Top 30 US Business Schools: Application Essays 2015-2016

Last update: July 12, 2015

Schools with the updated essays for 2015-2016: Columbia, Dartmouth (Tuck), Emory (Goizueta), Harvard, Indiana (Kelley), MIT (Sloan), NYU (Stern), Stanford, UCLA (Anderson), Univ. of Michigan (Ross), UPenn (Wharton), U of Texas (McCombs), U of Washington (Foster), Yale SOM, Arizona State University (Carey), University of Virginia (Darden), University of California — Berkeley (Haas), Duke University (Fuqua), Georgetown University (McDonough), Northwestern University (Kellogg), University of Chicago (Booth) .

I’m going to update the essays as schools release them. Sign up for the newsletter to get updates about deadlines, essay questions, and application tips.

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You can download the file with all the MBA essay questions here.

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Arizona State University (Carey)

Essay Question #1

  1. a)      Up to this point, how has your career helped you create your brand? (250 words or less)
  2. b)   How do you plan to leverage your MBA to pursue your short- and long-term career goals? (250 words or less)
  3. c)       Should your career path need to shift from its intended course, how will you leverage the skills acquired during your degree program to ensure success on your new path? (250 words or less)

Essay Question #2

If you had to create a short video/slideshow highlighting your most memorable moments to date, what 5 moments would you choose? What song would you use as your theme song and why? (250 words or less)

Essay Question #3 – Additional Information (Optional)

Please provide any additional information you would like to bring to the attention of the admissions committee (e.g., mitigating circumstances, special considerations). (250 words or less)

Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper)

Columbia University

Essay Question #1

Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals going forward, and how will the Columbia MBA help you achieve them? (Maximum 500 words)

Essay Question #2

Columbia Business School’s location enables us to bridge theory and practice in multiple ways: through Master Classes, internships, the New York Immersion Seminars, and, most importantly, through a combination of distinguished research faculty and accomplished practitioners. How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? (Maximum 250 words)

Essay Question #3

CBS Matters, a key element of the School’s culture, allows the people in your Cluster to learn more about you on a personal level. What will your Clustermates be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (Maximum 250 words)

Check out my tips on how to answer Columbia MBA questions.

Optional Essay

An optional fourth essay will allow you to discuss any issues that do not fall within the purview of the required essays.

Knight-Bagehot Fellows:

Rather than answer Essay 1, current Knight-Bagehot Fellows applying to Columbia Business School should use the space allocated to the first essay (500 words) to complete the Wiegers Fellowship application essay.

Wiegers Fellowship Essay Question:

What are your career goals? How has the Knight-Bagehot Fellowship affected these goals? How will an MBA help you achieve these goals? (500 words maximum)

Cornell University (Johnson)

Dartmouth College (Tuck)

Please respond fully but concisely to the following essay questions. There are no right or wrong answers. We encourage applicants to limit the length of their responses to 500 words for each essay. Please double-space your responses.

Essay Question #1

What are your short- and long-term goals? Why do you need an MBA to achieve those goals? Why are you interested in Tuck specifically?

Essay Question #2

Tell us about your most meaningful leadership experience and what role you played. How will that experience contribute to the learning environment at Tuck?

Optional Essay

Please provide any additional insight or information that you have not addressed elsewhere that may be helpful in reviewing your application (e.g., unusual choice of evaluators, weaknesses in academic performance, unexplained job gaps or changes, etc.). Complete this question only if you feel your candidacy is not fully represented by this application.

Reapplicants

(To be completed by all reapplicants) How have you strengthened your candidacy since you last applied? Please reflect on how you have grown personally and professionally.

Duke University (Fuqua)

Required Short Answer Questions

Instructions: Answer all 3 of the following questions. For each short answer question, respond in 500 characters only (the equivalent of about 100 words).

  1. What are your short-term goals, post-MBA?
  2. What are your long-term goals?
  3. Life is full of uncertainties, and plans and circumstances can change. As a result, navigating a career requires you to be adaptable. Should the short-term goals that you provided above not materialize what alternative directions have you considered?

First Required Essay: 25 Random Things About Yourself

Instructions: Answer the following question — present your response in list form, numbered 1 to 25. Some points may be only a few words, while others may be longer. Your complete list should not exceed 2 pages.

