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Top Three MBA Essay Mistakes

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MBA essay mistakes

If you’re gearing up for business school applications, you know that your essays can make or break your chances of getting into your dream MBA program. While it’s essential to showcase your unique qualities and experiences, there are a few unwitting blunders that applicants often make when selecting their topics. Let’s dive into the three most common MBA essay mistakes and learn how to avoid them.

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Mistake #1: Ignoring the Essay Prompts

One of the most frequent MBA essay mistakes applicants make is failing to pay close attention to the prompts provided by the schools. Sure, you may have a fantastic story about climbing Mount Everest, but if the essay prompt asks you to discuss your leadership experiences at work, you’re missing the mark.

Read the prompts carefully and make sure your chosen topics directly address what the school is asking for. Don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole. If you have a great story that doesn’t align with the prompt, save it for another essay or application.

Mistake #2: Going Generic

Another major pitfall is crafting essays that are too generic and lack personalization. It’s easy to fall into the trap of writing what you think the admissions committee wants to hear rather than sharing your authentic self. Writing clichéd essays that could apply to any applicant won’t help you stand out from the competition.

Instead, get personal! Share unique anecdotes, experiences, and insights that are specific to you. What sets you apart from other applicants? What are your passions, interests, and quirks? Use your essays as an opportunity to give the admissions committee a glimpse into your world.

Listen to B-Schooled Podcast #3: Don’t Be Joe or Jane MBA

Mistake #3: Overloading with Achievements

While it’s important to highlight your accomplishments and strengths, some applicants make the mistake of turning their essays into a laundry list of achievements. They focus solely on what they’ve done without delving into the “why” or the impact of those accomplishments.

Dig deeper instead of just listing achievements. Share the stories behind those achievements. What challenges did you overcome? What did you learn from your experiences? How have they shaped your aspirations and values? You’ll make your essays more engaging and meaningful by providing context and reflection.

Bonus Tip: Avoid Copy-Pasting

Another common mistake is using the same essay for multiple schools. While it might seem efficient, business schools seek applicants who genuinely want to be part of their specific program. Using a one-size-fits-all essay can signal a lack of genuine interest.

Customize each essay for the school you’re applying to. Mention specific resources, professors, clubs, or initiatives at that school that align with your goals. Show that you’ve done your research and are excited about what the program offers.

So, What Should You Do Instead?

MBA essay mistakes

Now that we’ve covered the biggest mistakes let’s talk about how to choose the right MBA essay topics that will make your application shine.

  1. Reflect on Your Journey: Take some time to reflect on your life, career, and personal experiences. What significant moments, challenges, or lessons have shaped you? What motivates you to pursue an MBA? These reflections can be a goldmine for essay topics that are personal and meaningful.
  2. Highlight Diversity: Business schools love diversity, and we’re not just talking about ethnicity or nationality. Diversity can come in many forms – your unique background, experiences, hobbies, or even unconventional career choices. Embrace what makes you different and show how it enriches the MBA community.
  3. Connect with Your Goals: Your MBA essays should seamlessly connect your past experiences to your future goals. How has your journey prepared you for the program? What specific skills or knowledge are you seeking, and how will they help you achieve your aspirations? Make sure your essays convey a clear sense of purpose.
  4. Showcase Resilience: Admissions committees love applicants who have demonstrated resilience and can bounce back from setbacks. If you’ve faced challenges in your personal or professional life, don’t be afraid to share how you’ve overcome them and grown stronger.
  5. Be Genuine and Passionate: Choose topics that genuinely excite you and align with your passions. When you’re passionate about an issue, it comes through in your writing, making your essays more compelling and authentic.
  6. Seek Feedback: Once you’ve drafted your essays, don’t hesitate to seek feedback from trusted friends, mentors, or admissions consulting professionals. They can provide valuable insights and help you refine your ideas and writing.

Hear what SBC Consultant Sherry, former Assistant Director of Admissions at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, has to say about MBA essays.

@stacyblackmanconsulting #dontoverthinkit #sbcyourfuture ? original sound – Stacy Blackman Consulting

Selecting suitable MBA essay topics is about being genuine, personal, and connected to your goals. Avoid the common pitfalls of ignoring prompts, going generic, and overloading with achievements. Instead, focus on sharing your unique journey, embracing diversity, connecting with your aspirations, showcasing resilience, and infusing your essays with genuine passion. Remember, your essays are your opportunity to make a lasting impression, so make them count. Good luck with your MBA applications!


Stacy Blackman Consulting offers multiple services to meet your MBA application needs, from our All-In Partnership to hourly help reviewing your MBA resume. Contact us today for a free 15-minute advising session to talk strategy with a Principal SBC consultant. Meanwhile, here’s a snapshot of the caliber of expertise on our SBC team.

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