How to Approach the Top MBA Essays

by Personal MBA Coach, Oct 19, 2021

While there are an increasing number of compelling MBA programs around the world, with impressive rankings and strong alumni networks, the M7 schools continue to be attractive choices for MBA hopefuls.

For those planning on applying to one or more of the M7 schools, Personal MBA Coach is here to help you navigate the essay-writing process.

Accessible to all Personal MBA Coach newsletter subscribers, our free M7 Essay Analysis e-book features our exclusive guidance on how to approach the 2021-2022 application essays for each of the M7 business schools.

Below, Personal MBA Coach shares the required essay questions for all of the M7 schools, as well as our tips for how to respond successfully to these top MBA essays!

Stanford GSB Essays

Number of Required Essays: 2

Essay 1: What matters most to you, and why? (650 words suggested)

Personal MBA Coach’s Tips: Take considerable time to reflect upon what you are most passionate about. In an ideal scenario, you have acted on this passion and it is reflected in more than one aspect of your life. Think carefully about why this passion is important to you, and do not forget the WHAT here. At the end of the day, a cause or passion that you have done nothing with will not resonate strongly with the admissions committee (or be very believable).

Essay 2: Why Stanford? (400 words suggested)

Personal MBA Coach’s Tips: For this second Stanford GSB essay, start by setting up you why you want an MBA, including your goals and the skills needed to make these goals a reality. Then, make it clear how Stanford will specifically help you fill these skill gaps, mentioning classes, clubs, and programs that interest you. Do not forget to detail what draws you to Stanford’s culture as well!

Wharton Essays

Number of Required Essays: 2

Personal MBA Coach suggests that you consider each Wharton essay individually while also making sure that your two responses complement one another.

Essay 1: How do you plan to use the Wharton MBA program to help you achieve your future professional goals? You might consider your past experience, short- and long-term goals, and resources available at Wharton. (500 words)

Personal MBA Coach’s Tips: The first Wharton essay gives applicants the opportunity to reflect on their high-level aspirations. As you consider your future, think about your skill gaps and how attending Wharton will enable you to close these gaps. Cover the opportunities you want to avail yourself of on campus and be sure to demonstrate a clear understanding of Wharton’s culture.

Essay 2: Taking into consideration your background – personal, professional, and/or academic – how do you plan to make specific, meaningful contributions to the Wharton community? (400 words)

Personal MBA Coach’s Tips: This second MBA essay question gives candidates a chance to showcase previous accomplishments and potential contributions to the Wharton community. Applicants can choose from impressive extracurricular accomplishments, specific talents, and/or distinct professional skills. A powerful response will highlight multiple contributions that clearly unite your personal story, career goals, and passions!

Harvard Business School Essay

Number of Required Essays: 1

Essay: As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA Program? (No word minimum or maximum)

Personal MBA Coach’s Tips: The HBS essay is an invitation to reveal what is truly interesting about you and let the admissions committee “meet” the person behind your MBA application.

That said, responses will vary significantly for everyone. Do not try to write what you think the admissions committee wants to read. Instead, consider the unique value that you will add to the HBS community.

Strong essays often share a detailed personal story, or at least some kind of personal anecdote, which is usually tied to a recurring theme within your HBS essay.

MIT Sloan Cover Letter

Rather than asking applicants to submit a standard MBA essay, MIT Sloan requests that candidates submit a cover letter:

Cover Letter: Please submit a cover letter seeking a place in the MIT Sloan MBA program. Your letter should conform to a standard business correspondence, include one or more professional examples that illustrate why you meet the desired criteria above, and be addressed to the Admissions Committee (300 words or fewer, excluding address and salutation).

Personal MBA Coach’s Tips: Here, applicants must think about their most noteworthy accomplishments, making it clear what they will bring to the Sloan community. Approach the MIT Sloan cover letter as you would approach any other professional cover letter. This means that you must tell the reader who you are and specifically ask for a place in the MIT Sloan class.