  1. The “Team Fuqua” spirit and community is one of the things that sets The Duke MBA experience apart, and it is a concept that extends beyond the student body to include faculty, staff, and administration. When a new person joins the Admissions team, we ask that person to share with everyone in the office a list of “25 Random Things About Yourself.” As an Admissions team, we already know the new hire’s professional and academic background, so learning these “25 Random Things” helps us get to know someone’s personality, background, special talents, and more.

In this spirit, the Admissions Committee also wants to get to know you–beyond the professional and academic achievements listed in your resume and transcript. You can share with us important life experiences, your likes/dislikes, hobbies, achievements, fun facts, or anything that helps us understand what makes you who you are. Share with us your list of “25 Random Things” about YOU.

Second Required Essay (choose 1 of 2)

Instructions: Choose only 1 of the following 2 essay questions to answer. Your response should be no more than 2 pages in length, and should reflect your knowledge of the Fuqua program and experience, and the types of activities and leadership you would engage in as a Fuqua student.

  1. Why Duke: When asked by your family, friends, and colleagues why you want to go to Duke, what do you tell them? Share the reasons that are most meaningful to you.
  2. Team Fuqua Principles: The Team Fuqua community is as unique as the individuals who comprise it. Underlying our individuality are a number of shared ideas and principles that we live out in our own ways. Our students have identified and defined 6 “Team Fuqua Principles” that we feel are the guiding philosophies that make our community special. At the end of your 2 years at Fuqua, if you were to receive an award for exemplifying one of the 6 Principles listed below, which one would it be and why? Your response should reflect your knowledge of Fuqua and the Daytime MBA program and experience, and the types of activities and leadership you would engage in as a Fuqua student.
    1. Authentic Engagement: We care and we take action. We each make a difference to Team Fuqua by being ourselves and engaging in and supporting activities about which we are passionate.
    2. Supportive Ambition: We support each other to achieve great things, because your success is my success. The success of each individual member of Team Fuqua makes the whole of Team Fuqua better.
    3. Collective Diversity:  We embrace all of our classmates because our individuality is better and stronger together.
    4. Impactful Stewardship: We are leaders who focus on solutions to improve our communities both now and in the future. We aren’t satisfied with just maintaining the status quo.
    5. Loyal Community: We are a family who looks out for each other. Team Fuqua supports you when you need it the most.
    6. Uncompromising Integrity: We internalize and live the honor code in the classroom and beyond. We conduct ourselves with integrity within Fuqua, within Duke, and within all communities of which we are a part.

Optional Essay

If you feel there are circumstances of which the Admissions Committee should be aware, please explain them in an optional essay (such as unexplained gaps in work, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance).

  • Do NOT upload additional essays nor additional recommendations in this area of the application.
  • The Optional Essay is intended to provide the Admissions Committee with insight into your circumstances only.
  • Limit your response to two pages.

Emory University (Goizueta)

Essay Question #1

Define your short-term post-MBA career goals. How are your professional strengths, past experience and personal attributes aligned with these goals? (300 word limit)

Essay Question #2

The business school is named for Roberto C. Goizueta, former Chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, who led the organization for 16 years, extending its global reach, quadrupling consumption, building brand responsibility, and creating unprecedented shareholder wealth. Mr. Goizueta’s core values guide us in educating Principled Leaders for Global Enterprise. Provide an example of your leadership – professional or personal – and explain what you learned about yourself through the experience. (300 word limit)

Essay Question #3

Complete one of the following statements. (250 word limit)

  • I am passionate about…
  • The best piece of advice I’ve received is…
  • The best day of my life was…
  • A personal goal I want to accomplish is…

Essay Question #4

Share with the committee and your future classmates a fun or noteworthy fact about you. (25 word limit)

Optional Essay

If you have additional information or feel there are extenuating circumstances which you would like to share with the MBA Admissions Committee (i.e. unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, academic performance issues or areas of weakness in application). Please limit your response to 250 words.

Please note, if you are applying for a Center Fellowship through one of our Centers (Center for Alternative Investments, the Marketing Analytics Center or Social Enterprise @ Goizueta) an additional essay is required. Please visit the Center Fellowships page for more details on the fellowships and the application process.

