How To Nail The MBA “Impact Essays”
Several MBA applications ask applicants what their plans are for making an impact on their classmates and in the school’s community. For example, Cornell’s Johnson School of Business asks:
Please indicate the opportunities for impact that you’ve identified through engagement with our community and describe how what you learned has influenced your decision to apply to Johnson.
Fuqua and Wharton also ask applicants about their plans for making an impact, but we think Johnson’s prompt reveals something essential to getting this kind of essay right. The “through engagement with our community” part of the prompt is pushing the applicant to show the depth of their research. Many applicants will answer these prompts with generic plans for making an impact. For example,“I plan on taking up a leadership role in the Entrepreneurship Club and helping organize networking events.” This kind of impact example is fine, but it’s not very creative, and definitely won’t stand out in a sea of equally generic ideas.
Johnson is attempting to head those generic ideas off at the pass by requiring applicants to engage with Johnson’s community, learning what makes Cornell and Ithaca unique, and hopefully using that experience to provide creative and unique plans for making an impact at Cornell. We think the same in-depth approach should be used for answering any of the impact prompts. See below:
Connect With The Community
The first resource that most people will go to when answering a planned impact prompt is a university’s website. This is a great resource, and students can learn a lot about what kinds of clubs and extracurriculars are available to write about. However, the school’s website is just a starting point. What’s great about Johnson’s impact prompt is that it asks students about how they’ve already interacted with the Johnson community. So, after checking out your target school’s website and finding some clubs and organizations you might want to be a part of, shoot an email to club presidents and VPs and start a dialogue. Find out what kinds of projects the club is working on in the next year and what their goals are. Tell them about your interest in the club and about your background. You’ll then be able to reference these conversations in your essay, backing up your plan for impact with school-specific names and initiatives and making your interest in the school feel more genuine.
Discuss Your Aspirations
Planned impact essays are all about aspiration. No adcom really thinks you’re going to accomplish all of the things that you lay out in your MBA essays. What they’re looking for are people with aspirational ideas for making positive change. With that in mind, take a critical look at what clubs and organizations are currently offering at your target school and see if you can identify something that is missing. Do you have a lot of theatrical experience? Perhaps you could write about your plans to start an Improv for Business club to help your classmates strengthen their public speaking skills. If you’re going to talk about making improvements to an existing club or organization’s offerings, make sure you avoid being negative, and frame your plans in the context of strengthening and expanding the club or organization’s impact.
These are just two approaches to this kind of essay, and each applicant is going to have their own unique experiences and aspirations to draw on. Keep in mind that if an idea for a planned impact comes very easily, it’s probably something that adcoms see a lot. The more unique, school-specific, and creative the idea, the better!
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