University of California Los Angeles Anderson Essay Analysis, 2014–2015

*Please note: You are viewing an essay analysis from the 2014-2015 admissions cycle. Click here to view our collection of essay analyses for the current admissions season. 

The UCLA Anderson School of Management was once at the forefront of the “keep it simple” application essay scene. The school whittled its required number of essays down to just one several years ago. Now, that one essay has a 750-word limit, and given that so few other schools request essays longer than 500 words, Anderson’s individual essay actually seems monstrous. Despite its comparative length, however, you will have only that one essay with which to paint a rounded picture of yourself for the admissions committee. This means you will need to pay extra close attention to your resume, recommendations, short answers, and interview to ensure that you cover all your most compelling accomplishments and traits in the full suite of materials. (Of course, this is true for all schools to which you plan to apply, but in this case, it is especially so.) Our analysis of the sole Anderson essay prompt follows…

UCLA AndersonEssay 1: UCLA Anderson is distinguished by three defining principles: Share Success, Think Fearlessly, Drive Change. What principles have defined your life and pre-MBA career? How do you believe that UCLA Anderson’s principles, and the environment they create, will help you attain your post-MBA career goals? (750 words maximum)

The presentation of Anderson’s defining principles—“share success, think fearlessly, drive change”—at the beginning of this prompt is a bit of a red herring, or diversionary tactic, if you will. The school requests that you examine and share your defining principles, but do not take this to mean that yours must directly align with any or all of Anderson’s stated tenets. We recommend that you select two, possibly three, principles that have “defined” your life and pre-MBA career and back each one up with clear and powerful examples of the role they have played in your professional and/or personal life. By choosing these principles to highlight in your application essay, you are saying that they have helped define who you are today, so you had better be able to substantiate them. You do not necessarily have to craft a story that leads directly to b-school—the principles you share can simply lead to interesting places in your life—but in many cases, you should naturally be able to apply the principles to your career goals, which leads us to the second part of Anderson’s query.

Before you can explore how Anderson’s principles and environment will affect your life after graduation, you will need to describe your goals and expectations for that time. And to ensure that your response is effective and compelling, you must show that you truly understand your anticipated post-MBA environment and your role within in. Fortunately, the principles that Anderson stands for are sufficiently broad that, for example, a would-be hedge fund manager could argue that she will think fearlessly in developing a portfolio, share success in rewarding those who come up with good ideas, and drive change by allocating capital to sectors of the economy that need it. Similarly, a product manager could think fearlessly in creating innovative features, share success in… well, you get the point. What is important here is that you demonstrate a nuanced understanding of where your career is going. Exactly which principles you highlight is less relevant than conveying a genuine awareness of the field you are targeting.

As we noted earlier, do not get sucked into believing that Anderson only wants candidates whose principles directly match its own, but if one of your does, you should be able to clearly make that connection and explain how Anderson’s environment will help you support and further cultivate that belief while you are preparing to enter your post-graduate career. If, on the other hand, your principles differ from those of the school, look instead for ways in which Anderson’s beliefs would complement your own, helping make you more well-rounded or effective in your life after business school.

 OPTIONAL ESSAY: The following essay is optional. No preference is given in the evaluation process to applicants who submit an optional essay. Please note that we only accept written essays.

  • 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.

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