The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) Business School asks candidates to submit two brief essays as part of their application. The first concerns the applicant’s self-assessed strengths and how they have applied them in the past in a beneficial way. The second essay involves basic topics commonly seen in business school applications: one’s professional goals and how attending the school can help in achieving them. Any applicants who feel the need to share more information with the admissions committee can use the optional essay to do so. Read on for our more in-depth analysis of all the program’s prompts.
HKUST 2023–2024 Essay Tips
Essay 1: What are your strengths? Please also share an example of how you have used your strengths to make a difference at work or outside of work. (Max 350 words)
We think we do not really have to state this, but just in case, be honest about your strengths in this essay, and do not try to “guess” what the committee wants to hear. Be truthful in describing who you legitimately are and what you have been able to accomplish by applying yourself. Transparent or disingenuous statements will not fool or convince anyone and will only reveal you as someone incapable of critical self-evaluation.
We encourage you to first thoroughly and thoughtfully brainstorm to identify your most compelling and revelatory possible responses. Where do you feel you truly excel? What do you repeatedly bring to the table that has allowed you to make meaningful contributions? It might be a hard skill, such as an aptitude for coding or managing finances. It could be a softer skill, such as being able to communicate easily with a wide range of people in just about any circumstance. And do not discount qualities such as empathy and creativity that might lead you to view situations in ways that others do not, thereby allowing you to identify opportunities for change/improvement that others overlook.
With respect to offering an illustrative example of your strengths in action, you want to be able to “own” your answer—as we like to say—meaning that no other applicant could write exactly the same thing as you do, even if the qualities or stories you choose to highlight are very similar. For example, writing something like “One of my greatest strengths is compassion, and I’ve made a difference in my community by volunteering with the local homeless shelter” would be far too general a response and could likely be stated by multiple applicants. Instead, something much more specific like “dedicated every Saturday morning for three years to helping cook and serve breakfast at the local homeless shelter, for which I also devised a bulk-shopping plan that now saves the organization hundreds of dollars each quarter” would stand out for its originality and paint a clearer picture of the candidate who wrote it with respect to their values, dedication, and fiscal creativity. In addition, using a narrative approach is a good way to paint a dynamic picture of how you conduct yourself and to engage your reader.
Essay 2: What are your short and long-term goals. How do you plan to use HKUST’s MBA program to help you achieve those goals? (Max 350 words)
The HKUST admissions committee is simply looking for some rather straightforward information here. With 350 words, you should have plenty of space to outline your professional and business school aspirations in a direct and concise way. Ideally, the connection between your short-term objective and your long-term one will be readily evident and feasible. If not, provide whatever context or explanation is necessary for the admissions committee to understand your intended trajectory and why the transition from one to the other makes sense and should be attainable for you.
You must also illustrate how you believe HKUST will help you pursue and attain your stated goals. The most effective way of doing this is by demonstrating a thorough understanding of what the school offers and presenting a well-thought-out game plan for availing yourself of particular resources. To write a reasoned, nuanced essay, you must first familiarize yourself well with HKUST’s various resources, events, and extracurriculars and pinpoint those that truly pertain to you and the direction in which you hope to move.
Go the extra mile in learning about the school—connect with multiple students and alumni, attend admissions events or visit the campus (if possible), read recent press releases from the program and any news stories about it published elsewhere, and check out the HKUST Business School’s YouTube channel. This will provide the kind of in-depth insight that will show the admissions committee you are really serious about the program and are confident you belong there. Simply presenting a list of classes and clubs you think sound interesting will not suffice, and you absolutely want to avoid vague, pandering statements about how great you think the school is. You must reveal clear connections between your aspirations, what you need to achieve them (e.g., skills, experience[s], connections, exposure), and what HKUST in particular can provide that will enable you to fill those gaps.
This prompt covers basic elements of a traditional personal statement, so we encourage you to download a free copy of our mbaMission Personal Statement Guide, in which we explain in more detail how to write effectively on these topics.
To start your research, you can learn more about HKUST’s academic program, elective courses, location, facilities, and other key features by downloading your free copy of the mbaMission HKUST Program Guide.
Optional Essay: What else would you like the admissions committee to know about you and your application? (Max 250 words)
With this prompt, the admissions committee is acknowledging that some candidates have aspects of their profiles that might need a little clarification or that warrant a special mention. This essay could therefore be your opportunity—if you need one—to address any lingering questions that an admissions officer might have about your candidacy, such as a low GRE or GMAT score, a legal or disciplinary incident, a gap in your professional records, or an unusual choice of recommender.
That said, HKUST leaves the door open for you to discuss any other information about your candidacy that you feel might be pivotal or particularly compelling—that you think the admissions committee truly needs to know to be able to evaluate you fully and effectively (and that might not have been appropriate for either of the required essays). We caution you against submitting a response to this prompt just because you fear that not doing so would somehow count against you, though (it will not). Remember that with each additional essay you write, you are asking the admissions committee to do extra work on your behalf, so you must make sure that the added time is warranted. If you decide to use this essay to impart information that you believe would render your application incomplete if omitted, strive to keep your submission brief and on point.
If you feel you might have a valid reason for submitting this additional essay or are not sure whether the issue you are considering would warrant doing so, we encourage you to download a free copy of our mbaMission Optional Essays Guide, in which we offer detailed advice on when and how to take advantage of the optional essay, along with multiple sample essays.