Student holding a pen ready to write their MBA essay

20 Essential Tips on How to Write A Killer MBA Essay

June 29, 2024
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Types of MBA EssaysTop 20 Tips on How to Write a Great Business School EssayMBA Essay ExamplesMistakes to Avoid While Writing Your EssayFAQsUnlock Your Future with the Perfect Business School Essay

Types of MBA Essays

There are a few different types of MBA essay questions you will answer as part of your MBA application. The type of essay can be determined through the keywords used in the essay question. Each type of essay will have its own length requirements, depending on the business school.


This type of essay asks you to detail your personal and professional goals and how attending business school will help you achieve them. An essay question that asks about your aspirations or what you hope to gain from an MBA program is classified as a goal essay.

For example, Wharton is one of many schools that ask for a goal essay from applicants using the question: “What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA?” Columbia, NYU Stern, Darden, Dartmouth Tuck, and McCombs are some of the many other schools that ask about your goals.


A self-reflection essay is an opportunity for you to showcase the values and characteristics that make up your personal identity. It also requires you to discuss how you handled a failure at some point in your life or how you would approach an ethical dilemma.

Yale School of Management is one business school that uses self-reflection questions in its MBA essays. They want to know what the biggest commitment you have ever made is, including why you chose it and how you went about making it. 

Answering this question will require you to do some deep reflection in order to answer it thoroughly. 


The objective of this type of essay is to show an admissions committee how you will add value and contribute to their MBA program. 

Booth School of Business poses this question: “An MBA is as much about personal growth as it is about professional development. In addition to sharing your experience and goals in terms of career, we’d like to learn more about you outside of the office. Use this opportunity to tell us something about who you are.” 

Booth clearly wants you to elaborate on who you are, what you value, and how you live those values in your everyday life.


Some business schools want to know about the impact you will have on their program and pose a question that asks you to describe a time when you demonstrated leadership. This will involve discussing why you took on the leadership role in your chosen situation and your leadership impact.

Darden School of Business poses essay questions designed to gauge your leadership capabilities and the impact you’ll have on the program. As Dean of Admissions Dawna Clarke states, they are interested in “cultivating high impact leaders.” 

It’s no surprise that one of their essay questions from a recent application cycle was, “Darden strives to identify and cultivate responsible leaders who follow their purpose. Please provide an example of a situation in which you have made a meaningful impact.”


Instead of writing a traditional essay, some business schools ask you to submit a video essay. The types of questions asked for a video essay can range from a short introduction to longer, multi-component questions.

Kellogg is one business school that uses video essays. They will ask you three questions. First up is an introduction, and the second is about your career goals and how Kellogg will help get you there. 

The third question varies annually and is generally more randomized, so you and all the other applicants won’t necessarily respond to the same question. 

‍Top 20 Tips on How to Write a Great Business School Essay

Successfully writing business school essays is tricky. Many factors go into constructing a successful one. However, the top tips we’ve provided below outline how to write an MBA application essay that stands out from the crowd. 

1. Brainstorm

Focus on each essay question individually. Start with the essay that feels easiest or most natural to you. Your writing will improve as you go. Choose topics that highlight your strengths, experiences, and achievements to make the strongest impact.

2. Make an Outline

Before you start writing, outline the main points you want to cover in a logical order. Consider how much space each section of your essay should take up.

3. Create a Draft

Once you have a good outline, start your first draft. It's okay if it's not perfect yet. First drafts are usually longer but focus on getting your main points down and ensuring they connect well.

4. Pay Attention to Your Essay Structure

Blair Mannix, Wharton's Admissions Director, says successful essays have three parts: the setup (who you are and what you've learned), the pivot point (what you want to learn and how it will help your career), and the future (how the MBA program will help you achieve your goals). 

For essays on contributing to the MBA community, be personal, tell a story, and connect your experiences to the community.

5. Consider the Tone You Use While Writing Your Essay

Be genuine in your essay. Admissions committees can tell if you're insincere or just writing what you think they want to hear. Laurel Grodman from Yale School of Management says your essay should reflect your voice and highlight something meaningful in your life. 

