2017-2018 USC Marshall MBA Essay Topic Analysis

by on November 24th, 2017

We’re following up the USC Marshall School of Business essay questions with our essay topic analysis for the applicant pool seeking entrance in 2019.

Let’s take a closer look at each prompt.

Essay 1

What is your specific, immediate short-term career goal upon completion of your MBA? Please include an intended position, function, and industry in your response. (100 words)

This is a straightforward request for career plans following graduation from the Marshall MBA program. Candidates should lead with their short-term goal, given the explicit language of the prompt. In other words, where do you expect to be the day after graduation, professionally? One hundred words does not allow for much elaboration outside of one’s short-term plans, so it’s likely you will only have room to address each of the details requested.  However, if you are able to address each detail effectively and happen to find yourself with extra room, you may try to dedicate a sentence or two to why an MBA is necessary and what your long-term goal is. Concisely defining your long-term goal would lend meaning to the short term, and identifying the skills you hope to gain from an MBA would show how you anticipate being prepared for the short term.

Essay 2

Please respond to ONLY ONE of the following essay topics. (500 words)

  1. Please describe the contributions you expect to make to your classmates outside of the classroom during your time at USC.
  2. You have been asked to design a course to be taught at the Marshall School of Business. Please provide a title and description for the course.
  3. What has been the most interesting day or moment in your life and why?
  4. You have been hired by the Marshall MBA Admissions Committee to create an essay question for next year’s application. Please state the question and answer it.

The Marshall adcom has provided applicants several options to share more about themselves and their interest in the MBA program. To start, it may be best to simply read through the options and see which one or two resonate the most with you. Are you most excited about getting involved with the Trojan community? Is there a particular skill you want to learn, and need a very specific course to learn it? Do you have something you need to share that simply could not be covered in Essay 1?

Option 1 shows that the adcom wants to get to know what kind of community member you would be, and that they value contributions outside of the academic classroom. This option provides the chance to bring out details about your extracurricular and professional activities, and translate them into opportunities at USC Marshall. Because past behavior can be seen as a predictor of future success and commitment, responses with concrete anecdotes would carry far more weight than simply asserting that you want to be involved. From case competitions to Marshall’s 40 student clubs, be specific in your connections between your interests and how they would translate to life at Marshall.

Option 2 can be seen as an extension of Essay 1, if you feel there is a particular skill that you need to achieve your goals. Or, it can be used to showcase an interest that you’ve always been curious about, but never had the chance to fully delve into. No matter the case, you may first reflect on the skills you wish to hone or interests you hope to pursue. Then, be sure to review the course offerings Marshall already has—you’ll want to avoid recounting a course that already exists at the school.  In regards to the description, perhaps there is a particular professor you hope would teach the course. While a week-by-week breakdown of the course shouldn’t be necessary, try to get creative with how the lessons of the course would be instilled. Consider the typical teaching methods, whether lectures, team projects or case studies, and more regarding how the material would be conveyed. It would also make sense to incorporate why you think this course would be worth having—how it would benefit your and your classmates’ futures.

Of the structured options of this essay, Option 3 is the one most geared toward getting to know you as a person. As such, the key is to tell a story that is compelling and reveals more about you. You may approach this by making a list of your personal defining moments and reflecting on which one has shaped you the most or which one has simply been the most exciting. While it’s understandable that one’s wedding day or birth of a child would be a “most interesting” day, keep in mind that this is a fairly common experience so you may need to work extra hard to differentiate yourself from the applicant pool in addressing the “why” part of the prompt. That being said, if you, for example, met your spouse while doing volunteer relief work in Bangladesh and that particular day they met was interesting for multiple reasons, it could work—especially if the relief work somehow fits with your plans and passions.

While the admissions process can be taxing, avoid the temptation of simply copying and pasting another school’s essay for Option 4. You want to show the adcom that you are tailoring your application to their school. In light of this, consider the “Marshall difference” and the values that the school holds. Sharing an anecdote about how you represent one of these values, e.g. transformational courage, collaborative ambition, impactful service or unwavering integrity, could show how you fit with the program. Alternatively, maybe you have a powerful community anecdote or exceptional professional achievement that you would like to share. If choosing this option, be sure to stay focused on your greatest strengths.

Optional Essay

Please provide any additional information that will enhance our understanding of your candidacy for the program. (250 words)

This essay is an ideal opportunity to address gaps in employment, areas of poor academic performance, lack of a letter from one’s current direct supervisor, and other areas that might benefit from explanation. While applicants might also use this essay to share other important information about their backgrounds, they should be very thoughtful about whether this “bonus material” will make a substantive difference in their applications before responding to this essay.

Clear Admit Resources

Thanks for reading our analysis of this year’s USC / Marshall School of Business essay topics. As you work on your Marshall MBA essays and application, we encourage you to consider all of Clear Admit’s Marshall offerings:

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