Monday Morning Essay Tip: How Will You Contribute to the Program?

A number of business schools have essay questions that ask about the unique contributions you will make to their particular program.

Many candidates unwittingly make the mistake of thinking that a bland summary statement like “I will bring my leadership skills to XYZ School” is sufficient to express their intended contribution. One of the reasons we prefer to work with business school candidates “from start to finish” is so we can proactively prevent such problems. Simply relating a story about a past experience and then repeating the main point does not demonstrate that you can or will make a meaningful contribution to the school. Ideally, you want to go further, explaining how you would apply and use your experience and skills while at the school in a way that would offer some benefit to others, thereby showing a true understanding of your fit with that particular program.

Example 1: “My experience as a stand-up comedian will allow me to bring humor to the Kellogg environment.”

With this statement, the MBA admissions committee is left asking, “How exactly will this applicant bring humor to the environment? Does this person really know what our environment is about?” In contrast, consider the following:

Example 2: “My experience as a stand-up comic will prove particularly useful at Kellogg, a dynamic environment where I will be constantly joining new and energetic study teams. I anticipate using my sense of humor to create more relaxed team environments, helping everyone feel comfortable contributing, though I will use my humor judiciously, such as  to diffuse tense moments during late-night study sessions rather than as a distraction. I believe my skills and experience being funny on stage will also allow me to play an important role in the Kellogg Follies.”

In Example 2, the writer has applied his personal experience and intended contribution directly to the Kellogg experience and has thereby shown a clear connection with the school, proving that he truly identifies with it and accurately understands its nature.

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