Short Answer Essays: Challenge and Transformation

a. What has been your biggest challenge, and what have you learned from it? (200 words maximum)

Analysis: Wow, that’s a lot of content for such a short essay. It reminds me a bit of the Harvard application from last year, where you had to squeeze three set-back stories into 600 words.

Here is how I would structure this essay:

1. Brief description of the challenge
2. How you managed the situation (your actions; the impact on your team, company, etc.)
3. What you have learned from the story

If you don’t include all these elements, the story isn’t going to work. To make this a balanced story, you can allocate 60-70 words for each section.. The most common mistake people make in such essays is spending too much time (and space) on the intro. My advice:just dive right in.

b. Tell us about something that has fundamentally transformed the way you think. (200 words maximum)

Analysis: I am focusing on the words FUNDAMENTALLY and TRANSFORMED. This story has to have depth—it shouldn’t be light and easy. You really need to come up with something that has clearly changed the way you think.  If you are using personal, emotional stories (car accidents, medical issues, etc.), make sure you are not oversharing or creating a sob story –those things will not strengthen your MBA application.

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