Posted on July 29, 2023

Importance of Self-Reflection in MBA Applications

Importance of Self Reflection

Self-reflection is a crucial element in crafting a compelling MBA application. Often candidates underestimate the significance of introspection and fail to allocate sufficient time to this critical process. With over a decade of experience advising MBA applicants worldwide, I cannot stress enough how essential it is to delve deep into your personal and professional experiences to uncover the story you wish to convey to the admissions committee. Before resuming work on resume building and essay composition, I provide my students with a questionnaire of 25 questions that stimulates their thought process and pushes them to delve deep into their experiences. Time and again, my students have expressed how this introspective exercise facilitated self-discovery and aided them in selecting suitable content for their essays.

Self-reflection serves as the foundation for a strong and compelling MBA application. In this blog, we explore five ways digging deep into one's experiences aids applicants in finding answers to MBA-related questions. Additionally, we have complimented each point with valuable insights and experiences shared by some MER (myEssayReview) students.

1. Clarity on goals/ motivations

Introspection encourages applicants to explore their motivations for pursuing an MBA. By reflecting on their personal and professional development, candidates can articulate their reasons for seeking management education for personal and professional growth. Through introspection, MBA applicants gain clarity on their goals. They analyze their short-term and long-term aspirations and assess how pursuing an MBA aligns with their career objectives. By delving deep into their past experiences, passions, skills, and values, candidates gain a better understanding of what they have accomplished so far, what they aim to achieve in the future, what skills they lack, and how an MBA will aid them in fulfilling their post-MBA and long-term objectives.

Rishi (Oxford MBA 2020) told us about his experience.

While I was writing my application, I realized that it required a lot of introspection about what do I want from an MBA or life, in general. Later, I found it a very self-fulfilling process, where there is no such thing as a right or wrong answer. And of course, Poonam, you helped a great deal in refining my essays.”

Click here for Rishi’s full conversation with us.

Dennis Lee (Anderson MBA, 2022) also found it challenging to articulate ‘why MBA’ and career goals.

The most challenging part for me was to figure out how to articulate why I want an MBA and what I want to do after MBA. I originally wanted to leverage the MBA to discover different fields and explore to see what I am interested in, so coming up with a specific career path to writing in essays was not an easy task. I spent a couple of days thinking about what I will most likely be doing after my MBA and jotted down a couple of notes to put together a plan for my career for the next 40 years.”

Click here for Dennis’s full conversation with us.

2. Direction on school selection

Introspection plays a vital role in guiding applicants toward selecting the right business schools. By reflecting on their individual needs and preferences, candidates can identify the specific qualities, resources, and opportunities they seek in an MBA program. They can evaluate their own learning style, desired specialization, and geographical location preferences to narrow down their choices. Ultimately, they can align their personal and professional aspirations with the unique offerings of different business schools and select schools that resonate best with their educational and cultural aspirations.

In a video interview with MER earlier this year, Ramesh (INSEAD GEMBA’23) told us how his essays helped him reflect on why he wanted to study at INSEAD.

Looking back, my essays helped me reflect on why I wanted to do the program and what my goals were. You helped me with self-reflection, asking me questions like 'What experience you had after five years,' 'What did you do at Amazon, and why?’ 'Can you cite some examples of that.' We might take our work for granted, but it is unique to us, and we would not know until we start reflecting on our experiences.”

Click here for Ramesh’s full conversation with us.

3. Finding their strengths and weaknesses

A careful and thorough examination of one's thoughts and emotions enables MBA candidates to identify and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. By contemplating their past experiences, accomplishments, and challenges, applicants can gain a deeper understanding of their capabilities. Valuable insights into their strengths and a plan for personal growth enable applicants to demonstrate to the admissions committee their ability to contribute meaningfully to the MBA program and make the most of the learning opportunities available.

Mansi (Harvard MBA, 2020) found introspection the most challenging part of the application process.

