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5 business school application essay tips

May 04, 2021
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Good news for potential business school applicants: the personal statement doesn’t need to be the most daunting part of your application package. While it may be some time since you’ve sat down to write an essay—particularly if you’ve already been in the professional workforce for several years—the essay you’ll write to accompany your MBA or business master’s degree application should be a rewarding challenge.

Think about it: This is your opportunity to craft your own narrative, to put on paper the kind of professional you aspire to be, to trace the steps that have brought you to where you are and to set the stage for your next accomplishment. Follow these five tips to write a business school application essay that stands out from the crowd and makes you impossible to ignore for the admissions committee of your program of choice.

Respond to the prompt

Your typical business school application will give you some guidance in composing your personal statement. This can be as specific as a numbered set of questions to address either sequentially or in the course of one cohesive essay, or as general as a guideline to discuss your experience, goals and suitability for the program. The application for the online MBA and Master in Management programs at Marquette University, for instance, directs applicants to compose an essay “covering your career goals, your interest in the program and how the program will help you achieve your goals.”

Whatever you are given by your business school of choice, it is of primary importance to respond directly to it. To ensure you do so, it may be helpful to begin composing your personal statement with an outline broken up into sections addressing each element of the question. For the above prompt, you could create headings of “career goals,” “interest in the program,” and “how the program will help you achieve your goals. Follow each of these with a bulleted list of responses, and then take this list and expand it out into paragraph form.

Be specific and personal

The last thing you want to do is submit a personal statement that looks like it could have been written by any other business school candidate. Your story is uniquely your own, and it deserves to be framed in a way that makes you stand out from other applicants. Try to avoid descriptive cliches like “I am an ideal candidate because,” which can make your essay feel flat and limp, and focus instead on using active language that makes your passion and energy apparent to your reader.

Try to include illuminating examples to illustrate major points that you make throughout your essay. This will help your reader connect your story to specific experiences and build a vibrant image of you as a person and a professional. If possible, dedicate some time to discussing obstacles you have overcome on your journey to this point. Admissions committees want to see candidates who have the strength and perseverance to face any challenge that might stand in their way. You want it to be clear that you are the type of committed individual who will be an asset to your classmates and to the program on the whole.

Highlight your goals

The best application essays are clear about not only what you will bring to your business school to improve the experience of those around you, but where you hope your experience there will take you in your professional future. Think about where you would like to end up and detail how a graduate-level business education will help you get there.

Do you have a field that you would like to pivot into? A job title that you aspire to? A concrete set of digital or other professional skills that you know would improve your performance in the workplace? Lay out each of your goals of this nature, and discuss how your program of choice is the right one to help you achieve them.

Focus on your audience

Not all MBAs and business master’s degree programs are interchangeable, and you want to make it clear to your readers on the admissions committee why the specific program you are applying to is the only one that can take you where you want to go. Research the program that you’re applying to as thoroughly as you can before you write your essay, then focus on aspects of the program, the university, the school or any other associated elements to give your personal statement the specificity it needs in this regard.

Does your program of choice offer elective courses you can’t find anywhere else? Or does their alumni network feature connections in organizations or industries that are high on your list of desired landing spots for your future employment? Do their faculty bring specific expertise or experience that will benefit you on your chosen career path? If any of these apply, or if any other elements of the program are uniquely tailored to your goals, be sure to mention them in detail.

Revise and perfect

One of the goals of a personal statement is to frame yourself as a conscientious and polished professional. A major part of this is the attention to detail you demonstrate through the quality of your writing, both in terms of your tone and voice and by ensuring you turn in a clean, error-free document.

Proofread your application essay for grammar, punctuation and word choice. Once you are done, proofread it again. And after that, don’t hesitate to enlist the help of a trusted friend or colleague to read it once more. A second set of eyes is often what you need to make sure you catch every lingering typo.

Ace your application to an online business program at Marquette

With a winning application essay in hand, now is the time to apply to the online MBA or Master in Management program from Marquette University’s Graduate School of Management. Read about the rest of the application requirements for both programs, and check out our tips for requesting strong letters of recommendation.