MBA Application: Tell Your Story |

MBA Application: Tell Your Story

By Jonathan Taves

Updated May 27, 2019 Updated May 27, 2019

Online dating has become ubiquitous in recent years. Its popularity has grown so much that the recent IPO for the Match Group, owners of the Match and Tinder dating platforms, valued the company at over $3.5 billion. In addition to Match’s offerings, there are websites and mobile apps for seemingly every niche of daters – e.g. – and all boast different kinds of data about your potential soulmate (what they studied and where, for example). As numerous as the pools of daters and data about them are, however, online tools are designed to ultimate facilitate to in-person meetups, which is where real connections are made – or not. 

We don’t need a social scientist’s research to explain why: data is a helpful sorting tool in 2015, but it can’t yet (if ever) replace the human element. You might be excited about that vegetarian with a good job and similar interests whom you just ‘swiped right’, but you’ll want to meet him or her before making a long term commitment. The same can be said of MBA admissions committees with MBA applicants. Your GMAT score, GPA, and work experience might make you look like a perfect fit, but those numbers only signal who you could be before your potential MBA interview

To reassure MBA admissions committees that you’re the right candidate and worthy of an MBA interview – i.e. the second date – use the short answer questions and MBA essay in your application to tell your story. Explain who you are, why your career goals necessitate an MBA at this point, why you fit with the culture of their program, and why you should be admitted instead of other similarly qualified candidates. That seems like a self-explanatory objective, but in the arms race to show off your quantitative accomplishments, it’s surprisingly easy to neglect and can cost you an MBA interview. 

Perhaps the best way to add personality to your MBA application is through your writing style. Nowhere is there a rule that says your MBA essays have to be dry, fact-dumps that answer the prompt and not much else. Use these several hundred word sandboxes to create a narrative that will pique the MBA admissions committee’s interest. When asked about what she wants to see change most with applicants, Soojin Kwon, director of admissions at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, said in Omari Bouknight and Scott Shrum’s Your MBA Game Plan

“I’d love [...] people to write so that we can really get to know them. When you’re reading thousands of applications, it’s refreshing to get the ones that come to life in your hands. You think, wow it would be great to have this person here.” 

To fulfill Kwon’s and other admissions director’s wishes, try to use at least one personal story per MBA essay. If the prompt asks you to detail your career goals, spend time explaining your thought process: experience on a nonprofit board, childhood memory, or the hobby that spurred your MBA application. Don’t be afraid to use short anecdotes, as well. For example, I listed in an MBA essay that the football team’s success is one reason why I’m interested in that university (as a lifelong Minnesota sports fan, attending a school with a winning tradition is enticing). 

Last, like it or not, part of the objective of your MBA application should be to dispel relevant stereotypes. If you’re a marketer, use part of an essay to explain that you’re not all interpersonal skills and can handle the quantitative rigor of business school. Or, if you’re an engineer, vice versa. By doing so and keeping the above tips about adding authenticity and personality to your essays in mind, you’ll increase your odds of getting an MBA interview and ultimately, of being admitted. It works in online dating and will with MBA admissions committees too: tell your story. 

This article was originally published in December 2015 . It was last updated in May 2019

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Written by

Jon Taves is a CPA from Minneapolis, MN. He writes weekly about business-related topics, including his MBA journey, at

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