Although some top business schools have been gradually reducing the number of application essays they require, the University of Cambridge Judge Business School still demands four separate submissions from its candidates. The program’s first essay is about applicants’ career goals and related preparation, the second focuses on a “professional mistake” and the candidate’s analysis of it, the third requires that applicants discuss a meaningful past team experience, and in the fourth essay, candidates must focus on a time when someone made a difference in their lives. Read on for our full essay analysis, with tips on how to approach each question and create strong essays for your 2023–2024 Judge application.
Cambridge Judge 2023–2024 Essay Tips
Essay 1: Please provide details of your post-MBA career plans. The statement should not exceed 500 words and must address the following:
– What are your short- and long-term career objectives? How will the Cambridge MBA equip you to achieve these?
– Looking at your short-term career goal, describe the research you have done to understand how this industry/role/location recruits MBA talent and what they are looking for in a candidate.
– How confident do you feel about meeting your short-term career goal? What skills/characteristics do you already have that will help you to achieve them, and what preparation are you doing now?
Although the school does not frame this essay as such, with this prompt, it is basically requesting a rather traditional personal statement, so our first recommendation is to download your free copy of the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide. This complimentary guide offers detailed advice on how to approach and frame the information requested in these three bullet points and includes multiple illustrative examples.
More specifically with respect to Judge’s multipart question, the school wants to know not only the basic facts of your career aspirations but also how prepared you currently are to achieve them and how certain you feel about ultimately doing so. How equipped are you already, and how much closer to your goals will earning a business degree from Judge move you? What have you done thus far (and plan to do) that will help ensure that you graduate with the skills, experiences, knowledge, and/or connections you need to build a bridge between where you are now and where you want go? You must refer to specific resources and offerings at the school that connect directly to these areas of improvement so that the admissions committee knows you have thoroughly considered and researched your options and determined that Judge is the best fit for your particular needs and interests. The school also wants to see evidence that you understand you must play an active role in achieving success and that you are ready and willing to do your part, rather than simply relying on the program and its name or reputation to move you forward on your career trajectory. Perhaps you have engaged in job shadowing, arranged informational interviews with individuals in your desired industry and/or role, or read related trade publications; whatever preparation and edification you have thus far completed, make sure the admissions committee is aware.
The school understandably also wants to know that you are coming to the MBA program with a fire in your belly, so to speak—that you are striving toward your goals with a sense of determination and an assuredness that you will achieve them. Confidence is a crucial factor in success, and demonstrating a sincere sense of enthusiasm and conviction will make a positive impression on the admissions committee. Judge is not interested in candidates who are hoping that the school will simply drop them into their desired role after graduation, so show beyond a doubt that you are determined to attain your professional objectives and ready to get to work.
Essay 2: Tell us about a time when you made a professional mistake. How could it have ended differently? (up to 200 words)
Failures and slipups are important learning opportunities. With this prompt, Judge’s admissions committee wants to know what you take away from situations in which things do not progress as seamlessly as you had planned or hoped. Do you place blame elsewhere and try to make excuses? Or do you view these sorts of setbacks with an analytical eye, using what they can teach you to achieve better results with similar ventures going forward? The scale or scope of the situation in an objective sense is not as important as how affecting and influential it was for you personally. That a world-class business school would be interested in candidates who are self-aware, eager, and open-minded learners only makes sense. Judge has posed similar essay prompts in the past, so the core idea is clearly one that the admissions committee views as pivotal in identifying applicants they feel will be successful in its MBA program.
Finally, “how could it have ended differently?” is a roundabout way of asking you to share what you learned from the experience. By being able to articulate what a more favorable outcome would look like and how it could be achieved, you are showing the admissions committee that you were able to find lessons in the experience and that those takeaways have prepared you to better navigate similar situations in the future. Convey that the information, insight, and/or skills you acquired via the mistake have changed how you view or operate in the world in a positive way. Ultimately, Judge wants to know not only that you have faced and worked through the demanding process of overcoming a misstep but also how the situation has contributed to the person you are today.
Note that Judge specifies that the story you share in this essay must be a professional one, so you might want to consider sharing a personal story for Essay 3, to provide a broader sense of your personality and background.
