Multidimensional Brainstorming for Your MBA Application Essays

We at mbaMission often tell candidates, “You cannot turn a bad idea into a good essay.” We insist on taking our clients through a lengthy brainstorming process—starting with a thorough questionnaire—to discover the stories that make them distinct. As you uncover your stories, you should consider them from as many different angles as possible. Doing so will not only help ensure that you understand the various “weapons in your arsenal,” but will also provide you with maximum flexibility, considering that MBA admissions committees ask questions that vary dramatically from school to school.

For example, an experience coaching a baseball team at an underfunded high school may have multiple dimensions, such as the following:

  • Creatively motivating an underachieving team and changing attitudes, despite losses
  • Initiating and leading fund-raising efforts so that each player could afford proper equipment
  • Mentoring a struggling player and seeing an improvement in his or her on-field performance
  • Helping a player deal with a family issue off the field
  • Recruiting other coaches and then working to improve a team’s on-field performance

These are just a few of the stories that could be gleaned through brainstorming, proving that considering your experiences from various angles is beneficial and will help you discover multiple unique approaches to your essays.

In addition, many MBA candidates—whether they are working as bankers or lawyers, in internal corporate finance or corporate strategy—feel they must tell a “deal story” in their application essays. Although discussing a deal can be a good idea, showing your distinct impact on the deal is what is vital—you are the central character, not the deal. A straightforward story about how you dutifully completed your work and steadily supported others as a deal became a reality is not likely to be very compelling. Further, the important thing is that the admissions committee experience your personality, not your spreadsheets.

Ask yourself the following questions to ensure that your story is truly about you:

  • What did you do that was beyond expectations for your role? Did you grow into additional responsibilities at a crucial time?
  • Did any particular interactions take place in which you used your personality to change the dynamic, thereby ensuring the deal’s progress or success?
  • Did you need to take a principled stand at any moment or speak out on behalf of a needful party?
  • Did you help others overcome any corporate or international cultural barriers?

These are just a few questions to get you started, but the point remains: do not simply offer any deal, but instead provide insight into your deal.

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2020–2021 MBA Essay Analysis

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