University of California Los Angeles (Anderson) Essay Analysis, 2012–2013

UCLA Anderson keeps things short and sweet this application season, with one personal essay question and one forward-looking professional essay prompt. As always, think carefully about what you want to say before you begin writing, and be especially careful to craft a concise and eye-catching resume. We emphasize the word concise! Do not overstuff your resume with details to compensate for the lack of room UCLA has provided for you to express yourself elsewhere. If you fill every inch of your resume with text, your reader will become overwhelmed and your resume will lose its effectiveness. Strive to balance your essays and your resume so that you present a well-rounded, compelling picture of yourself without trying to include every last detail.

1. What is your proudest achievement outside the workplace, and how has it impacted you? (700 words maximum)

UCLA Anderson wants to know that you are a real, live human being, not just a spreadsheet machine, so this essay question asks explicitly about your personal life. We hope we do not really need to say this, but we will anyway: do not discuss your professional life! The school is specifically asking you not to, so give the admissions committee what it wants!

As for which anecdote you should share, we have to ask, “Well, what are you most proud of?” Rest assured that this is not some kind of a game in which the admissions committee is waiting to see if you pick the “right” story. The school does not “like” certain types of achievements and dislike others. The particular achievement you choose to describe is not actually the point here. Instead, it is meant as an avenue through which you can create and convey an impression of yourself.

To ensure that you write a compelling essay response, remember to tell a story about yourself. If you write, for example, something like “My proudest achievement was completing the Kona Ironman Triathlon,” your story has both started and finished in the very first sentence (and that is not good). Where could you go from there, and how could you keep your reader’s attention? Instead, let the story develop by taking your reader step by step through the events how they happened, discuss how you were able to achieve what you did and make sure that your story involves a clear conflict or challenge, because no great achievement is truly easy—otherwise anyone could do it, and that would lessen its import.

Finally, do not neglect to discuss the impact the achievement had on you. What has changed about you since then? What have you pursued or not pursued as a result? How is your life, your personal philosophy or the way you prioritize things different from before the event? Reflect thoroughly on this aspect of the situation, and use your findings to clearly show that you have grown personally.

2. What are your short-term and long-term career goals, and how will an MBA from UCLA Anderson specifically help you achieve these goals? (700 words maximum)

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.

OPTIONAL ESSAY: Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? (250 words maximum)

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 might 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 (including multiple sample essays) to help you mitigate any problem areas in your profile.

REAPPLICANT ESSAY: Please describe your career progress since you last applied and ways in which you have enhanced your candidacy. Include updates on short-term and long-term career goals, as well as your continued interest in UCLA Anderson. (700 words maximum)

Whether you have improved your academic record, received a promotion, begun a new and exciting project, increased your community involvement or taken on a personal challenge of sorts, the key to success with this essay is conveying a very deliberate path of achievement. Anderson wants to know that you have been actively striving to improve yourself and your profile, and that you have seized opportunities during the previous year to do so, because an Anderson MBA is vital to you. The responses to this essay question will vary greatly from one candidate to the next, because each person’s needs and experiences differ. We are more than happy to provide one-on-one assistance with this highly personal essay to ensure that your efforts over the past year are presented in the best light possible.

For a thorough exploration of UCLA 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 UCLA Anderson School of Management.

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