*Please note: You are viewing an essay analysis from the 2019-2020 admissions cycle. Click here to view our collection of essay analyses for the current admissions season.
The UCLA Anderson School of Management appears to be embracing a kind of “less is more” approach with its application essay prompts this year, having cut its total word count for its essays from 800—which we already considered rather sparse—to just 550. What was previously its first required essay (500 words) about applicants’ short- and long-term professional aspirations and why Anderson is the right school for them has been broken down into two mini essays (150 words each) that cover essentially the same information but now in a more succinct and direct way. Meanwhile, its 300-word “short answer” question from last year about candidates’ passions has been replaced with a 250-word submission on a characteristic applicants share with Anderson’s student community. Even the school’s reapplicants must contend with a stricter limit on what they can share with the admissions committee, now that that essay has been cut from 750 words to 500. All this minimization might tempt more candidates to consider taking advantage of the school’s optional essay, but Anderson specifies that this submission is for “extenuating circumstances” only, so applicants need to be prudent about doing so. Read on for our full analysis of the school’s essay questions for 2019–2020.
a) Tell us about your MBA goals AND why you are applying to UCLA Anderson now:
- Describe your short term and long term goals (150 words maximum)
- Why is UCLA Anderson a good school for you? (150 words maximum)
In years past, UCLA Anderson prefaced these questions with a short preamble outlining the school’s defining principles, but now it plunges straight into its blunt queries about applicants’ career goals and fit with its MBA program. Considering you have just 300 words with which to cover these topics, we recommend that you exercise the same kind of expediency with your responses. Avoid going into excessive detail about your past, but be sure to offer just 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 key to your 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 these prompts 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.
b) At Anderson, we believe our students are engaged, courageous, humble, and open. Describe a time when you demonstrated one of these traits in your personal life. (250 words maximum)
Very simply, this essay is your opportunity to illustrate for the Anderson admissions committee that you are a good fit for its community and would meld well with your classmates. The school is essentially saying, “This is who we are. Now show us that you belong here.” Simply stating that you possess one of the qualities presented is easy, so the admissions committee is understandably asking for an illustration of this phenomenon from your past to better gauge this for itself. Having an idea of which characteristic resonates most with you personally and of how you have incorporated it into your life and interactions with others will help the school better envision how you might conduct yourself in its classrooms and in the world after you graduate.
The school requests that you choose from the options it has provided—engaged, courageous, humble, and open—and share a story from your personal life specifically, likely to balance the professional angle of its other essay prompts. Like all other application questions, this one has no “right” choice, so do not try to guess which one you think the school “really” wants you to pick. Authenticity is key to your success here. Simply select the trait that best matches your personality and character, and identify an instance in which this characteristic was clearly apparent. Then present this story using a descriptive, narrative approach, so that the admissions reader can easily grasp which quality you identify with and how it has manifested in your life.
c) Optional: Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions committee should be aware. (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.
Reapplicants: (For applicants who applied for the MBA program in the previous two application years.) Please describe your career progress since you last applied and how you have enhanced your candidacy. Include information on short-term and long-term career goals, as well as your continued interest in UCLA Anderson. (500 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.