details details details. Show us that you’ve considered it from every angle. Show us why this ST goal makes perfect sense as a bridge, and why each step is necessary. Show us a progression. End this section with a reason why you can’t just… get going already. There’s a reason you can’t—you’re missing some stuff, you need an MBA.
- Why Get an MBA? Why School X? (125 words)
Prove to us the NEED for an MBA. Not in the abstract, but why YOU need an MBA at this particularly ripe moment. For Kenan-Flagler in particular, walk us through the “realization” moment. It’s cooler if it wasn’t a foregone conclusion, but something that came from consideration. Bring us into the “considerings!” Probably you could succeed just fine without an MBA, but make our mouths water at the notion that you could succeed in a SPECIAL way with that degree. Remember, you’re not just listing merits of a program—they know this stuff already. The part they don’t know is how their program gets YOU to where you want to be. Show us how this happens at this program, and why THIS program is preferable to others.
UNC Kenan-Flager MBA Essay Analysis: Essay Two
What personal qualities or life experiences distinguish you from other applicants? How do these qualities or experiences equip you to contribute to UNC Kenan-Flagler? (300 words maximum)
This is a fun one. An opportunity for you to let your personality bleed through a bit. Don’t be afraid of taking some risks here and cutting loose. In doing so, you’ll be proving THAT you have qualities that distinguish you from others. What does taking risks mean exactly? Well, it could be in the CHOICE of the qualities you talk about, or in the way you DELIVER it. Perhaps you take on a more conversational tone. Perhaps you tell us an incredible story (as opposed to a more dry explanation OF the thing). Whatever it is, your personality should shine through here. Someone who doesn’t know you should be able to read this essay and get a sense of what you must be like in person.
But okay, let’s talk about the actual STUFF now (in the abstract). What kind of thing distinguishes you from other applicants? Well, this is where you’re gonna have to be super hard on yourself. Or, extremely self-aware. Recognize that many of the things you THINK are unique to you are in fact quite common. Oh no.
Recognize further that some of the things you think you own…. others not only have, but have cooler versions of! Double oh no.
Start with that as your challenge. Don’t just pick stuff to talk about. Sell us on why these are cool. Because chances are, we’ve seen it a thousand times before. If you can “sell” it well, then the sky’s the limit. Then you can make even the most COMMON thing seem uncommon. And that—by itself—is a cool skill.
What could possibility distinguish you from other applicants? Couple tricks here to get the juices flowing. Think about cool oxy-morons and surprising aspects of yourself. Let’s say you’re a mid-20s Indian male IT guy from India. Well, rather than talk about how you play cricket, what if your thing is lacrosse? Or, hell, BALLET? Or something else that makes us go… “what just happened.” Think about the predictable, and then try to make it go upside-down. You’re an IT guy, but you were a contestant on American Idol. You’re a corporate, Wall Street type, but you write children’s books in your spare time. You’re a Chinese guy who hates numbers. Find things that surprise WITHIN YOUR OWN REPERTOIRE. Don’t just look for ways in which you think you might be cool. Those juxtapositions are there already. Find ‘em. This should get you 2/3 or 3/4 the way there.
But once again, don’t ignore that second question, about how you APPLY these. The “what’s in it for us” aspect. What’s the VALUE in that trait? Be careful here, there doesn’t need to be a 1:1 relationship between your cool traits and the way you apply it. Let’s say you’re a potter, and that you have a ridiculously cool life history in clay pot making. Well, that doesn’t mean you need to “start a clay pot making club” at Kenan-Flagler. There must be some other WAY in which you can apply this cool thing. Maybe your passion for art can be channeled toward something neat and productive while at school. Maybe it is starting a club, but maybe that club is to help raise money to provide opportunities for students studying art at a local elementary school. Or maybe it’s even simpler than that. Maybe clay pot making is a pure distraction for you from work. Maybe there’s value in that, and your bringing that out in other students end up making for a healthier campus life, and more productive, happier students. All sorts of possibilities. But you gotta argue it, and convince us. And it can’t seem canned. We’ll know in an instant whether you’re just saying it to impress, or whether you’ve actually thought it through. (Never try to impress; it won’t work!)
UNC Kenan-Flager MBA Essay Analysis: Essay Three
If your standardized test scores are low, or if you have not had coursework in core business subjects (calculus, microeconomics, statistics, financial accounting), please tell us how you plan to prepare yourself for the quantitative rigor of the MBA curriculum. (300 words maximum)
A slight twist on the usual Optional Essay prompt, in that it’s a tad more specific. This one focuses purely on “can you handle the maths at b-school?” Let’s suppose that on paper, your test scores and grades (or lack of experience with higher level math) raise some doubts as to whether you can handle the “quantitative rigor.” Okay, no big deal. Prove to us some other way that you can hang.
What are you prepared to do between now and when you start school? What have you already done? Where else is there evidence elsewhere (in the work place, for example) of your aptitude here that may act as a counterweight to a lackluster GMAT?
No matter what, do not make excuses. Be confident, straightforward, and simply reassure the adcom that you’re on it. My grades/GMAT is low, but I will be able to hang with the best of them. Here’s the evidence. Zip in, zip out. The shorter and more to-the-point, the better.
UNC Kenan-Flager MBA Essay Analysis: Essay Four
Is there any other information you would like to share that is not presented elsewhere in the application? (300 words maximum)
Ah, here she is. The traditional Optional Essay.