Write about what truly matters to you. Incorporate your personality, such as your creativity or humor, to help the committee get to know you better.

6. The Best MBA Essays Are School-Specific 

When writing a business school essay, focus on why you want to attend that school. Show you've done your research by mentioning the curriculum, extracurricular activities, and research centers you're interested in. This makes your essay more compelling by explaining what you'll gain from the program and how it will help you succeed.

7. Pick an Event or Situation That Matters to You

When you select your topic to write about in your MBA essay, you need to make sure it is something that had a significant impact on your life and resonates with you personally. This will help ensure your authenticity shows through.

8. Explain Why You’re a Right Fit For the School

Just mentioning that you're the ideal candidate isn't enough. This won't persuade the admissions committee to accept you. Instead, you should provide specific examples and evidence showing why you're a great fit. Discuss your achievements, experiences, and skills that align with the program's goals. 

9. Include Passion Into Your Writing

Admissions officers want to know what excites you and if you'll bring that same enthusiasm to the classroom. Share your passions and interests, and explain how they drive you. Show how your excitement for learning and goals will make you an active and engaged student.

10. Highlight Your Diversity 

Business schools value having students from diverse backgrounds. When writing your application, share experiences demonstrating how your unique perspective can enrich the school's community. Explain how your background, interests, or experiences can contribute to a vibrant and inclusive learning environment.

11. Address Inconsistencies

If you have gaps in employment or a low GPA, be upfront about them. Explain how you've grown or learned from these experiences, emphasizing your positive steps to overcome challenges. This demonstrates resilience and maturity to the admissions committee, showing them you can handle obstacles effectively.

The Importance of Storytelling in MBA Essays

Business school admissions officers want to see how you approach traits like leadership and commitment in your MBA application essay. Yet, if you describe an experience and don’t reflect upon it, you will not highlight your mindset, dedication, and motivation. 

The best writers outline the traits that business schools want to see by telling personal stories and anecdotes. But how can you do that? It’s simple — show how your experiences impacted you. Don’t just tell us about it. 

Indeed, to use the idea of commitment as an example, Yale’s admissions committee “cares less about the commitment you choose and more about the behaviors surrounding the commitment.” They want to “come away learning something new about you as a person that helps us understand your values and motivations.”

Illustrating how your experiences affect your values and motivations is difficult; this process requires a lot of introspection and self-reflection. The trick is to use plenty of real-life examples and explain how they embody your values. 

One way to successfully do this is to use the STAR technique. The STAR technique is split into four distinct steps: 

  • Situation - Describe the situation and when it took place.
  • Task - Explain the task and what was the goal.
  • Action - Provide details about the action you took to attain this.
  • Result - Conclude with the result of your action.

Using the four steps outlined above, you can create concise, compelling answers to your essay prompts. Let’s use one of the Berkeley Haas essay prompts as an example for an MBA essay outline:

What makes you feel alive when you are doing it, and why? (300 words maximum)

We can split this prompt into two sections: 

  1. Describe an activity, hobby, or anything that makes you “feel alive” when you do it. 
  2. Explain why you find so much enjoyment in this one thing. 

Storytelling is key here, and the STAR technique can help you break down exactly what you want to say. Remember, it is important to reflect upon your experiences and, in this case, show why you enjoy something. 

If you manage to do this in your essays and show how you achieved results along the way, you will submit a strong MBA application essay. 

Plagiarizing Your MBA Essay 

Plagiarism is a big deal. 

Even if a student doesn’t intend to plagiarize someone’s work, colleges can and will detect it. If colleges detect plagiarism, they will likely reject the application outright; UCLA’s Anderson School of Management rejected 52 MBA hopefuls for application plagiarism. 

Applicants can easily and accidentally plagiarize someone else’s work by following MBA essay examples too closely. Essay examples are useful, as they can inspire you and give you an idea of how you can reflect upon your experiences. However, someone has written that example about their own experience in their own words, and you can’t copy it. 