Reapplicant Essays

Applicants who have applied to Goizueta Business School in the past are required to answer the following questions:

Essay Question #1

Define your short-term post-MBA career goals. How are your professional strengths, past experience and personal attributes aligned with these goals? (300 word limit)

Essay Question #2

Explain how you have improved your candidacy for Goizueta Business School’s MBA Program since your last application. (250 word limit)

Georgetown University (McDonough)

  • Essay One: We would like to learn more about you. Please answer the following essay question in 750 words or less: “Why you?”
  • Optional Essay One: If you are not currently employed full-time, use this essay to provide information about your current activities. (250 words or fewer)
  • Optional Essay Two: Please provide any information you would like to add to your application that you have not otherwise included. (500 words or fewer)
  • Re-Applicant Essay: How have you strengthened your candidacy since your last application? We are particularly interested in hearing about how you have grown professionally and personally. (500 words or fewer)

Harvard University

There is one question for the Class of 2018:

It’s the first day of class at HBS. You are in Aldrich Hall meeting your “section.” This is the group of 90 classmates who will become your close companions in the first-year MBA classroom. Our signature case method participant-based learning model ensures that you will get to know each other very well. The bonds you collectively create throughout this shared experience will be lasting. Introduce yourself.

Note: Should you enroll at HBS, there will be an opportunity for you to share this with them.

We suggest you view this video before beginning to write. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eA5R41F7d9Q

There is no word limit for this question.  We think you know what guidance we’re going to give here. Don’t overthink, overcraft and overwrite. Just answer the question in clear language that those of us who don’t know your world can understand.

Joint program applicants for the Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Harvard Law School, and Harvard Kennedy School must provide an additional essay:

How do you expect the joint degree experience to benefit you on both a professional and a personal level? (400 words)

Indiana University — Bloomington (Kelley)

Required:

  1. Please discuss your immediate post-MBA professional goals. How will your professional experience, when combined with a Kelley MBA degree, allow you to achieve these goals? Should the short-term goals you have identified not materialize, what alternate career paths might you consider? (500 words)
  2. Please respond to one of the following short essay prompts. (300 words)
  3. My greatest memory is…
  4. I’m most afraid of…
  5. My greatest challenge has been…
  6. I’m most proud of…
  7. Please share with the admissions committee an interesting or surprising fact about you. (25 words)

Optional:

Is there anything else that you think we should know as we evaluate your application? If you believe your credentials and essays represent you fairly, you shouldn’t feel obligated to answer this question. (300 words)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan)

We have one required essay at the time of submission:

Tell us about a recent success you had: How did you accomplish this? Who else was involved? What hurdles did you encounter? What type of impact did this have? (500 words or fewer).

A second, short-answer question will be asked only of those invited to interview:

The mission of the MIT Sloan School of Management is to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and to generate ideas that advance management practice. Please share with us something about your past that aligns with this mission. (250 words or fewer).

Optional Question

The Admissions Committee invites you to share anything else you would like us to know about you, in any format. If you choose to use a multimedia format, please host the information on a website and provide us the URL.

Here’s a few ideas on how to tackle MIT MBA 2015 Application essays.

New York University (Stern)

Please note the following details when completing your essays.

  • All written essays must be typed and submitted using the standard U.S. 8 1/2” x 11” format, double-spaced, in 12-point font.
  • Word limits apply to the total question. For example, your response to Essay 1 should answer all parts of the question with a total maximum of 750 words.
  • Label the top of each essay with the following: Name, Date of Birth (month, day, year), Essay Number and Page Number (e.g.: Joe Applicant, January 1, 1988, Essay 1, Page 1).
  • Your essays should be written entirely by you. An offer of admission will be revoked if you did not write your essays.

Essay 1:  Professional Aspirations

(750 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font)

  • Why pursue an MBA (or dual degree) at this point in your life?
  • What actions have you taken to determine that Stern is the best fit for your MBA experience?
  • What do you see yourself doing professionally upon graduation?

Essay 2:  Personal Expression

Please describe yourself to your MBA classmates. You may use almost any method to convey your message (e.g. words, illustrations). Feel free to be creative.

If you submit a non-written piece for this essay (i.e., artwork or multimedia) or if you submit this essay via mail, please upload a brief description of your submission with your online application.

Please note the following guidelines and restrictions:

  • Your submission becomes the property of NYU Stern and cannot be returned for any reason.
  • If you submit a written essay, it should be 500 words maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font.
  • If you submit a video or audio file, it should be five minutes maximum. NYU Stern accepts most common video formats.
  • The Admissions Committee reserves the right to request an alternate essay if we are unable to view your submission.
  • Do not submit anything perishable (e.g. food), or any item that has been worn (e.g. clothing).
  • Mailed materials must be postmarked by the application deadline date. Please follow our mail and labeling instructions.

