Candidates for Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business must provide just one written essay (of a somewhat succinct 500 words) in response to their choice of three question options. Applicants can discuss how their personal attributes and experiences can add to the school’s community, what they envision as their lasting impression or influence as a Georgetown MBA, or a particularly significant “win” from their professional life. McDonough also requires a short video essay in which candidates reveal up to ten facts about themselves that help illustrate who they are as a professional and/or leader. The school’s optional essay gives applicants the leeway to discuss anything they feel is necessary, so it should be sufficient to meet everyone’s needs. Our full analysis of McDonough’s essay prompts for 2023–2024 follows.
Georgetown McDonough 2023–2024 Essay Tips
We want to hear your story. When responding to our required essays, be authentic and take time to reflect on your goals and past experiences. Craft a response that explains how these experiences led you to pursue an MBA.
Our goal at Georgetown McDonough is to craft a diverse class with people who have had varying personal and professional life experiences. As such, we want to give our applicants the opportunity to select one essay (from a list of three) that allows them the ability to best highlight their experiences, characteristics, and values that showcase the value proposition that they can bring to the McDonough community. Please select one of the following three essays to complete in 500 words (approximately two pages, double spaced) and include the essay prompt and your first/last name at the top of your submission.
Essay Option One – Georgetown Community
Our mission is rooted in Jesuit principles of equality and respect for everyone and an ethos of caring for the whole person. Inclusivity and diversity are core to supporting a community of people with an intersectional understanding of themselves and the world around them. Share how your educational, familial, cultural, economic, social, and/or other individual life experiences will contribute to the diversity of perspectives and ideas at Georgetown University.
This essay is a great opportunity to provide the McDonough admissions committee with a better understanding of you as a unique individual. Start by thinking about the aspects of your personality that you believe truly define you as an individual—not just what you do and have done, but who you are—and fully explore your background, hobbies, talents, values, motivations, and quirks. You want to provide a well-rounded picture of yourself that draws from multiple areas and shows that you possess characteristics and/or knowledge that would make you a positive addition to the school’s diverse community. In addition, you will need to describe the situations and circumstances that have helped you develop these qualities and understandings. Although your personal background, strengths, and abilities might overlap with those of other McDonough applicants in some way, you can differentiate yourself here via the stories you choose to illustrate them.
A good way to start identifying your best options for this essay is by making a list of things you believe are notable about you and that would be helpful to have in an MBA environment. Then, pinpoint the experiences you have had that engendered these qualities. Especially consider situations from your past that both allow you to discuss your strengths and standout characteristics and in which you worked with or alongside individuals who were different from you. Instances when you helped create an inclusive atmosphere for others would also, understandably, be great fodder for this essay. If you can show the admissions committee concrete evidence that you know how to collaborate and communicate effectively with others who have disparate backgrounds, mind-sets, and/or styles, your essay will be even more powerful.
You will then need to demonstrate both self-awareness and a thorough understanding of McDonough by drawing connections between (1) what you have done and who you are and (2) what you can subsequently provide at the school as a member of its community. To do this effectively, you will need to truly familiarize yourself in depth with what the McDonough MBA experience is like. Go beyond the school’s website and published materials and connect directly with students, alumni, and other people who can provide firsthand, insider knowledge. Absolutely visit campus if at all possible, and sit in on a class. Read news articles about the school as well as student blogs, check out McDonough’s YouTube channel, and, if offered, attend admissions events in your area. As you do all this research, look for places where your skills, strengths, and personality would not just fit but also contribute in some way. You want to make sure that in your essay, you are not merely showcasing traits, events, and achievements that you think are interesting or singular. They also need to clearly fit with McDonough specifically.
The broad scope of this essay prompt allows you a great amount of freedom to choose and share the information you believe is most important for the admissions committee to know about you, but you have only 500 words for this submission, so focus on conveying your core message(s) clearly and directly. Concentrate on the elements of your identify that you feel are most significant and position you to make a meaningful contribution, explain for the admissions committee how those elements developed or were obtained, and show a connection between them and specific aspects of the program.
