The UCLA Anderson School of Management requires candidates to provide just one essay, asking them to discuss a time when they refused to give up on a goal and persisted in pursuing it. For this sole essay, the admissions committee has set a maximum length of just 250 words, meaning that applicants must be concise and direct in their response. Some candidates might be tempted to use the optional essay to squeeze in more information about themselves, but anyone considering this option must be prudent about doing so because Anderson very clearly states that the essay is specifically for “extenuating circumstances.” Our full analysis of all the school’s 2023–2024 prompts follows.
UCLA Anderson 2023-2024 Essay Tips
Required Essay: UCLA Anderson seeks to develop transformative leaders who think fearlessly, drive change, and share success. We believe the ability to persevere is an essential component of effective leadership. Please share an example from your personal or professional life where you demonstrated perseverance to accomplish a significant goal or milestone. (250 words maximum)
Setbacks are important learning opportunities. With this prompt, the admissions committee wants to know how you act, react, and learn when things do not go according to plan. Anderson clearly knows that many of life’s greatest successes require one to “try, try again,” as the expression goes, and that this attitude is necessary to gain and accomplish the most, not just in business school but also in the world after graduation. Ideally, a person will take what they have learned from a challenging situation and use it to achieve better results with similar ventures going forward. This essay is your opportunity to reassure the admissions committee that you have the kind of resilience and dedication that will position you to realize your goals.
Anderson notes that for this essay, you can share either a personal story or a professional one, so explore all your career, family, and community life experiences to identify one you believe was particularly significant and influential. The statement within the prompt that “the ability to persevere is an essential component of effective leadership” is essentially an acknowledgement that managing failures and setbacks is a fundamental part of the leadership experience. Challenges should therefore be viewed in a positive light—as inspiration to keep trying and sometimes even to aim higher than before. You want to convey in your essay that you are not easily deterred and instead use obstacles as learning tools or stepping-stones on the path to your desired outcome.
The failure or hindrance you discuss in this submission could be one you experienced as an individual or as part of a team, and its scale or scope is not as important as how affecting and influential it was for you personally. You must present a complete narrative that shows momentum toward some kind of goal, describes the inflection point at which the situation turned, and explains how the original plan was interrupted or ultimately failed, while revealing your particular role in the setback. Avoid starting your essay with a bland statement like “I had to start over when [fill in the blank].” Instead, leap directly into the action of your story and immediately convey what was at stake in the situation. Next, briefly explain the obstacle or setback you encountered, and then dedicate the rest of the essay to outlining your reaction to it and the steps you took to either soldier on with your original plan despite the impediment or begin anew. Be sure to address what specifically inspired you—what kept you from giving up on attaining your objective—and how you maintained your motivation as you pursued your goal. This must be the core of your message in this essay.
Optional Essay: Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions committee should be aware? (250 words maximum)
Anderson’s optional essay 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. The admissions committee states very clearly on its application requirements page, “No preference is given in the evaluation process to those who choose to respond to this optional essay, so please use your best judgment.” This means that no matter how tempted you might be, this is not the place to reuse a strong essay you wrote for a different 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 legitimately render your application incomplete if omitted, write a very brief piece on this key aspect of your profile. But before you do, 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(s): Reapplicants are those who applied for the MBA program within the last two application years, so those who applied three or more years ago are considered new applicants. Reapplicants may answer one or both of the essay questions above as options, and they must provide additional updates within text boxes given in the application for any new test scores, career developments, or other changes since their last application.
Rather than asking reapplicants to provide an update on their candidacy and reassert their interest in Anderson’s MBA program, the school invites them to write either or both of the essays first-time applicants submit. This seems to underscore the importance of the required essay question and the admissions committee’s interest in learning about this aspect of their candidates’ character.
To learn more about UCLA Anderson’s academic program, defining characteristics, crucial statistics, social life, standout faculty members, and other key features, download a complimentary copy of the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the Anderson School of Management.
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 Guides to spur you along! Download your free copy of the UCLA Anderson Interview Guides today.