Posted on February 23, 2012

LBS (MiF) Essay Questions Analysis -2011-2012

In the second round of 2011-2012 LBS added two more questions to its 'four-questions Personal Statement' for MiF and made the existing questions more comprehensive. Also, they increased the page-limit from two to three pages.

Essay Question #1: Your Motivation

What has prompted your application to the master's in finance? Why do you believe you would benefit from it at this stage in your career? Why is this the right time for you to pursue the MiF? Why do you want to study for a specialist master’s in finance program as opposed to a more general master’s degree?

As stated in the website of LBS, "The Masters in Finance is for individuals wishing to advance their career in finance, or change their area within finance, as well as those who have exposure to finance in a current or previous role who now wish to deepen their financial knowledge." Keeping this in mind, your first challenge is to be articulate in explaining why you plan to do a MiF meaning you need to provide a convincing argument as to why MiF is the next logical step in your career path. Be specific whether you need to deepen your knowledge of finance in a specific area in order to rise in your current job, or your employer wants you to pursue MiF as a requirement for your next promotion.

Next, you need to explain how you would benefit from the MiF program. Therefore, make sure you are specific in stating exactly what skills you need to acquire through MiF for further advancement in your career. Be as specific as you can in explaining what skills you are expecting to gain from their various resources (classes, clubs, professors, alumni, etc.).

Also, explain why now is the right time for you to go ahead with MiF instead of one or two years later. The reason they have included this question in the personal statement is that they expect a concise answer to that question 'why this is the right time?' And lastly, explain why you are interested in MiF instead of an MBA from LBS?

I always suggest the applicants break down the essay question into different parts and answer them one by one succinctly in order to avoid the risk of missing any part of the question.

Essay Question #2: Your Contribution

What do you expect you could contribute to the program? How could you contribute to the London Business School community?

Since there is a separate question for contribution now (it was combined with motivation earlier), it obviously means that the LBS expects applicants to be more detailed and specific about the value they will add to the LBS community. Just as they want to know how you will benefit from them, they also need to know what they will gain by letting you in. It is a two-way street. Right? Again, be as specific as you can in explaining ways in which you can enrich the LBS community. Highlight how you will contribute to class discussions with your knowledge and experience in specific areas; discuss how you will contribute as a leader, as a team worker, and as an innovator. You may provide brief examples/stories of how you have contributed to the capacity of a team leader or team worker at your current job or how your innovative ideas have been accepted and implemented by your superiors.

Since LBS boasts of its highly international environment with about 80% of its classes coming from outside of the UK, it is critical for you to demonstrate a willingness to be immersed in its highly international environment. Even if you do not have formal international experience in terms of living or working abroad, but have had meaningful interactions with people from different cultures or different countries that have enhanced your knowledge about them, you can definitely demonstrate that as part of your contribution to the LBS community.

Essay Question #3: Your Career to Date

Why have you chosen a finance career? What is your most substantial achievement to date and why? Give us a brief assessment of your career progress to date.

This question expects you to provide a brief picture of all that you have accomplished in your chosen field of finance. Begin this essay with a story that illustrates your passion/ interest in finance. Make sure your story should be engaging enough to showcase you are genuine passion. A compelling way to demonstrate your passion can be something like this:

My love and passion for finance date to the time when I was only 13 years old and would ponder at the stock prices in the newspaper for countless hours.

Thus, by engaging your reader's attention, you may continue with your story leading the reader to your present job showing how banking and finance still enthuse you. Then you will briefly describe 2-3 of your most substantial professional accomplishments stating reasons why you consider them as such. Often candidates forget to explain the 'why' part of this question without which their answer seems hollow. In the end, you also need to provide a brief assessment of your career, explaining how you have handled various challenges at work and have risen in ranks and positions.

Essay Question #4: Your Career Goals

In what role do you see yourself working immediately after graduation? In what city/country/region? What is your alternative career plan in case your preferred option does not come through? How do you see your career developing in the long term? How do you plan to achieve this? How will your past and present experiences help you to achieve this? How can the master’s in finance help you to achieve your goals?

