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The UCLA Anderson School of Management has made no change to its primary essay question this year, asking candidates—as it has done for as long as mbaMission has been offering essay analyses—about their short- and long-term professional aspirations and why its program is the right one for them. However, its “short answer” question (read: mini essay) has shifted in focus from applicants’ anticipated contributions to the program’s community to a personal passion and been extended by 50 words. UCLA Anderson’s mere 800-word total essay allotment means you must ensure that the other elements of your application (recommendations, resume, interview, etc.) fill in the blanks, so to speak, so that the school gets the full story of who you are as an individual and a candidate. But first, here is our advice on effectively approaching the school’s prompts…
Interested in learning how to tackle this year’s UCLA Anderson application essays? Watch the short video below before you continue reading the full analysis!
Essay 1: Describe your short-term and long-term career goals. How can the UCLA Anderson experience add value to your professional development? (500 words maximum)
UCLA Anderson has done away with the preamble to this question that in previous years outlined the school’s defining principles and now plunges straight into a forthright request for your career goals. And considering you have just 500 words available for this entire essay, we recommend that you exercise this same kind of expediency with your response. Avoid going into excessive detail about your past, but be sure to offer enough information to provide context and support for your stated goals so that the progression from one stage of your professional career to the next is clear and reasonable.
Once your goals have been firmly stated and contextualized, explain how being a UCLA Anderson MBA student is a key step in achieving them. You need to demonstrate that you have dedicated just as much thought—if not more—to why you want to study at UCLA Anderson as you have to where you want to go in your career. Think carefully about what you need to learn or experience (with respect to skills, network, and knowledge base) to be able to reach your stated aspirations and then detail which specific resources and opportunities at the school you believe will allow you to do so. Your goal is to convince the admissions committee that UCLA Anderson is the missing link between who and where you are now and who and where you envision yourself in the future.
The basic components of this essay prompt are elements of a traditional personal statement, so we encourage you to download your free copy of the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide. In this complimentary publication, we offer a detailed discussion of how to approach such queries and craft an effective essay response, along with multiple illustrative examples.
And to learn more about UCLA Anderson’s academic program, defining characteristics, crucial statistics, social life, standout faculty members, and other key features, download a copy of the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the Anderson School of Management, which is also available at no cost.
Short Answer Question: What are you passionate about and why? (300 words maximum)
We appreciate that you are likely “passionate” about your career, but this is not your best choice for a topic here, especially given that the school’s primary essay already covers your professional life. What UCLA Anderson wants to learn from this mini essay is what gets your heart pumping and mind racing outside of work. As Steve Jobs once said, “People with passion can change the world,” and although he was speaking about careers at the time, the statement is true for all aspects of one’s life. Passion is inspiring and energizing and can lead to big ideas and actions. Sharing with the school where your passion lies gives the admissions committee an idea of where you might someday make an impression on the world, how you might leave your mark—especially once you are equipped with all you will gain and learn during your MBA experience.
That said, do not worry if the thing you feel so fervently about might seem commonplace to someone else. For example, perhaps you feel inordinately passionate about cooking. Because this is an interest anyone could share and enjoy, you might have concerns that it could sound pedestrian or unremarkable. The key, though, is not what inspires you but the lengths to which you engage with it. If you can show that cooking is not just a hobby you simply enjoy from time to time but is instead something you connect with on a deep level and in various ways—perhaps you have taken a number of advanced-level courses at a local cooking school and avidly blog and Tweet about this passion and regularly interact with your followers—then this initially uninspired-seeming choice most definitely becomes an acceptable discussion topic. Think about your options in terms of intensity, enthusiasm, devotion, longevity, loyalty, excitement, and heart, and be honest with yourself. The elements of your life that inspire and align with these concepts could be appropriate fodder for this essay, while anything that does not should be immediately discarded.
Once you have identified the passion you wish to discuss, avoid simply telling the admissions committee about it and instead demonstrate how it manifests in your life. For example, rather than stating, “I have been watching and playing basketball since I was a child,” you need to create a more vivid impression of your dedication and involvement, such as “From playing with my brothers after school to varsity ball in college to now coaching a youth league in my community, I can hardly remember a time when basketball wasn’t an integral part of my life.” Like all other application questions, this one has no “right” answer, so do not try to guess what you think the school wants to hear. Authenticity and enthusiasm are the keys to your success with this mini essay.
Optional essay: The following essay is optional and can be submitted by either first time applicants or reapplicants. No preference is given in the evaluation process to applicants who submit a response to the optional question.
Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? Please use your best judgment. (250 words maximum)
Here 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 or GRE score, or a gap in your work experience. Do not simply try to fill this space because you fear that not doing so would somehow count against you. And however tempted you might be, this is not the place to reuse a strong essay you wrote for another school or to offer an anecdote or two that you were unable to include in your required essay. However, if you truly feel that you must emphasize or explain something that would render your application incomplete if omitted, write a very brief piece on this key aspect of your profile. We suggest downloading your free copy of the mbaMission Optional Essays Guide, in which we offer detailed advice on deciding whether to take advantage of the optional essay and how best to do so (with multiple sample essays), if needed.
Reapplicant essay: Please describe your career progress since you last applied and how you have enhanced your candidacy. Include updates on short-term and long-term career goals, as well as your continued interest in UCLA Anderson. (750 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 some sort of personal challenge, the key to success with this essay is conveying a very deliberate path of achievement and forward momentum. UCLA Anderson wants to know that you have been actively striving to improve yourself and your profile, remain focused on your goals, and have seized available opportunities during the previous year, because an MBA from its program in particular is vital to you. The responses to this essay question will vary greatly from one candidate to the next, of course, 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.
The Next Step—Mastering Your UCLA Anderson Interview: Many MBA candidates find admissions interviews stressful and intimidating, but mastering this important element of the application process is definitely possible—the key is informed preparation. We therefore offer our free Interview Primers to spur you along! Download your free copy of the UCLA Anderson Interview Primer today.