Essay Option Two – Leave Your Legacy
Commitment to service and community is an important value that Hoyas share across Georgetown McDonough’s 40+ MBA student-run clubs and organizations, nine centers and initiatives, and various other co-curricular activities. What do you want your legacy to be as a McDonough student and alumni? Be as specific as possible.
The key word in this essay prompt is clearly “legacy.” This means that the school is not asking solely about what you expect to add during your two years at McDonough. Rather than thinking strictly in terms of “contribution,” think also along the lines of “permanent impact,” whether as a student or an alumnus/alumna. So, for example, in addition to explaining how you will participate in a specific activity or club, describe how that activity or club will be different after your time at McDonough. Or, start by detailing the nature of the unique contributions you could make in class, and then discuss—humbly, of course—the lasting impact you would have on your peers. You could also describe how you plan to maintain your connection to the school after you graduate and what this enduring relationship will mean for the MBA program. What is important here is that you truly comprehend what you have to offer and then reveal exactly how you intend to make that contribution—this will inevitably require that you have a clear understanding of the McDonough experience (refer back to our suggestions on how best to develop this in our analysis for Essay Option One). So, before you elaborate on how, for example, you intend to establish a course on a subject that is dear to your heart or in which you are particularly well versed, make sure that your plans are within the realm of possibility. If you offer an idea or intent that simply would not work at McDonough because you have not learned enough about the program to realize that, you will ultimately show the admissions committee that you are not sufficiently invested in becoming an MBA student there.
As you do your in-depth research on the McDonough program, keep an eye out for instances in which others have made a lasting mark on the school. You do not want to copycat anyone else, of course, but use this input to assess what kinds of efforts tend to be influential, and from there, brainstorm ideas for yourself, based on your personal strengths and potential contributions.
Pay special attention to the aspects of and areas at McDonough that speak to you personally in some way, and consider social events/clubs and professional development opportunities along with course work and academic offerings. Business school is meant to be a comprehensive environment and experience that enriches students in ways not just related directly to business, and perhaps your best potential for contribution lies in one of these areas.
Essay Option Three – Magis
Magis is a Jesuit value that instills the sense of achieving “more” or “greater” excellence. Share how you achieved magis during a professional experience as evidenced on your resume. Describe why this experience exemplified excellence and what about your involvement (i.e. strengths or skills) contributed to the excellence.
We imagine that at this point in your life, you have achieved a number of things professionally that you could use as fodder for an application essay. However, your goal here is not simply to impress the admissions committee with the scale or impact of your accomplishment but to offer one that best fits this particular prompt. This means you will need to select one that was truly meaningful for you on a profound level. This essay should provide the McDonough admissions committee with two important things. First, it will gain a better understanding of your values by the nature of the experience you choose and the reasons you consider it so successful (i.e., how do you define “excellence,” especially in your area of interest?). And second, it will learn what kinds of skills you already possess and how you employ them to achieve a desired outcome.
In addition to creating a compelling narrative for this essay, you should take care to not sound as though you are in any way bragging. The school is less interested in the accomplishment itself and more interested in how you achieved it and why you consider it so significant and successful. As you tell your story, emphasize your actions and let the story do a lot of the work for you. Finally, reflecting on the experience is key, so do not consider this portion of your essay just a simple afterthought you can sum up in a single sentence. McDonough asks you specifically “why” this experience is one you view as exemplifying excellence, so you must dedicate a portion of your essay to the reasons behind your choice.
If space allows, consider mentioning how you anticipate you could be even more successful in a similar circumstance in the future after earning your McDonough MBA, noting what specific skill you will gain or experience you will have at the school would provide this missing piece. Showing that you recognize areas for improvement further demonstrates your capacity for self-assessment, as well as a sense of humility.
