University of California Los Angeles (Anderson) Essay Analysis, 2010–2011


Please be introspective and authentic in your responses. Content is more important than style of delivery. We value the opportunity to learn about your life experiences, aspirations, and goals.

1. What event or life experience has had the greatest influence in shaping your character and why? (750 words)

In offering you the opportunity to discuss an “event” that has shaped your character, UCLA Anderson seems to be leaving open the possibility that something external to you (a landmark political occurrence, for example) could have had “the greatest influence.” We suspect, however, that most candidates will choose to discuss a “life experience” that has affected them, because such experiences are more personal and exclusive. Still, the opportunity exists to follow either path.

Whether you decide to focus on a personal life experience or an external event, you must ensure that your reader understands the “before” and “after” aspects of your story. This does not mean that you have to structure your essay in a chronological manner, but rather that you need to convey the sense that because of this event/experience, you underwent a meaningful change that had an enduring impact, ideally in terms of your philosophy on life and/or your behavior toward others. This result is your “after,” and you will need to sufficiently describe your “before” philosophy and/or behavior to ensure the contrast is clear for your reader.

We often advise applicants to tell their stories narratively and to launch directly into the action; this approach would work particularly well for this essay. Starting this essay with a formal introduction, wherein you sum up for the reader what he/she is about to be told in the rest of the text, will prevent you from being able to create momentum or suspense in your story. Consider the following example:

Bad: “The most influential experience in my life occurred when I defied expectations and was elected student president of my 50,000 person college.”

With this kind of opening, where is the mystery? Where do you go from there? By contrast, consider the following:

Good: “I was rushing to class on a chilly fall morning, when suddenly a poster advertising the upcoming class elections stopped me in my tracks.”

By launching into the “action” of your story and maintaining the mystery within it, you will grab and hold your reader’s attention, and the story of your shaping event will have maximum impact.

2. Describe your short-term and long-term career goals. What is your motivation for pursuing an MBA now and how will UCLA Anderson help you to achieve your goals? (750 words)

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, via our online store. Please feel free to download your copy today.

Do not use up precious word count here detailing your professional career and accomplishments to date, but do include some general reference to your past work experience to frame why you need an MBA education to attain your stated goals. You must then clearly explain what UCLA Anderson offers in particular that will help you. As always, avoid telling the school what it already knows about itself, and instead strive to demonstrate links between specific offerings at the school and your aspirations. You will need to do your research to best identify direct ties between what Anderson offers and your professional goals, personal beliefs, study style, etc. The deeper your knowledge of the school, the easier pinpointing specific resources will be in the context of your future success, and thus, the more effective your essay will be. Take time to go beyond the school’s view book and Web site and contact students and alumni—and, ideally, visit the school and attend a class.

An important element of personal statement essays that can sometimes get lost in the shuffle is the “why now” aspect. Be sure to not gloss over or sacrifice this information, believing it is not as important as the other elements of your candidacy that you wish to express. The school asked this question for a reason, so commit yourself to developing a clear, fitting answer.

For a thorough exploration of Anderson’s academic program/merits, defining characteristics, crucial statistics, social life, academic environment and more, please check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the Anderson School of Management.


The following essays are strictly optional. These essays are for individuals who would like to provide additional information.  No preference is given in the evaluation process to applicants who submit optional essays.

1. You may respond to the following question via written essay, audio or video clip:

What is something people will find surprising about you?

You should certainly take note that this essay is indeed optional. That written, the opportunities to reveal depth of character and experience are somewhat minimal in the two mandatory essays, and many candidates will likely feel that they still have important stories to tell that will help round out their profiles. So, this option can be used to add “spice” to your profile and enable you to quickly differentiate yourself from others.

For this essay to be effective, you need to draw a stark contrast between the “surprising” aspect of your personality and what is expected of you—and of course, the greater the contrast, the better. If you are having difficulty measuring this contrast, you may want to try your ideas out on friends and coworkers to see what they find most unexpected. Once you have identified a possible topic, compare and contrast your obvious persona with your proposed “surprising revelation” for this essay. If you can list as many, or more, similarities as dissimilarities between the two, you should likely keep brainstorming.

As an example, for someone who works within a rigid structure for their job function, such as an accountant, having a hobby or other interest that is also highly structured, such as doing puzzles or assembling models, may not seem that surprising. On the other hand, an accountant who loves to participate in improvisational poetry jams—which involve almost no preparation or structure and instead rely heavily on creativity and spontaneity—would catch the admissions committee’s attention much more readily. If possible, going one step further and revealing an accomplishment or recognition in this surprising area would be ideal.

Anderson pioneered the audio/video “essay,” and they have preserved the option this year. Remember, however, that you do not have to use this approach when responding to this essay question, and if you do, you do not need to overproduce your response. The admissions committee is seeking to learn about you, not your directorial and editing skills.

2. Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the admissions committee should be aware? (250 words)

However tempted you might be, this is not the place to paste in a strong essay from another school or to offer a few anecdotes that you were unable to use in any of your other essays. Instead, this is your opportunity, if needed, to address any lingering questions that an admissions officer may have about your candidacy, such as a poor grade or overall GPA, a low GMAT score, a gap in your work experience, etc. In our mbaMission Optional Statement Guide, available through our online store, we offer detailed advice on when and how to take advantage of the optional essay, with multiple examples, to help you mitigate any problem areas in your profile.

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