The 2012-2013 UCLA Anderson Essay Analysis

by on August 4th, 2012

UCLA Anderson keeps it short and sweet – one personal essay question and one forward looking professional essay. Think carefully about what you want to say and, though you never should neglect your resume, also be very careful to put together a concise an eye-catching resume. We emphasize concise! Do do not overstuff your resume to compensate for UCLAs lack of room to express yourself. If you cover every word of your resume with text, it will overwhelm the reader and negate its very purpose.

1. What is your proudest achievement outside the workplace, and how has it impacted you? (700 words maximum)

UCLA Anderson wants to know that you are a real, live human being, not just a spreadsheet machine, so this essay question asks explicitly about your personal life. We hope we do not really need to say this, but we will anyway: do not discuss your professional life! The school is specifically asking you not to, so give the admissions committee what it wants!

As for which anecdote you should share, we have to ask, “Well, what are you most proud of?” Rest assured that this is not some kind of a game in which the admissions committee is waiting to see if you pick the “right” one. The school does not “like” certain types of achievements and dislike others. The particular achievement you choose to describe is not actually the point here. Instead, it is meant as an avenue through which you can create and convey an impression of yourself.

To ensure that you write a compelling essay response, remember to tell a story about yourself. If you write, for example, something like “My proudest achievement was completing the Kona Ironman Triathlon,” your story has both started and finished in the very first sentence (and that is not good). Where could you go from there, and how could you keep your reader’s attention? Instead, let the story develop by taking your reader step by step through the events how they happened, discuss how you were able to achieve what you did and make sure that your story involves a clear conflict or challenge, because no great achievement is truly easy—otherwise anyone could do it, and that would lessen its import.

Finally, do not neglect to discuss the impact the achievement had on you. What has changed about you since then? What have you pursued or not pursued as a result? How is your life, your personal philosophy or the way you prioritize things different from before the event? Reflect thoroughly on this aspect of the situation, and use your findings to clearly show that you have grown personally.

2. What are your short-term and long-term career goals, and how will an MBA from UCLA Anderson specifically help you achieve these goals? (700 words maximum)

Because Personal Statements are similar from one application to the next, we have produced the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide, which helps applicants write this style of essay for any school. We offer this guide to candidates free of charge, via our online store. Please feel free to download your copy today.

Do not use up precious word count here detailing your professional career and accomplishments to date, but do include some general reference to your past work experience to frame why you need an MBA education to attain your stated goals. You must then clearly explain what UCLA Anderson offers in particular that will help you. As always, avoid telling the school what it already knows about itself, and instead strive to demonstrate links between specific offerings at the school and your aspirations. You will need to do your research to best identify direct ties between what Anderson offers and your professional goals, personal beliefs, study style, etc. The deeper your knowledge of the school, the easier pinpointing specific resources will be in the context of your future success, and thus, the more effective your essay will be. Take time to go beyond the school’s view book and Web site and contact students and alumni—and, ideally, visit the school and attend a class.

OPTIONAL ESSAY: Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? (250 words maximum)

However tempted you might be, this is not the place to paste in a strong essay from another school or to offer a few anecdotes that you were unable to use in any of your other essays. Instead, this is your opportunity—if needed—to address any lingering questions that an admissions officer might have about your candidacy, such as a poor grade or overall GPA, a low GMAT score, a gap in your work experience, etc. In our mbaMission Optional Statement Guide, available through our online store, we offer detailed advice on when and how to take advantage of the optional essay (including multiple sample essays) to help you mitigate any problem areas in your profile.

REAPPLICANT ESSAY: Please describe your career progress since you last applied and ways in which you have enhanced your candidacy. Include updates on short-term and long-term career goals, as well as your continued interest in UCLA Anderson. (700 words maximum)

Whether you have improved your academic record, received a promotion, begun a new and exciting project, increased your community involvement or taken on a personal challenge of sorts, the key to success with this essay is conveying a very deliberate path of achievement. Anderson wants to know that you have been actively striving to improve yourself and your profile, and that you have seized opportunities during the previous year to do so, because an Anderson MBA is vital to you. The responses to this essay question will vary greatly from one candidate to the next, because each person’s needs and experiences differ. We are more than happy to provide one-on-one assistance with this highly personal essay to ensure that your efforts over the past year are presented in the best light possible.

For a thorough exploration of UCLA Anderson’s academic program/merits, defining characteristics, crucial statistics, social life, academic environment and more, please check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the UCLA Anderson School of Management. If you would like some one-on-one advice on your MBA applications, contact mbaMission to set up a free 30-minute consultation.


  • I want to know that how bad is it to reiterate an older story. I do have significant achievements outside my workplace to quote but they are of my college time. So thats 5-6 years old. Perhaps I would stick to those only.

  • Generally speaking, you should stick with stories that showcase who you are as an individual now. So, something within the last two years does that -- three or four years probably show the "old" you, a less mature you. That said, if something really great happened years ago and shows you in a light that would be impressive today (started and sold a company; leadership role in the military, etc.) then you might be able to return to it. 

    These are just general guidelines. We would need to know your story to be sure that we are helping you make the right choice. 

    Jeremy Shinewald

    • Thanks Jeremy.

      My story is that I co-founded a new club (IEEE student branch) during Engineering which focused on technical excellence and motivated students to get involved outside of their curriculum. This student branch is one of the largest student branches in the world today. It also won the best student branch award by IEEE in 2007.

      Thanks for the help.

  • For essay 1: Is it important to write the achievement other than extra curricular? Can we put the biggest achievement of what lessons learnt or behavior changes as a whole ?

  • Garry,

    If I am following you correctly, there is certainly room to discuss the lessons learned and the change. One feeds into the other. 

    Jeremy Shinewald

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