LBS has made this career goal question a lot more comprehensive and detailed than before. In addition to short-term and long-term goals and your plans to achieve those goals, LBS now also expects you to be specific about your choice of workplace (city/country/region) immediately after graduation. They also want you to share with them your back-up career plans in case your plans do not see the light of the day. After you are done explaining your short-term-goal, you will have to connect them to your long-term goals.

Often applicants simply state their short-term and long-term goals without explaining how they plan to accomplish them. The LBS has probably added the following two question parts so you do not miss the 'how' part of this question:

"How do you plan to achieve this? How will your past and present experiences help you to achieve this?”

This means you need to tie in your past (your experience), present (present potential and skill set), and future (future plans leading to your goals) to make your goals -story convincing. In the end, do not forget to answer the last part of the question 'Why MiF?' and explain how MiF perfectly fits in present in your grand career story. Again, be articulate in specifying how various resources of MiF will help you achieve your goals.

Remember, question #4 has seven parts, and if you skip any one of them, your answer will be incomplete.

Essay Question #5- (Commitment and Support):  Becoming a full-time student will involve taking a break in employment, and for many participants, it will also involve relocating to another country or city. Have you discussed these issues with your partner, family, and employer? What were their responses? How supportive are they? (Full-time applicants only)

Attending the weekend-format master’s in finance represents a very substantial commitment in addition to your existing work and family obligations. Have you discussed this with your employer and family? How supportive are they? What arrangements can you make to your work commitments and lifestyle to enable you to devote enough time to your studies? (Weekend-format applicants only).

Through this question, Ad Com wants to know how accountable and responsible you are in your professional and personal life. They want to know how adept you are in balancing your personal and professional life. So, you want to be truthful in explaining when did you notify your employer about your education plans? If he/ she was supportive, what kind of support he assured you of. If he was not, how did you convince him to garner his approval? Whatever argument you make, make sure it projects you as a responsible mature professional.

Likewise, in your personal life, you need to ensure that your family agrees with your education plan and your decision to relocate to another country. If you are going ahead with this plan against your spouse’s consent or happiness, explain why you had to make that choice and how you plan to deal with the situation in the future. Your ability to deal with these situations will reflect on your problem-solving skills, your maturity, clarity of thought, as well as your ability to maintain a work-life balance. Whether you are a full-time applicant or a weekend format applicant, make sure to formulate your response in accordance with the questions asked.

Essay Question #6: Any Other Matters

Any other matters you wish to draw to the attention of the Admissions Committee:

You may use this essay as an opportunity for you to tell the Ad Com what you could not tell in the first five questions because you were bound by the specifications of essay questions.
First, you may use this question to reveal your non-professional side. If you have a significant community service experience, go ahead to shine a spotlight on that. If you feel you have covered all aspects of your personality in other essays but would like to elaborate /re-emphasize the most significant of them in detail, that is also a good option. Try to build a story (your life experience) while doing that. For example, if you have an amazing example of your ability to take initiative or to think outside the box but could not describe it in detail in other essays because you had a lot of other ground to cover in a limited space, it is a good idea to provide details of that story here.

Also, you can use this question to provide context for a weakness in your profile, as a drop in grades. (your GPA) or a gap in your job history. Make sure your reason is genuine to convince them that your low grades or gap in the job occurred due to unforeseen circumstances beyond your control. Lastly and most importantly, LBS is proud of the "highly international nature" of its program and considers itself especially "suitable for people who want international mobility". So, if you possess international experience, your best bet is to use this essay for your most impressive story that showcases your international exposure and global outlook. Go ahead and discuss how you made a conscious effort to adapt to cultural differences, worked through challenges, and finally succeeded in producing great results. However, even if you have not worked outside of your home country, but have had the opportunity to visit other countries and mingled with people of different cultures that offered you valuable insights, you may elaborate on that experience here. Thus, you can also use this essay to demonstrate your international exposure, cultural sensitivity, and adaptability.

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