Please note that mailed packages are subject to size restrictions. Submissions that exceed the stated size restrictions will not be accepted for review by the Admissions Committee. Please see the table below for the maximum package size guidelines: 

Packaging Type Dimensions: Non-metric Dimensions: Metric
Box 14” x 12” x 3” 36cm x 31cm x 8cm
Cylindrical tube 3” x 36” 8cm x 91cm
Triangular tube 38” x 6” x 6” x 6” 97cm x 16cm x 16 cm x 16 cm

See actual applicant submissions on Poets & Quants.

Essay 3: Additional Information (optional)

Please provide any additional information that you would like to bring to the attention of the Admissions Committee. This may include current or past gaps in employment, further explanation of your undergraduate record or self-reported academic transcript(s), plans to retake the GMAT, GRE and/or TOEFL or any other relevant information.

If you are unable to submit a recommendation from your current supervisor, you must explain your reason, even if you are a re-applicant.

If you are a re-applicant from last year, please explain how your candidacy has improved since your last application.

Northwestern University (Kellogg)

For 2015-2016, the following two essays are required of all applicants:

  1. Leadership and teamwork are integral parts of the Kellogg experience. Describe a recent and meaningful time you were a leader. What challenges did you face, and what did you learn? (450 words)
  2. Pursuing an MBA is a catalyst for personal and professional growth. How have you grown in the past? How do you intend to grow at Kellogg? (450 words)

Certain applicants will respond to additional questions:

  • Dual-degree applicants: For applicants to the MMM or JD-MBA dual degree programs, please explain why that program is right for you. (250 words)
  • Re-applicants: Since your previous application, what steps have you taken to strengthen your candidacy? (250 word limit)

All applicants have the opportunity to provide explanations or clarification in Additional Information:

  • If needed, use this section to briefly describe any extenuating circumstances (e.g. unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance, etc.) (no word count)

Stanford University

Essay Question #1

What matters most to you, and why?

For this essay, we would like you to:

  • Focus on the “why” rather than the “what.”
  • Do some deep self-examination, so you can genuinely illustrate who you are and how you came to be the person you are.
  • Share the insights, experiences, and lessons that shaped your perspectives, rather than focusing merely on what you’ve done or accomplished.
  • Write from the heart, and illustrate how a person, situation, or event has influenced you.

Essay Question #2

Why Stanford?

Enlighten us on how earning your MBA at Stanford will enable you to realize your ambitions.

  • Explain your decision to pursue graduate education in management.
  • Explain the distinctive opportunities you will pursue at Stanford.

Length

Your answers for both essay questions combined may not exceed 1,150 words. Each of you has your own story to tell, so please allocate these words between the essays in the way that is most effective for you. Below is a suggested word count, based on what we typically see.

Essay 1 Suggested Word Count: 750

Essay 2 Suggested Word Count: 400

Formatting

  • Double-spaced
  • Indicate the question you are answering at the beginning of each essay (does not count toward the word limit)
  • Number all pages
  • Upload one document that includes both essays

Here’s my suggestions on how to answer Stanford MBA application questions.

Texas A&M University — College Station (Mays)

University of California — Berkeley (Haas)

Essay #1

If you could choose one song that expresses who you are, what is it and why? (250 words maximum)

Essay #2

Please respond to one of the following prompts: (250 words maximum)

  • Describe an experience that has fundamentally changed the way you see the world and how it transformed you.
  • Describe a significant accomplishment and why it makes you proud.
  • Describe a difficult decision you have made and why it was challenging.

Essay #3

Tell us about your path to business school and your future plans. How will the Berkeley-Haas experience help you along this journey? (500 words maximum

University of California — Los Angeles (Anderson)

FIRST-TIME APPLICANTS – ONE REQUIRED ESSAY:

UCLA Anderson is distinguished by three defining principles: Share Success, Think Fearlessly, Drive Change. What principles have defined your life and pre-MBA career? How do you believe that UCLA Anderson’s principles, and the environment they create, will help you attain your post-MBA career goals? (750 words maximum)

OPTIONAL ESSAY:

The following essay is optional. No preference is given in the evaluation process to applicants who submit an optional essay. Please note that we only accept written essays.

Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? Please use your best judgment. (250 words maximum)

RE-APPLICANTS – ONE REQUIRED ESSAY:

Reapplicants who applied for the class entering in fall 2013 or 2014 are required to complete the following 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. (750 words maximum)

University of Chicago (Booth)

Using one of the photos provided, tell us how it resonates with your own viewpoint on why the Booth community is the right fit for you.

Essay Guidelines

  • Choose the format that works for you. Feel free to submit a traditional essay, slide presentation, or any format that you feel best captures your response. Please use the format you are most comfortable with, the Admissions Committee has no preference.
  • Determine your own length. There is no prescribed minimum or maximum length. We trust that you will use your best judgment in determining how long your submission should be, but we recommend that you think strategically about how to best allocate the space.

Technical Guidelines

  • File Size: Maximum file size is 16 MB.
  • Accepted Upload Formats: Acceptable formats are PDF, Word, and PowerPoint. We strongly recommend converting your piece to a PDF file prior to submitting.
  • Multimedia Restrictions: We will be viewing your submission electronically and in full color, but all submissions will be converted to PDF files, so animation, video, music, etc. will not translate over.

Reapplicant Question

Reapplicants to Chicago Booth must submit an additional essay.

Reapplicant Essay: Upon reflection, how has your perspective regarding your future, Chicago Booth, and/or getting an MBA changed since the time of your last application? (300 words maximum)

University of Michigan — Ann Arbor (Ross)

We require a personal statement answering the following three questions:

  • Briefly describe your short-term and long-term career goals. Why are you choosing to pursue an MBA at this time in your career, and what are you hoping to accomplish by doing so?
  • Why are you interested in pursuing an MBA at the Carlson School of Management?
  • What do you feel makes you a strong candidate for the program? How will you contribute to the MBA Program overall?

University of Minnesota — Twin Cities (Carlson)

University of North Carolina — Chapel Hill (Kenan-Flagler)

University of Southern California (Marshall)

University of Notre Dame (Mendoza)

University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)

Questions, Class of 2018:

  1. (Required) What do you hope to gain both personally and professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)
  2. (Optional) Please use the space below to highlight any additional information that you would like the Admissions Committee to know about your candidacy. (400 words)

Additional Question for Re-applicants:

All re-applicants to Wharton are required to complete this essay. Explain how you have reflected on the previous decision about your application, and discuss any updates to your candidacy (e.g., changes in your professional life, additional coursework, extracurricular/volunteer engagements). (250 words)

All applicants, including re-applicants can also use this section to address any extenuating circumstances. (250 words)

University of Texas — Austin (McCombs)

  1. At The University of Texas at Austin, what starts here changes the world.  You are at the Texas MBA Orientation for the Class of 2018, meeting your cohort for the first time. Please introduce yourself to your new classmates, including relevant information about your personal and professional life.
  2. Select only one communication method that you would like to use for your response.
    • Write an essay (250 words)
    • Share a video introduction (one minute)
    • Share your about.me profile
  3. The McCombs School of Business is where leadership is earned.  We have an inclusive environment where our dynamic and driven students take an active role in the Texas MBA community.  Please discuss why the Texas MBA is the ideal program for you, what you hope to achieve, and how you will contribute to your classmates’ experience. (500 words)
  4. Optional Essay: Please provide any additional information you believe is important and/or address any areas of concern that will be beneficial to the Admissions Committee in considering your application (e.g. unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, academic performance, significant weaknesses in your application, or extenuating personal circumstances). (250 words)

University of Virginia (Darden)

Describe the most important professional feedback you have received and how you responded to this feedback.

(500 words maximum)

University of Washington (Foster)

Two essays are required and must be uploaded to your online application. The optional essay allows you to tell us more about yourself or explain an area of potential concern.

Essay Question #1

Post-MBA Plans (750 words maximum) – Tell us your ideas about what lies ahead for you in your career. What are the gaps or deficiencies currently preventing you from pursuing these potential career paths? How do you plan to use your time in the Foster MBA program to fill these gaps and advance your career?

Essay Question #2

Inspiring Profession Experience (500 words maximum) – Describe a specific experience that inspired your professional plans and prompted you to explore the MBA.

Optional Essay

(500 words maximum) – Please include this essay if you have additional information that you believe would be helpful to the admissions committee in considering your application.

Vanderbilt University (Owen)

Washington University in St. Louis (Olin)

Yale University

The Yale School of Management educates individuals who will have deep and lasting impact on the organizations they lead. Describe how you have positively influenced an organization as an employee, a member, or an outside constituent. (500 words maximum)