Video Essay: Building a cohort of diverse and unique individuals is important to the admissions team. We want you to bring your whole self to Georgetown McDonough. Throughout the application, we’ve learned about what you would add as a professional and leader. Just as important is learning about your interests outside of work. In one minute, please share 5-10 random facts about yourself that are not on your resume and how these facts contribute to who you are as a professional and leader.
McDonough’s video essay is intended specifically for you to offer the school a more dynamic glimpse into your character and personality as an individual, so your primary focus should be on ensuring that you respond in as authentic and natural a way as possible. The admissions committee wants to hear about facets of your background that did not quite make the cut for your application resume (do not repeat any information that appears there, no matter how impressive or interesting you think it might be). These could include accomplishments, skills, qualifications (such as courses you have taken), and even “extracurricular” efforts in the workplace (such as mentoring a coworker or organizing a volunteer day as a team-building exercise).
Although the prompt notes that the school is interested in “learning about your interests outside of work,” it also stipulates that it wants to know how the information you share “contribute[s] to who you are as a professional and leader.” So, we imagine that you can discuss elements from your personal life and community service activities, but if so, they must fulfill this latter requirement. You will have to clearly show how the fact enriches you within this context.
Go beyond a basic description to really draw a (verbal) picture of your chosen topics for this video. Compare, for example, “I enjoy mentoring people and helped a recent hire at my current job successfully prepare for a difficult exam” with “I feel an incredible sense of fulfillment when I am able to support another person in reaching a goal they’ve set for themselves. My coworkers joke that I am the office cheerleader and know that if they ever need inspiration or advice, they can count on me. I recently helped a new hire at my office study for Level I of the CFA exam, and when she passed the first time, I really couldn’t tell you which of us was more excited.” The latter is much more interesting and entertaining—and would likely make a more lasting impression on the admissions committee. More importantly, it helps illustrate for the school the kind of professional/leader you are.
Given that this is a video, you will obviously need to think beyond what you will say and consider the clothing you will wear, the setting or background of your video, your tone of voice, your language style, and a host of other such details. On a practical note, be sure to speak clearly in your video. You naturally do not want any part of your message to be lost or misunderstood, and the admissions committee might view your communication skills and style as indicators of how you might interact with your classmates and/or speak in the classroom. Spend some time practicing in front of a mirror or a friend, but do not overrehearse. You want to come across as genuine and natural.
Optional Essay: Please provide any information you would like to add to your application that you have not otherwise included (300–350 words, approximately one page, double spaced).
We tend to believe that the best use of the optional essay is to explain confusing or problematic issues in your candidacy, and this prompt offers an opportunity to do just that. So, if you need to, this is your chance to address any questions an admissions officer might have about your profile—a poor grade or overall GPA, a low GMAT or GRE score, a gap in your work experience, etc. In our mbaMission Optional Essays Guide, we offer detailed advice on how best to take advantage of the optional essay, with multiple examples, to help you mitigate any problem areas in your application.
However, because the question can be interpreted rather broadly, it does open the door for you to discuss anything that is not addressed elsewhere in your application and that you feel is truly critical for the admissions committee to know to be able to evaluate you fully and effectively. We caution you about simply trying to fill this space because you fear that not doing so would somehow count against you. Remember, by submitting an additional essay, you are asking the admissions committee to do extra work on your behalf, so you need to make sure that time is warranted. If you are using the essay to emphasize something that if omitted would render your application incomplete, take this opportunity to write a very brief narrative that reveals this key new aspect of your candidacy.
Re-Applicant Essay: Required for re-applicants. How have you strengthened your candidacy since your last application? We are particularly interested in hearing about how you have grown professionally and personally (300–350 words, approximately one page, double spaced).
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. McDonough wants to know that you have been actively striving to improve yourself and your profile, and that you have seized opportunities during the previous year to do so, because a McDonough MBA is vital to you. The responses to this essay question will vary greatly from one candidate to the next, 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.