New York University (Stern) Essay Analysis, 2016–2017

*Please note: You are viewing an essay analysis from the 2016-2017 admissions cycle. Click here to view our collection of essay analyses for the current admissions season. 

We have to assume that New York University’s (NYU’s) Stern School of Business was pleased with the essays that last season’s applicants submitted, because the school has made no changes to its essay prompts this year. Stern requests that candidates answer a few key questions (within a 750-word limit) about their interest in and knowledge of the school, their reasons for wanting an MBA, and their immediate post-graduation career goals. The school then balances this essay with its very broad “personal expression” prompt, which appeals to applicants’ creative side and offers a largely blank slate with respect to the medium used. Successful candidates will use these two submissions in a complementary way to convey a well-rounded impression of themselves as individuals, professionals, and potential Stern students. Read on for our suggestions on possible ways to do so.

Essay 1: Professional Aspirations (750 words maximum)

  • Why pursue an MBA (or dual degree) at this point in your life?
  • What actions have you taken to determine that Stern is the best fit for your MBA experience?
  • What do you see yourself doing professionally upon graduation?

The three points that make up Stern’s Essay 1 question basically constitute a personal statement, and 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. Please feel free to download your copy today.

And for a thorough exploration of NYU Stern’s academic program/merits, defining characteristics, important statistics, social life, academic environment, and more, please check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business.

Essay 2: Personal Expression (500 words maximum if submitted as a written essay)

Please describe yourself to your MBA classmates. You may use almost any method to convey your message (e.g., words, illustrations). Feel free to be creative. [See the NYU Stern site for all guidelines and restrictions for this submission.]

In NYU Stern’s famed “personal expression” essay, you have a phenomenal opportunity to differentiate yourself from the rest of the applicant pool in two distinct ways. The first is the vehicle through which you choose to reveal your persona. By using a creative and captivating format, you can grab the admissions committee’s interest and compel your “reader” to pay close attention to your content. However, be sure to consider the possible limitations of certain clever options, not just their uniqueness. For example, although a baseball card may be aesthetically pleasing, this format severely limits the amount of information you can convey because of its size and anticipated style. Instead, if you were to submit a eulogy theoretically written by your best friend—note that you can submit a written piece—the format would be sufficiently broad to allow you to touch on all that is unique about you. (Do not use this idea, however; it is a rather well-known option at this point and would very likely not be seen as very creative.)

The second way this essay prompt allows you to differentiate yourself is through your content. Ideally, you will use this opportunity to showcase a diversity of professional, personal, academic, and community accomplishments that you were not able to share in Essay 1. The personal expression piece allows you to reveal your true personality and “likeability” beyond your professional/academic competencies.

One important note: Although NYU Stern is open to accepting multimedia presentations and physical items, do not feel compelled to use one of these options if you are not comfortable with them and feel you would be better served submitting a traditional written piece. Similarly, if you do choose one of these alternate methods, do not worry about the level of your Web design, audio/video production skills, or artistic  mastery relative to that of others. For this essay, content trumps style. In fact, at an mbaMission event, we interviewed various NYU Stern admissions officers, students, and alumni who spoke of some incredibly simple “personal expression” submissions that had impressed the admissions committee—and many of these were straightforward essays!

Essay 3. Additional Information (optional)

Please provide any additional information that you would like to bring to the attention of the Admissions Committee. This may include current or past gaps in employment, further explanation of your undergraduate record or self-reported academic transcript(s), plans to retake the GMAT, GRE, IELTS or TOEFL or any other relevant information. If you are a re-applicant from last year, please explain how your candidacy has improved since your last application.

Stern’s optional essay prompt is broader than most in that it does not demand that you discuss only problem areas in your candidacy. That said, in most cases, this is still your opportunity to address any lingering questions that an admissions officer might have about your profile—if you need to—such as a poor grade or overall GPA, a low GMAT or GRE score, a gap in your work experience, etc. We caution you against simply trying to fill this space because you fear that not doing so would somehow count against you. And of course, however tempted you might be, this is not the place to reuse a strong essay you wrote for another school or to offer a few anecdotes you were unable to use in your other submissions. But if you are inclined to use this essay to emphasize or explain something that if omitted would render your application incomplete, write a very brief piece on this key aspect of your profile. For more guidance, see our mbaMission Optional Essays Guide, in which 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 application.

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