If you are worried about plagiarism, the simple fix is to be original. After all, admissions committees want to hear about your experiences, motivations, and opinions. 

Authenticity is also an extremely important part of writing well; you will come across as more genuine writing about your genuine thoughts and experiences. If you want to check your work, you can use reliable and low-cost plagiarism checker tools like PrePostSEO and Copyscape.  

MBA Essay Examples

US News wrote an article on what makes for a successful MBA essay. They provided the following MBA entrance essay sample essays written by applicants recently admitted into highly reputable business schools.

This sample was written for Fox School of Business at Temple University.

sample essay

This essay was well-received by the admissions committee because it was written clearly and concisely, free of grammatical errors, and told a story. The candidate showed their personality and explained why a Fox MBA would help them achieve their career goals. 

This particular candidate was honest in their essay about their weaknesses and professional growth, which is generally well-received by admissions committees. The candidate detailed the initiative they had taken in learning about the MBA program at Fox and why they decided to apply.

This next successful essay sample was written for the Yale School of Management.

sample essay
sample essay
sample essay
sample essay
sample essay

Similar to the previous example, this essay told a compelling story through a clear narrative. This particular essay began with an anecdote that demonstrated the candidate’s work ethic, initiative, leadership, and resourcefulness.

This show-don’t-tell essay displayed what was important to the applicant and offered the admission committee insight into their personality and values. It also provided as much detail as was possible, given the 500-word limit.

Don’t Rely Too Much on MBA Essay Examples 

While MBA essay examples are valuable tools to see what got applicants into business school, they all have one problem: They are not yours. Other peoples’ essay examples don’t focus on your achievements, values, motivations, or experiences. 

In their essays, originality and authenticity are two critical themes that business schools look for because your life is unique. Remember, MBA essay writing is all about getting to know you, and your essays should truly reflect who you are as a person. 

MBA essay examples are useful. They can provide you inspiration, an idea of what can work, and outline how to discuss your own experiences. However, you need to draw a line in the sand and write your own essay at some point. 

People are admitted to particular schools for a wide variety of reasons. While their essays are one of those reasons, what works for one person might not work for you. Try not to overthink it — write about your experiences, background, and, most importantly, opinion. 

Mistakes to Avoid While Writing Your MBA Essay

In addition to following the steps for writing a great MBA essay outlined above, there are also some common mistakes you’ll want to avoid while writing your essay. These mistakes are listed below, along with solutions to fix them.

1. Submitting an Overly Complex Essay

Admissions committees want to know you as a person, not just your industry jargon. Avoid complicated essays that frustrate readers. Instead, use your own words and write as if you're talking professionally to a coworker. This makes your essay clearer and more personal, helping you connect better with the reader.

2. Not Reading the Essay Question Closely or Misunderstanding the Question

To answer MBA essay questions correctly, understand the question fully. Misreading it can result in an off-target essay and a rejected application.

To fix this, find the keywords in the question to understand what the admissions committee wants to know. Words like "contribute," "gain," and "lead" indicate what to focus on. If confused, seek clarification.

3. Restating Your Resume or Letters of Recommendation

Admissions committees want your MBA essay to tell a unique story, not repeat your resume or recommendations. Choose a topic that isn’t covered elsewhere in your business school resume and letters of recommendation. If needed, focus on a specific project, detailing the challenges, solutions, outcomes, and lessons learned. 

4. Starting Your MBA Essay Close to the Deadline 

Starting close to the deadline means you'll rush and make mistakes. To avoid this, start planning your essay as soon as the questions are available. Create an outline for each essay and start early to give yourself enough time to write and revise without stress.

5. Giving Half-Baked Reasons for Attending Business School  

Business school admissions committees use your essays to gauge your interest in their program. If you're vague about your career plans and reasons for choosing their school, take time to outline them clearly. Show clear, well-defined goals and explain why you want to attend their program. 

