Top Tips for Writing Your MBA Application Essay

Top Tips for Writing Your MBA Application Essay main image

When it comes to applying for an MBA, writing your application essay is possibly the most challenging aspect. A crucial element of your application, it gives you a unique opportunity to introduce your accomplishments and provide the admissions team with vital information about your motivations and overall fit for the program.

Here are some pointers from INSEAD’s admissions team on how to write a strong MBA application essay.

Be original

Stay away from clichés and create original content. We want to get to know the real “you”, so be honest and reflect deeply on what unique experience you can bring to the program.

If you’re unsure of the appropriate level of honesty, think about what you would say to a friend or a sibling over coffee in response to each of the questions.

INSEAD selects a variety of profiles to complete the class; from people who’ve taken more traditional business routes in their careers to others with medical, humanities or military backgrounds. This means there is no perfect template you need to adapt to.

So, try to avoid writing what you think the admissions committee would like to hear and follow your own instincts. For example, you can mention elements from your personal life that can shed light on your passions, pursuits or accomplishments.

The best essays always strike a balance between personal and professional details, so try to incorporate relevant stories and anecdotes from your childhood, high school or undergraduate studies.

One more thing, please bear in mind that original doesn’t mean intimate or inappropriate. This is still a formal application essay!

Ensure what you’re saying is clear and not muddled by poor grammar or sentence construction

Grammar, sentence construction and the words you use can reveal a lot about you as a person. Ensure you stay focused, plan appropriately and take sufficient time to write, review and edit your essays in order to ensure the image you’re presenting isn’t muddied by unclear sentences or technical jargon and acronyms.

Respect the word limit

It’s there for a reason – please ensure you stay within the limit while also answering the questions clearly. Irrelevant details which pad out the word count will be immediately noticeable.

Take your time

If writing doesn’t come naturally to you, it’s important to leave plenty of time to properly plan your essay. Keeping a diary where you capture all the fleeting thoughts you have during the day can prove to be very helpful, as can writing in bullet points rather than full sentences to start with.

By doing this, you’ll eventually have enough material to start writing a first draft of each essay. It can take up to 10 weeks to prepare for the essay component of the application and you should be prepared to re-write your essay several times as you try to perfect it. Don’t expect it to be finished quickly.

Clearly detail your work experience

We need to be able to understand your professional responsibilities and experience as this is one of the most important assets you’ll be bringing into the classroom.

Simply saying “I manage IT projects” won’t be good enough. Instead, you need to describe the nature of your work using specific examples. Providing a description of your organization, the structure, market and product will also be crucial, especially if you work for a family business or a smaller enterprise which is likely to be less familiar to us.

When you talk about your experience, underline your strengths but make sure to focus on your areas of improvement as well. Finally, if you have been unemployed for a period of time or there’s a gap in your job history, we recommend giving an honest explanation of what caused it rather than trying to avoid drawing attention to it.

Learn more about studying at INSEAD.

Written by Craig OCallaghan

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