Applicants to the University of Washington (UW) Foster School of Business must provide two average-length essays but have the option of submitting two more, allowing candidates to cover more of what they feel are the most compelling parts of their candidacy. The school’s first required essay focuses on applicants’ desire to attend business school with respect to their career plans and professional needs, and the second tasks candidates with sharing their personal definition of resilience and examples of times when they have exhibited it themselves. The first optional essay provides a rather open-ended opportunity to discuss anything significant, whether positive or problematic, while the second optional essay deals exclusively with the weighty issue of encouraging and supporting diversity, inclusion, and equity. Read on for our full analysis of UW Foster’s 2023–2024 application essay questions.
University of Washington Foster School of Business Essay Analysis, 2023–2024
Essay 1: Post-MBA Plans (750 words maximum) – Tell us your ideas about what lies ahead for you in your career. What are the gaps or deficiencies currently preventing you from pursuing these potential career paths? How do you plan to use your time in the Foster MBA program to fill these gaps and advance your career?
The overall essay the school is essentially requesting here covers many of the primary topics covered in a traditional personal statement—what your goals are, why you need an MBA to attain them, and why you need the degree from the school you are applying to—though the wording is obviously different in Foster’s prompt. To access our extensive guidance on how to craft such an essay, download a free copy of the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide, which explains ways of approaching these subjects effectively and offers several illustrative sample essays.
Essay 2: Personal Resilience Essay (500 words maximum) – Resilience is one of the most important values of a successful Foster student. Tell us about what resilience means to you and share some of the ways that you have demonstrated resilience in overcoming personal or professional challenges. How do you anticipate showing resilience during your time as an MBA candidate?
With this prompt, the admissions committee wants to know how you act, react, and think when things do not go according to plan and you are required to reassess, pivot, and persevere. Foster 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. This essay is your opportunity to reassure the admissions committee that you possess the powerful combination of flexibility, tenacity, and drive that will position you to realize your goals.
Foster does not stipulate that your example(s) for this essay must be either personal or professional, so explore all your career, family, and community life experiences for instances that you believe are particularly significant and illustrative of your adaptable and irrepressible spirit. Either directly or indirectly, you must clarify for the admissions committee how you personally define and perceive of “resilience.” What kinds of qualities does a resilient person possess? How does such a person act during trying moments? What motivations keep them moving forward when they encounter setbacks? Offering your portrayal of someone who exhibits resilience will give the admissions committee important insight into your goals and mind-set, so be sure to be honest, rather than trying to guess what you think the school might expect or want to hear. This part of the question has no definitively right or wrong answer—only sincere ones and insincere ones.
With respect to “showing resilience during your time as an MBA candidate,” the issue at hand is pretty straightforward. The admissions committee wants convincing that you are truly ready for the challenges of earning an MBA. The business school experience is rigorous and demanding, in more (and different) ways than many candidates expect, and enthusiasm can only take you so far. Foster wants to know that you have truly thought through and are prepared for the journey you are about to undertake.
Challenges should often 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, explain why this is so, and reassure the admissions committee that you are ready to bring that spirit to Foster as an MBA student.
Essay 3: Optional essay (500 words maximum) – Include this essay if you have additional information you believe would be helpful to the admissions committee in considering your application.
Here is your opportunity—if needed—to address any lingering questions that an admissions officer might have about your candidacy, such as a low GRE or GMAT score, an unexplained gap in your work history, an unusual recommender choice, poor areas of academic performance, or a legal or disciplinary incident. Because Foster does not stipulate that this essay is strictly for explaining potentially problematic aspects of your profile, the door is open for you to share other types of stories and information, but 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 some anecdotes you were unable to include in your required essays.
If you truly feel that you must emphasize or share a key aspect of your profile that would render your application incomplete if omitted, write a very brief piece about it. Keep in mind that by submitting an optional essay, you are requiring the already overtaxed admissions readers to do additional work on your application, so avoid being overly verbose or sharing more information than is truly necessary. You must ensure that the admissions committee’s extra time and effort are truly warranted. If you feel you might have a reason to submit this additional essay, consider downloading a free copy of our mbaMission Optional Essays Guide, in which we offer detailed advice on when and how best to take advantage of the optional essay (along with multiple sample essays).
Essay 4: Optional Diversity, Equity & Inclusion essay (500 words maximum) – At the Foster School of Business, we embrace diversity as one of the foundations of both successful business strategy and a world-class educational experience. We share the University’s dedication to promoting the understanding and appreciation of human differences, and the constructive expression of ideas. We welcome you to share some of the ways you have practiced inclusion, promoted equity or supported the advancement of underrepresented groups.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are inarguably important, and ubiquitous, topics these days in business school essay questions, so we are not surprised to see that Foster asks its candidates to address them, though we are a bit surprised that the query is presented as an optional essay (and the second optional essay, at that). If you have something meaningful or impressive to offer in response to this prompt, we definitely encourage you to share it with the admissions committee, but on the flip side, do not feel obligated to write this optional essay for fear that not doing so will make you look insensitive or apathetic. You are far better off skipping this essay entirely than trying to force or embellish a weak story that will not ultimately contribute anything positive or compelling to your application.
The past few years have certainly offered a multitude of opportunities for people to “show up” for others who are different from them, such as by participating in or even organizing a protest or march, or by speaking up or stepping in when an individual was being harassed or marginalized in some way. Foster wants to know how you act on your values and ideals within this context, so you need to go beyond just sharing why you believe “practic[ing] inclusion, promot[ing] equity or support[ing] the advancement of underrepresented groups” is important and describe your actual behaviors and actions. Fully illustrating and exemplifying the “how” element is crucial for this essay to be its most effective. Because the school places no restrictions on the environment in which your experience(s) occurred, be sure to consider all the areas of your life (personal, community, professional) to uncover your strongest examples.
To learn more about the essays for other top business schools, visit our MBA Essay Tips and Examples Resources Page.