Posted on February 7, 2012

The Importance of Essays in B-School Applications

Undoubtedly, essays are the most critical part of the application package. In fact, they are the heart of the application package that reveals the humane side of the applicant which other parts of their application package cannot do. Unfortunately, some applicants do not put enough effort and time in their essays assuming their high GPA, great GMAT score and impressive work experience is all they require for entry into the B- school of their choice. Therefore, they start writing their essays a couple of days before the deadline, which leaves them insufficient time to brainstorm and strategize ideas, resulting in poorly written essays that do not project them well.

Reasons why Essays deserve your Time and Effort

There are three primary reasons why you need to give equal attention, time, and effort to essays as other parts of your application package, i.e., GPA, GMAT score, work experience recommendation letters, and interview.

Reason #1

  • Firstly, B-schools use essays as means of getting information about you outside of the typical academic and professional environment. Your GMAT scores, grades, and work experience do not tell them who you really are.
  • Example: Essay questions like 'an event or life experience that has influenced you the most'(UCLA) or 'strengths and weaknesses that have shaped your character'(INSEAD) are designed to get a glimpse into your unique personality.

The Schools use essays to see how you think and go through a thought process to come to a solution, so they get to know not only the answer to the essay question but also about how you reached that answer.

  1. Example #1: With the ‘Goals’ essay they want to know what made you set these goals, what was your thought process, what were your experiences/ accomplishments that led to these goals, and how you plan to achieve these goals.
  2. Example #2: Some schools ask candidates about their challenging experience, (Wharton), adversity/ a setback (Tuck, Harvard), or cross-cultural experience (INSEAD) that they faced because they want to know how you respond to these challenging situations, how you grow from these experiences, learn your lessons and eventually become a better person or a professional.

Reason #2

  • Essays are utilized by B-schools as tools to match the candidates with their particular programs. The match goes both ways.
  • Example: Essay questions like ‘what will you contribute to or how will your unique, history, and values enhance the XXX?' is asked to ascertain what value you will add to their community.
  • Questions like ‘how do you think this program will help you achieve your goals?’ are asked to ensure if your target school will help you accomplish your objectives/ goals.
    1. So you must have a clear idea of your future plans and should do a thorough research of the programs of your target school so you can be articulate in making a connection between your goals and the School's offerings in your essays.

Reason #3

  • Essays can be instrumental in admissions for those belonging to the competitive applicant pools: consulting, investment banking, and IT. The essays provide you an opportunity to differentiate yourself from others with similar backgrounds.
  • Example: Your past accomplishments, your clearly defined goals, and your other personal (integrity, honesty, accountability, diligence) and professional attributes (leadership qualities, team working abilities, initiative, etc.) projected through your essays will give you a definitive edge over candidates having similar GPA, GMAT score and work experience.

Reason #4

  • Lastly, B-school programs are different from other graduate programs in the sense they push their candidates for networking, teamwork, and the development of relationships.
  • Since business is about two things primarily-competition and relationships, business schools need students who will survive and thrive in relationships with some healthy competition.
  • EXAMPLE: Essay questions like 'most meaningful leadership experience' (Tuck), a time when you went beyond what was defined, expected, established or popular', and a time when you convinced someone of your ideas' (MIT) are added by B-Schools to know if you possess these qualities to thrive in the business world.


To sum up, essays showcase that side of the applicants which other parts of their application package do not reveal. Your essays bring to light how you go about making decisions, how you are influenced by other people, how you sail through challenges, and how you grow from those experiences. Secondly, essays are used as tools to know if you are a good match for your target school. Thus, well-crafted essays can help you stand apart in a competitive applicant pool. So, use your essays as your greatest tools to reveal your personality to the Ad Com.

Do you have questions about your application? E-mail Poonam at or sign up here for a free consultation.