6. Going Over the Word Limit

Going over the word limit shows you can't follow directions, work within limits, or organize your thoughts. These skills are crucial for understanding requirements, staying focused, solving problems creatively, and communicating clearly.

7. Not Reviewing Your Essay For Grammar Mistakes

A sloppy application suggests a careless attitude, raising concerns about your attention to detail and seriousness. A well-organized application shows diligence and respect for the admissions committee's time.

8. Being too General

An essay full of generalizations suggests you lack specific insights or personal depth. Admissions committees value unique perspectives and concrete examples that show your thoughtful engagement with the topic.

9. Talking About High School

Admissions committees prioritize recent, relevant professional achievements over high school roles like newspapaer editor or varsity team captain. Focus on highlighting recent experiences that showcase your readiness for their program.


1. How Long Should My MBA Application Essay Be?

The length of your MBA essay will depend on the specific school; some schools allow up to 500 words, while others want a very short and to-the-point response of 150 words. 

The length set out by the MBA program you’re applying to is an important consideration, and it is not a good idea to go over the word limit. Admissions committees want to see that you can follow instructions and are capable of writing succinctly. It will not reflect well on you to go over the allowed word count.

2. Is the MBA Essay Less Important Than My GPA and GMAT Score?

No, your MBA essay is at least equally as important as your GPA and GMAT score. While your GPA and GMAT scores are good indicators of your academic abilities, the MBA essay is the admission committee’s first opportunity to get to know you personally. 

This is also the first impression you will make on the committee, so it’s imperative that you write a strong and compelling essay. Most business schools use a holistic approach to assessing applications, and your response to the essay question can determine whether you are a good fit for their program.

3. Is There an MBA Essay Guide for Reapplicants?

Many schools will require or suggest that reapplicants submit an additional essay. 

This will vary by school, and it is important to check with each school’s website for the exact details of what’s expected of reapplicants. If it’s optional, it is a good idea to submit one because it allows you to explain how you’ve grown personally and professionally since your previous application. 

4. Can I Use the Same Business School Essay if I’m Reapplying?

It’s unlikely you’ll be successful using the same essay since your response could have been the reason you were rejected the first time around. 

It’s best to consult with an MBA admissions expert or mentor to find out where you went wrong and what you can do to make your reapplication essay strong and stand out in the best way possible.

5. How Do I Edit My MBA Essay Draft to Make It Better?

First of all, make sure there are no errors with your spelling, grammar, and syntax. Business schools want students with superb communication skills, and having basic errors in your MBA essay does not demonstrate that you have strong communication skills. 

Then, you should go through the common mistakes outlined above and make sure those are not present in your essay; if they are, fix them. Seeking a second opinion from a friend, mentor, colleague, or MBA essay editing expert will also help locate errors or improvement areas.

6. How Can I Ensure My Business School Essay Stands Out?

Whether you are faced with the Wharton MBA essays, Harvard Business School essay, or Booth MBA essays, to name a few, there are a few things you can do to make your essay stand out. 

The event or experience you choose to write about should be something you are able to write about in a compelling narrative. It should also be something you can write about with passion, which will allow the admission committee to see your genuine and authentic voice. 

Your strengths should be woven in with the story you’re telling. These things will make your essay stand out to the admission committee and help them remember you.

Unlock Your Future with the Perfect Business School Essay

Knowing how to write a great MBA essay can be a challenging component of the business school application process. 

But, if you know where to start, make an outline for each essay, and get expert assistance, the process becomes significantly more manageable. Following these steps will help you write a killer MBA essay.


Reviewed by:

Alexei Sorokin

Investment Banking and Corporate Development Expert

Reviewed: 6/28/24

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At Inspira Futures, our sole focus is to get you accepted at your dream business school. Our team of experts consists of former admission committee members and alums from Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB, and other M7 schools. Our goal is to help you write great essays, ace interviews, and win scholarships. Without any stress or hassle. Our clients have gone on to secure admits at the world's top business schools while also being winners of some of the most prestigious scholarships like Stanford Knight Hennessy, HBS Baker Scholars, and many others.
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