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New York University (Stern) Essay Analysis, 2012-2013

This year, New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business (NYU Stern) has maintained its same total word count from last season and continues to challenge applicants with its notorious Essay 3, but its first two essay questions have changed somewhat in content and wording. Although the first essay prompt again focuses on the candidate’s professional aspirations, more of an emphasis is placed on the applicant’s decision to pursue an MBA at Stern specifically. And this season’s Essay 2 prompt focuses on the candidate’s long-term career view, whereas last season’s prompt focused on the applicant’s anticipated ties to and role in the Stern community. Our analysis of the school’s essay topics for this application season follows…

Essay 1: Professional Aspirations (750 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font)

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

The three points that make up Stern’s Essay 1 question this year basically constitute a Personal Statement, and because Personal Statements are similar from one application to the next, we have produced the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide, which helps applicants write this style of essay for any school. We offer this guide to candidates free of charge. Please feel free to download your copy today.

And for a thorough exploration of NYU Stern’s academic program/merits, defining characteristics, important statistics, social life, academic environment and more, please check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business.

Essay 2: Your Two Paths (500 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font)

The mission of the Stern School of Business is to develop people and ideas that transform the challenges of the 21st century into opportunities to create value for business and society. Given today’s ever-changing global landscape, Stern seeks and develops leaders who thrive in ambiguity, embrace a broad perspective and think creatively about the range of ways they can have impact.

(a) Describe two different and distinct paths you could see your career taking long term. How do you see your two paths unfolding?
(b) How do your paths tie to the mission of NYU Stern?
(c) What factors will most determine which path you will take?

Given that the school is asking about two possible paths for your long-term career, you may be wondering whether it is okay for you to be vague or uncertain about your goals in this essay. Quite simply, the short answer is “No.” In fact, you will instead need to relate your skills and experiences very clearly to two feasible career options to create an effective, coherent statement and show that you are both versatile and know yourself well.

The key here is demonstrating that you have a full understanding of the career paths you propose for yourself and truly grasp how and why each one would be a good fit for you. If you write that you could see yourself as either a marketing manager or a hedge fund manager, for example, you will reveal that you actually do not know much about these positions, because the personalities and skills necessary to succeed in the roles are quite different. Although finding and showing a connection between these options is not impossible (both can require a very intense focus on data mining, for example), your essay will only be successful if you can really show that you know yourself and the two diverse jobs well. A more plausible—and likely effective—option would be to choose two positions that are more relatable to each other, such as entrepreneur and politician. There is no “right” combination for this essay, but whatever you propose has to be credible. Basically, Stern is saying that it wants to know that you are able to make the most of opportunities, even if life (or the economy!) throws you a curveball. By thoughtfully discussing two feasible alternatives, you will prove that you are multitalented and prepared to knock any curveball out of the park. And all of this can be accomplished in approximately 200 words!

Next, you might address part C—you do not need to respond to the questions in order—and discuss the factors that will determine which path you take in the long term. Again, this will require that you speak intelligently about your choices, because you must show that you can anticipate trends in your two potential positions. Superficial responses simply will not cut it here and will quickly reveal themselves! Finally, you can relate your stated goals to Stern’s mission (part B), though you could also integrate this information throughout your essay. In the end, you need  to show that you are thoughtful about your path but are ready to make an impact even if/when things change.

Essay 3: 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 Essay 3 (i.e., artwork or multimedia) or if you submit Essay 3 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.
•If you prepare a multimedia submission, you may mail a CD, DVD or USB flash drive to the Admissions Office. These are the only acceptable methods of submission. Please do not submit an internet link to any websites or to a video hosting service such as YouTube.
•The Admissions Committee reserves the right to request an alternate Essay 3 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).

In NYU Stern’s famed Essay 3, you have a phenomenal opportunity to differentiate yourself from the rest of the applicant pool in two distinct ways. The first is the vehicle through which you choose to reveal your persona. By using a creative and captivating format, you can grab the admissions committee’s interest and compel your “reader” to pay close attention to your content. However, be sure to consider the possible limitations of certain clever options, not just their uniqueness. For example, although a baseball card may be aesthetically pleasing, this format severely limits the amount of information you can convey because of its size and anticipated style. Instead, if you were to submit a eulogy theoretically written by your best friend (and you CAN submit something that is written, but do not use this idea; it is now public), the format would be sufficiently broad to allow you to touch on all that is unique about you. The second way this essay question allows you to differentiate yourself is through your content. Ideally, you will use this opportunity to showcase a diversity of professional, personal, academic and community accomplishments that you were not able to share in Essays 1 and 2. Essay 3 allows you to reveal your true personality and “likeability” beyond your professional/academic competencies.

One important note: NYU Stern is now accepting multimedia presentations, but do not feel compelled to use this option if this is not something with which you are comfortable, and if you do choose this method, do not worry about the level of your Web design or video production skills relative to others’. For this essay, content trumps style. In fact, at an mbaMission event, we interviewed various admissions officers, students and alumni from NYU Stern who spoke of some incredibly simple Essay 3 submissions that had captivated the admissions committee—and many of these were straightforward essays!



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