Essay 3: Tell us about the best team you worked with. What made the team successful? (up to 200 words)
Many schools ask about teamwork—leading a team, navigating a team, failing as a team, innovating as a team, collaborating with teammates—but an essay prompt about one’s “best” team experience is new and different (not one we have seen in our multiple decades of working with MBA applicants and programs). Do not get tripped up by thinking “best” automatically means “most successful” or “easiest.” After all, we rarely learn the most from situations and interactions that go completely smoothly. We are not saying that you should not discuss such a positive team experience if you have one but rather that you should objectively consider all your past teamwork—as both a team member and a leader—to determine which example was truly the most rewarding. You might be surprised to discover that an experience that on the surface seemed rife with difficulty was actually the most fruitful in terms of what you learned and gained from it, and the resulting essay will likely be much more interesting and memorable to an admissions reader.
As a student at an international business school, you will naturally be enmeshed in a widely diverse environment and will need to work in tandem with and alongside your fellow students when analyzing case studies, completing group projects, and participating in other activities both inside and outside the classroom. Judge clearly wants to hear about your mind-set and working style in such situations. To craft an effective essay response, describe via a narrative approach the nature of your collaboration with the others in the group, showing both what you contributed and what others brought to the dynamic (though much more succinctly). If the experience you choose to highlight was a successful or easy one, explain what decisions, skills, and attitudes made it so. If the example you offer is of a team that did not perform so well but that taught you incredibly valuable lessons or capabilities, clarify for the admissions committee what those important takeaways were and why you view them so positively. A submission that demonstrates your collaboration style, your ability to contribute to group projects, and your capacity to analyze and learn from such experiences is almost certain to make an admissions reader take notice.
Essay 4: Provide an example of when someone else positively impacted your life. What did you learn from this experience? (up to 200 words)
Judge poses four essay questions to its candidates, and three of them have to do with learning from life experiences. The school obviously seeks individuals who absorb lessons by interacting with and participating actively in the world around them, not just by listening to an instructor in a classroom. For this essay, you need to consider all the people in your life who have been additive to you in some significant way and determine which one has had the greatest impact (you will also need to explain why, of course). This individual could be a mentor, friend, supervisor, coworker, professor/teacher, coach, family member, neighbor, even a total stranger—who the person is actually does not matter! Judge is not looking to see if you are spending time with powerful business leaders, wealthy investors, or influential celebrities; the admissions committee wants to get a better understanding of who you are as an individual, the major influences in your life, and your personal values. So the important element here is the significance and lasting effect of your interaction with the individual you discuss. What did you take away from this experience, and how has it (we assume positively) influenced your life ever since?
The nature of the person’s impact could relate to financial support, an opportunity to belong or participate, the acquisition of a skill, life advice, or any number of other concepts. Judge’s prompt offers a pretty broad and blank canvas and opens the door for you to reveal a truly meaningful and revelatory part of your life. Take a walk or meditate and let your mind fully explore all the different phases of your life and the people who have crossed your path in some way and left a mark. The interaction you had with this individual could be an ongoing or long-term thing, though the wording of the prompt seems to encourage the sharing of a briefer or even one-time experience. Essays that focus on a single encounter might also be more memorable to an admissions reader, so if you are deciding among multiple options for this essay, give a little extra consideration to the short-term ones. That said, the degree of impact and lasting influence is inarguably the most crucial factor here.
Judge also wants you to explain the knowledge you gained from the person’s impact on you, the implication being that it subsequently altered how you behave or think. In what way has the interaction changed your life ? Do you approach making decisions differently? Have you tried to become closer to or distance yourself from certain types of people? What experiences have you since sought out or made a point of avoiding? What behaviors do you now engage in more often or have chosen to discontinue? Exploring these kinds of questions should help you identify possible topics for this essay. Then, focus on conveying how the assistance, information, insight, skills, or whatever else you acquired has changed how you view or operate in the world today.
Business schools outside the United States are increasingly popular among MBA hopefuls, and we at mbaMission are proud to offer our latest publications: International Program Guides for international programs. In these snapshots we discuss elements such as core curriculum, elective courses, locations, school facilities, and rankings. Download your free copy of the Cambridge Judge Business School Program Guide today.
To learn more about the essays for other top business schools, visit our MBA Essay Tips and Examples Resources Page.