Support Conclusions with Examples in Your MBA Application Essays

At mbaMission, we always encourage candidates to show their experiences rather than tell their conclusions to the reader. For example, a candidate may mistakenly choose to tell the reader, “I performed exceptionally well in my job and was promoted.” In this case, the reader is left wondering, “What exactly did he/she do so well to earn that promotion?” The reader needs to understand the whole story for the conclusion to be “proven.”

We find that candidates occasionally think they are providing the whole story when they are in fact offering only a single data point:

Example 1: “For me, as an avid paraglider, extreme sports are not just a hobby but a way of life.

In this case, the conclusion—that the candidate “lives” for extreme sports—is not substantiated. One data point is not enough to “prove” this conclusion.

Example 2: “For me, as an avid paraglider and budding heli-skier, extreme sports are not just a hobby but a way of life.”

With the addition of the mention of a second activity, the applicant’s case becomes more compelling.

Example 3: “For me, as an avid paraglider, budding heli-skier, and experienced cliff diver, extreme sports are not just a hobby but a way of life.”

This series of three examples makes the candidate’s passion for extreme sports undeniable.

Of course, we have used a simplified example here and would suggest that a candidate put his/her experience into action and show the passion via experience—“Leaping from a ten-meter cliff, I…”—depending on the context of the essay.

May 23, 2017


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M7 Financial

MBA Admissions Myths Destroyed: At Least I Don’t Have to Rework My Resume

Many MBA candidates do not thoroughly consider and revise their resumes for their applications, often dismissing this element because an existing version may already be saved on their computer. We strongly caution you not to underestimate the value of this document—the admissions committees, in fact, review applicants’ resumes carefully, because they serve as a road map of each candidate’s career.
In the past, we have highlighted that your resume is not the place to “stuff” all of your life experiences. Somewhere between the two extremes—cramming your resume with information and ignoring it altogether—lies the ideal: a clear, easily scannable, action-/results-oriented resume, one that tells a story that will capture the attention of an admissions officer who has reviewed hundreds of similar files.

One of the most common errors that candidates make is leaving their resume in an industry-specific format, filled with jargon and acronyms recognizable only to an expert in their field. Remember, the admissions committee is not hiring you for a task, but is trying to understand your progress, your accomplishments, and even your character. Each bullet point in your resume needs to highlight achievement more than positional expertise.

As you prepare your resume to be included in your application, think about your audience and recognize that your resume can be a strategic tool to reinforce certain characteristics that are important to you—characteristics that may complement information provided in other parts of your application. For example, if you aspire to a career that is international in nature, you may place more emphasis on your international experience in your resume. Or, if you come from a field that is not known for its management orientation—you were a teacher who administered a school’s $50,000 student activities budget, for example—you may use your resume to emphasize disciplines that are important to an MBA admissions audience.

Some candidates are surprised to realize that one page can communicate so much and thus deserves a significant level of attention, but investing some time in this short but crucial document is definitely worth the effort.

Manhattan Prep

Yale School of Management Essay Analysis, 2017–2018

Yale School of Management Essay Analysis, 2015–2016 - mbaMissionThe Yale School of Management (SOM) is staying the course this year with its single application essay, joining both Harvard Business School and Columbia Business School in using the same essay queries as last season. The school has made no modifications to its one prompt, whose 500-word limit does not offer a lot of room to make an impression on the admissions committee. Having commented last year in a Yale SOM blog post that the “seemingly simple and straightforward question” was composed with assistance from one of the school’s organizational behavior professors, Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions Bruce DelMonico added in a more recent post that the admissions committee “is interested not just in the commitment itself but also in how you [applicants] approach the commitment and the behaviors that support it.” Clearly, the Yale SOM has invested some truly purposeful effort into constructing a query that will reveal something specific from and about the individuals targeting its MBA program. In our analysis, we explore how you can maximize your opportunity to shine with this forthright prompt…

Describe the biggest commitment you have ever made.  (500 words maximum)

You may initially think that this prompt is rather narrow in scope, allowing you space to share the story of just a single professional or community project and nothing more. Although you can certainly discuss your dedication to a particular project or cause, you are definitely not restricted to this approach. Consider this: you can also be committed to an idea (e.g., personal liberty) or a value (e.g., creating opportunity for others), and approaching your essay from this angle instead could enable you to share much more of and about yourself with the SOM admissions committee. For example, you might relate a few anecdotes that on the surface seem unrelated—drawing from different parts of your life—but that all support and illustrate how you are guided by a particular value. Or, to return to the example of personal liberty as a theme, you could show how you take control of your academic and professional paths, adhering steadfastly to your values and vision. Whatever you choose to feature as the focus of your commitment, your actions and decisions, manifest via a variety of experiences, must allow you to own it as a genuine part of who you are as an individual. Identifying a theme that you think no one else will ever use is not your goal here; presenting authentic anecdotes that powerfully support your selected theme is what is important.

However, if you prefer to focus on a single anecdote, the commitment you claim must be truly inordinate. Being particularly proud of an accomplishment is not enough to make it an effective topic for this essay. You need to demonstrate your constancy and dedication in the face of challenges or resistance, revealing that your connection to the experience was hard won. Strive to show that you have been resolute in following a sometimes difficult path and have doggedly stayed on course, citing clear examples to illustrate your steadfastness. Nothing commonplace will work here—you must make your reader truly understand your journey and leave him or her more impressed by your effort than the outcome.

For a thorough exploration of the Yale SOM academic program/merits, defining characteristics, crucial statistics, social life, academic environment, and other key features, check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the Yale School of Management.