Chicago Booth Essays

Number of Required Essays: 2

Essay 1: How will the Booth MBA help you achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA career goals? (250 words minimum)

Personal MBA Coach’s Tips: This first Chicago Booth essay is a standard goals question. Think about your short- and long-term goals, highlighting how you developed these goals and what your higher-level aspirations are. Do not forget to think about your skill gaps and how a Booth MBA will help you achieve your post-MBA goals. You will want to detail the classes, programs, or clubs that you hope to take advantage of.

Essay 2: 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… (250 words minimum)

Personal MBA Coach’s Tips: This MBA essay prompt encourages candidates to reflect upon the personal aspects of their profile. Use this as your opportunity to show what differentiates you from other applicants. Possible topics to cover include values, passions, extracurricular activities, and hobbies.

Kellogg Essays

Number of Required Essays: 2

Essay 1: Kellogg’s purpose is to educate, equip and inspire brave leaders who create lasting value. Provide a recent example where you have demonstrated leadership and created value. What challenges did you face and what did you learn? (450 words)

Personal MBA Coach’s Tips: While most share a professional story for this first question, leadership examples in your extracurriculars could also work here. A successful response for this Kellogg essay will showcase your strengths and specific skillsets.

Essay 2: Values are what guide you in your life and work. What values are important to you and how have they influenced you? (450 words)

Personal MBA Coach’s Tips: The second Kellogg essay question can be challenging, as it forces applicants to reflect on what really drives and motivates them. For each value that you select, explain WHY this value is important to you and demonstrate HOW this value is reflected in your life.

Columbia Business School Essays

Number of Required Essays: 3

The first Columbia MBA essay is required while candidates have a choice for essays 2 and 3:

Essay 1: Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next 3 – 5 years and what, in your imagination, would be your long-term dream job? (500 words)

Personal MBA Coach’s Tips: This Columbia Business School essay prompt enables you to show how you envision your career unfolding. The school asks for a short- and long-term dream job so make sure you include both. Although candidates should have lofty goals here, these goals should also align with their short-term goals and story as a whole.

Essay 2 and 3: Please respond to two (2) of the three (3) essay questions listed below:

The Phillips Pathway for Inclusive Leadership (PPIL) is a new co-curricular program designed to ensure that every CBS student develops the skills to become an ethical and inclusive leader. Through PPIL, students attend programming focused on five essential diversity, equity, and inclusion skills: Creating an Inclusive Environment, Mitigating Bias, Communicating Across Identities, Addressing Systemic Inequality, and Managing Difficult Conversations. Tell us about a time you were challenged around one of these five skills. Describe the situation, the actions you took, and the outcome. (250 words)

Personal MBA Coach’s Tips: This initial choice is a topic that is extremely pertinent to all top business schools. If you have a powerful response to share, Personal MBA Coach suggests that you take advantage of this prompt. On the other hand, do not force this essay if you do not have an authentic story to tell.

Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you? (250 words)

Personal MBA Coach’s Tips: This second option directly addresses fit. This is the perfect opportunity to talk about the classes, clubs, and additional programs that interest you, such as speaker series and immersion seminars.

Essay 4: Tell us about your favorite book, movie, or song and why it resonates with you. (250 words)

Personal MBA Coach’s Tips: This final Columbia Business School essay question provides the chance to share something unique about your profile. To get started, think about your hobbies, passions, values, or upbringing. Then choose a book, movie, or song that ties to your own experience(s).

As Personal MBA Coach often says, the WHAT matters less than the WHY here. Instead of selecting something to impress the reader, choose something that genuinely resonates with you.

For more guidance on the top MBA essays, download Personal MBA Coach’s M7 Essay Analysis e-book!

About Personal MBA Coach:

Founded by a Wharton MBA and MIT Sloan graduate who sits on the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants Board of Directors, Personal MBA Coach has been guiding clients for 14 years and is consistently ranked #1 or #2 by leading sources including Poets&Quants.

We help clients with all aspects of the MBA application process including early planning, GMAT/GRE/EA tutoring, application strategy, school selection, essay editing, and mock interviews. Our team includes former M7 admissions directors and former M7 admissions interviewers.

Last year, our clients earned more than $6.5M in scholarships!