“The most challenging part of the entire process is introspection. It is not about building profile for the business schools but thinking through your stories and diving deep into yourself and deciding what you want out of your education and life. It initially was very challenging, but as I started diving deep, discussing with my friends and family, and with you, I got a good perception of what others think about me, what I think about myself, and how to match it.”

Click here for Mansi’s full conversation with us.

Eduardo Silva (Kellogg MBA, 2018) mentioned that he took time to ‘get personal with his essays.’

“Initially, I was not comfortable getting at the personal level of the stories, I had to overcome those challenges and get deep into my personality. I spent a lot of time on my essays, and I thought I was doing a great job. Then, I decided to hire you, and after your first review, I clearly understood that I was on the wrong path. I trashed all the essays I had already written for many schools and started all over again. I learned a lot in the process. You taught me how to get personal and write, which stories to tell, and how to tell those stories.”

Click here for Eduardo’s full conversation with us.

4. Figuring out their leadership and teamwork qualities

By reflecting on their experiences in various roles and contexts, candidates can identify instances where they demonstrated effective leadership, collaboration, and the ability to work in diverse teams. Through these specific examples of their capacity to lead and contribute to a collaborative learning environment, applicants showcase their potential to contribute positively to the MBA community.

Reetvik (ISB and McDonough Admit, 2023) admitted that the introspection part of the application process was new to him.

The introspection part of the application prep was also new to me. It involved understanding my career goals, strengths, and weaknesses and defining who Reetvik is. It was a new experience, and we had a timeline to adhere to, which added to the difficulty. So, these two aspects, test-taking habits and introspection, were particularly challenging for me compared to other parts of the application process."

Click here for Reetvik’s full conversation with us.

5. Brainstorming experiences (events/people) that shaped them

Introspection enables applicants to delve into their past experiences, including significant events and influential people, that have shaped their personal and professional journeys. By reflecting on successes and setbacks, candidates can identify valuable lessons, personal growth, and resilience in the face of challenges. These stories of transformation and learning can highlight their ability to adapt, embrace challenges, and continuously learn from both successes and failures, showcasing them as well-rounded individuals that business schools are seeking.

Praveen (ISB- PGP, 2022) learned through the application process that being honest about one’s weaknesses/ setbacks showcases resilience and self-awareness.

Reflecting into your experiences right from your childhood is most challenging because you must think backward.  Initially, I had ignored a few things about my candidacy, such as lack of formal schooling and my learning disability in the first eight years of my life. I thought that mentioning these weaknesses would hurt my chances of success. But you advised me to mention these in my application. I liked it when you said that it would show your perseverance and character. Also, in 2012, I left the master’s course because of my family issues. And I never mentioned that in my flow chart. But you suggested that I need not shy away from telling the truth because it shows my character and values.”

 Click here for Praveen’s full conversation with us.

Thus, taking the time to dig deep into one's experiences, goals, strengths, weaknesses, leadership qualities, motivations, and unique value proposition is essential for creating a compelling and authentic application. It is the cornerstone of a successful MBA application, enabling candidates to present themselves as well-rounded, self-aware, and determined individuals prepared to make a meaningful impact in the business world. So, get ready for this process of self-discovery.

Free Resources

Overarching Essay Tips

MER Students Share Their Success Stories

Case Studies

About MER (myEssayReview)

Poonam Tandon, the founder of MER (myEssayReview), is a Ph.D. in English with 12 years of MBA consulting experience and three decades of teaching experience in India and the US. A master storyteller, Poonam has successfully guided hundreds of students worldwide to gain admission into the esteemed MBA, EMBA, and specialized Masters programs in the US, Canada, Europe, and Asia. Throughout her four-decade-long professional career, she has reviewed 10,000+ essays written by applicants worldwide. Poonam is recognized as one of the top 5 most reviewed consultants on the GMAT Club (142 reviews).

Do you have questions about your application for the 2023-24 application cycle?

E-mail Poonam at or sign up here for a free consultation.