The Next Step—Mastering Your Yale SOM Interview: Many MBA candidates find admissions interviews stressful and intimidating, but mastering this important element of the application process is definitely possible—the key is informed preparation. To help you on your way to this high level of preparation, we offer our free Interview Primers. Download your free copy of the Yale SOM Interview Primer today.

Making the Most of Your MBA Summer Internship

In this new blog series, our mbaMission Career Coaches offer invaluable advice and industry-related news to help you actively manage your career. Topics include building your network, learning from mistakes and setbacks, perfecting your written communication, and mastering even the toughest interviews. To schedule a free half-hour consultation with one of our mbaMission Career Coaches, click here.

Making the Most of Your MBA Summer InternshipWith business school classes and exams ending and summer rapidly approaching, it is important to think strategically about your internship. (Note: For those first-year MBA students who are still actively engaged in the internship search, there is still time left! We are happy to help; please contact us for a complimentary consultation.)

As you prepare for your internship, we recommend that you do the following:

  • Confirm the logistics of your internship (e.g., start date, time, location, dress code).
  • Ask your employer if you can do any specific preparation/pre-work before your start date. Also ask this question of any advocates within the firm or second-year students who completed the same internship last summer.
  • Update your contacts (and your LinkedIn profile). Review your spreadsheet listing those whom you met throughout your internship search. Use this as an opportunity to reach back out to them, thank them for their time, and update them on your plans for the summer. (You can also update any pre-business school contacts—perhaps your recommenders for business school or former colleagues.)
  • Set specific goals for your summer internship (e.g., skills to be learned, experiences to be gained, and people to meet).

Here are some other tips for achieving success in your internship:

  • Do not wait until the midpoint of your internship to get feedback on your performance. If feedback is not proactively shared by the end of the second week, ask for it. You want to avoid any mid- or end-of-summer surprises!
  • Ask for help if you need it—just do it in a professional and confident way. If you run into a challenging situation and want another perspective on how to handle it, reach out to us for a complimentary consultation.
  • Be confident and take initiative, but do not be arrogant! Demonstrate your commitment to, engagement in, and excitement for the work, the team, and the company.
  • Jot down notes about your tasks and accomplishments. They will come in handy as you update your resume at the end of the summer and even, perhaps, prepare for full-time interviewing in the fall.
  • Assess your fit with the role and the company. Do they meet your goals?
  • Read the emails from your school’s career management office; often, they provide important details about such topics as full-time recruiting resume deadlines and on-campus recruiting.

Have you been admitted to business school? If so, do you want to get a head start on defining your career goals? Do you need help preparing for job interviews or learning how to effectively network with your target employers? Or maybe you want to be a top performer in your current role but are unsure how to maximize your potential. Let an mbaMission Career Coach help via a free 30-minute consultation!

Ace the GMAT Essay? No, Thanks!

With regard to the GMAT, raw intellectual horsepower helps, but it is not everything. Manhattan Prep’s Stacey Koprince teaches you how to perform at your best on test day by using some common sense.

Your business school application essays are critically important. Your GMAT essay? Not so much.

We do, though, have to write the essays first thing, before we get to the more important Quant and Verbal sections (or even the Integrated Reasoning section), so we do not want to use up too much brainpower on the essay. Still, we cannot just bomb this section; the schools do care about the essay somewhat. So how do we do a good enough job without expending so much energy that we are negatively affected during the multiple-choice portion of the test?

We need to develop a template, an organizational framework on which to “hang” our writing. The template will not, of course, tell us exactly what to write. For that, we need the actual essay prompt, which we will not see until we take the test. We can, however, determine how to organize the information ahead of time, as well as the general kinds of messages we need to convey at various points throughout.

The template will vary a little bit from person to person; the important thing is to have a consistent template for yourself that you have worked out in advance of the official test.


First, read the essay prompt. It will look/feel just like the critical reasoning arguments we see on the Verbal portion of the test, so analyze it in the same way! Take about three to four minutes to brainstorm, then pick your two or three best flaws; these will form the basis of your essay.

First Paragraph

  • Summarize the issue (make sure to note the conclusion)
  • State a thesis; acknowledge that the other side does have some merit: “While the argument does have some merit, several serious flaws undermine the validity of the author’s conclusion that XYZ.”
  • Introduce your examples (but do not give much detail)
  • Three to five sentences total

Body Paragraphs

Each flaw gets its own paragraph, so you will write either two or three body paragraphs of four to six sentences each. (I personally pick my two best flaws, so I write two body paragraphs. Remember, we just need to be “good enough!”)

  • Introduce one flaw (do not repeat the exact language from the prompt)
  • Explain why it is a flaw (how does this make the conclusion less likely to be true or valid?)
  • Suggest ways to fix the flaw (you are fixing the flaw,not changing the conclusion; what could the author do to strengthen his/her argument?)

Conclusion Paragraph

  • Restate your thesis (using new words)
  • Re-acknowledge the other side (using new words)
  • Briefly summarize how your examples supported your thesis (using new words)
  • Three to four sentences

You are not trying to pre-write and memorize actual sentences, but do know in general the kinds of points you want to make in each paragraph. Practice with the bullets we have provided here as a starting point until you develop something with which you are comfortable. Do not forget to leave some time to proof your essay; it is okay to have a few typos, but systematic errors will lower your score.

May 21, 2017


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  • Sept 6, 2017 Harvard Business School (Round 1)
  • Sept 13, 2017 Yale SOM (Round 1)
  • Sept 19, 2017 Stanford (Round 1)
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