Essays are the most critical part of the application package for business schools. In fact, they are the heart of the application package that reveals those aspects of an applicant’s profile which other parts of their application package do not reveal. Unfortunately, some applicants do not put enough effort and time in their essays assuming their high GPA, great GMAT score, and strong work experience are all they require for entry into their dream B- School. Application essay writing is an extremely time-consuming process, and it demands a lot of self-reflection, brainstorming, strategizing, drafting, revising rewriting, rewriting, and editing on the part of the applicants to enable them to paint a unique, compelling and authentic picture of their candidacy to the Ad Com.
There are many reasons why essays deserve your time and effort.
Firstly, B-schools use essays as tools to know their prospective candidates outside of the typical academic and professional environment. Your GMAT scores, grades, and work experience do not tell them who you really are. Schools use essays to see how you think and process information to navigate through certain situations. They ask candidates about the challenging work situation they encountered (Darden), adversity/failure/setback they faced (INSEAD, Kellogg, HAAS, Tuck) or cross-cultural experience (INSEAD) that they had because they want to know how they respond to these challenging situations, how they grow from them, learn their lessons and eventually become better people or professionals.
Some schools ask questions about the applicants ‘strengths that have contributed to their success’ (UNC Kennan Flagler), or their ‘personal and professional accomplishments’ (INSEAD, HAAS) so they can get a holistic view of their candidacy.
Secondly, all schools require their prospective candidates to write ‘goals’ essay because they need to know what their career goals/aspirations are, what has driven them to set these goals, how their professional experience and/accomplishments have helped them define their goals, and how they plan to achieve them.
Also, essays are utilized by B-schools as tools to match the candidates with their particular programs. The match goes both ways. For example, questions like ‘how do you think this program will help you achieve your goals?’ and “how do you think you will contribute to the school?” are asked to ensure how your target school will help you accomplish your objectives/goals and what value you will add to the school. Truly, essays are wonderful instruments to establish the applicants’ ‘fit’ with the school. Therefore, you must have a clear idea of your future plans and do thorough research on the programs of your target school so you can make a convincing connection between you and your target school’s offerings/resources in your essays.
Furthermore, B-schools push their candidates for leadership, 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. Essay questions like ‘most meaningful leadership experience’, (Kellogg, Tuck, Yale, Rice) and ‘a time when you pushed yourself beyond your comfort zone’ (MIT) are designed by B-Schools to know if you possess these qualities to thrive in the business world.
Lastly, B-schools encourage diversity, so they can fill in their classrooms not only with candidates from various industries but also from diverse ethnicities. Hence some schools (Kelley) require applicants to write ‘background’ essays specifically asking, ‘how your background and your experiences will contribute to the diversity of the entering class and enhance the educational experience of other students’.
Thus, 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 other applicants with similar backgrounds. Your past accomplishments, clearly defined goals, and 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.
To sum up, essays showcase that side of the applicants which other parts of their application package do not reveal. They tell stories about 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 determine the applicants’ career goals and their ‘fit’ with their target school. Additionally, essays are important tools to evaluate applicants for their personal and professional attributes through their accomplishments, and the factors that have influenced their personality. Hence you need to spend a significant amount of time introspecting your strengths, weaknesses, career goals, and the factors that have contributed to these goals, so you can weave them into engaging stories in your essays to reveal your well-rounded personality to the Ad Com. Remember, well-crafted authentic, compelling, and persuasive essays will distinguish you in a competitive applicant pool.