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How To Write a Winning MBA Essay

January 24, 2022
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Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees are in high demand for a reason: 2021 data shows the average starting salary for MBA degree holders across the U.S. has risen to $115,000—a record high.1 This starting salary is a whopping 75% more than it is for those with only bachelor’s degrees, making this graduate business degree a viable way to lift career and financial outcomes.2

The first step for those who are ready to pursue the professional rewards of a salary-boosting online MBA by earning their degrees is to apply to a top online program with a top-notch essay.

Read on to learn how to craft your perfect MBA essay and increase your chances of being accepted to the leading online MBA program of your choice.

Impactful MBA Essays: An Essential Guide

According to admissions experts, the ideal MBA essay provides a convincing argument why a prospective student belongs in a particular MBA program at a particular school.3 These application essays are also a valuable tool for admissions officers to get to know a candidate better and truly determine if this candidate is a good fit for a program’s academics, values and culture.3 Turning in a well-written essay that sheds light on who you are while answering key MBA application questions and generating a lasting impression, improves your overall admission prospects.

When writing your MBA essay, be sure to follow these key writing tips to make sure it’s a winning document that opens online MBA program doors.

Tailor Your Essay

One way to ensure that your essay stands out to admissions officers (who receive a tremendous number of essays) is to tailor your writing for their institution.

Submitting generic MBA essays that do the bare minimum to check application essay boxes is a sure-fire way to slip to the bottom of consideration lists. While admissions teams understand that applicants may be applying to more than one program, candidates who choose to recycle the same essay to multiple programs, in an effort to save time, risk turning in a vague, “one size fits all” piece that falls flat at each and every institution.

Spending enough time to craft essays individually. Make sure to mention the ways a particular program appeals to you in each by shining a light on the following:

  • Specific courses, teachings, academic opportunities
  • Faculty and thought leadership
  • Campus life
  • Student life and engagement
  • Networking opportunities
  • Notable program benefits, unique opportunities

If your program has an ethical business focus, for example, be sure to explain why a responsible business approach is critical to your professional pursuits.

Your essay should also answer the program’s essay question(s) thoroughly. Remember to answer what is being asked, and not the question that you would prefer to answer, in order to make a genuine impact with your admissions audience.

Avoid Common Pitfalls

Don’t waste valuable paragraphs of your limited-word essay writing about what top online program admissions officers already know. Avoid waxing poetic about the importance of the school name, its Ivy-league status, impressive rankings, newly-minted sports awards, and program costs as driving forces behind your application decision.

In fact, focusing on those features over other important program factors could have a detrimental effect, giving readers the impression that any competitor program with a famous name would suffice. Instead, focus on the features that are unique to the particular institution, showing that you understand its key differentiators.

Great MBA essays stick to the point and get essential information to the reader in a timely manner. University admissions officers are, in general, inundated with a huge number of essays at once and appreciate essays that aren’t a chore to read, meandering, overwritten or verbose.

Make It a Joy to Read

While you avoid common essay writing pitfalls, make sure to write an essay that’s enjoyable and easy to read. To achieve this, your well-crafted essay should:

  • Start off with an attention-grabbing sentence that strikes a professional tone
  • Be original
  • Be clear and concise
  • Stay on topic and not meander
  • Have a logical flow from one paragraph to the next
  • Have an overarching, encompassing theme
  • Omit erroneous information
  • Have zero grammatical errors and typos
  • Use an easy to read, standardized font
  • Use traditional spacing and layout
  • Stick to the listed word limit
  • Avoid being grandiose or melodramatic

In order to make sure that your essay is a hit with readers and meets the tips suggested above, have a few trusted people who have a great command of the written word proofread your essay draft and each subsequent revision. Ask them to check for grammatical and spelling errors as they go, notating any sections of your work that need correction.

Have your trusted test readers determine how well your essay flows from section to section and if it makes a positive impression. At the least, a reliable draft reader should offer constructive criticism to make edits not just negative critiques that derail your progress or confidence.

As a final note of advice, give your test reader plenty of time to provide feedback so you can incorporate their reviews into your MBA essay and submit a fully-polished version before any application deadlines.

Share Your Story

To really stand out and make a lasting impression, MBA essays need to tell your story. While this directive may be intimidating, especially if you’re modest, take your essay application writing requirement as an opportunity to genuinely explain why you, and you alone, have come to your current circumstances and are seeking a highly-respected MBA to boost your professional and personal future.

Share your short and long-term goals—being as specific as you can—and why an MBA is your ideal next step. If your dream is to be an entrepreneur running your own online t-shirt business in five years, don’t hesitate to provide what kind of shirts you plan to sell, how many employees you hope to have and what inspired this goal. Include why MBA skills will help you run your shirt shop.

Make sure, in sharing your individual narrative, to remain open and authentic, addressing anything in the rest of your application that should be covered to help increase your chances for admission. These notations could include instances that you feel are positive for your application or not ideal.

For example, if you have lower than desired grades from a previous experience, share how your previous academic challenges have improved the way you will approach graduate-level academics.

On the flip side, highlight the areas you feel you have excelled in professionally and personally, stating how these accomplishments make you a better prospect for an MBA program.

In the end, writing about what makes you uniquely qualified and prepared as a student and future alum—in an authentic manner—will resonate favorably with admissions officers who understand there is no one ideal graduate school candidate; We have all faced different circumstances and challenges. How we have overcome those obstacles and what we learned along the way is key.

In today’s world, well-rounded candidates with a panorama of experiences make valuable real-world business professionals and successful leaders.

Practice Makes Perfect

It’s never too early to start preparing to write the standout MBA essay that will help you gain entrance to the online MBA program of your choice. Reading successful MBA essay examples and knowing the most common essay questions can help you with this important step.

Common example MBA essay questions include:

  1. Describe a time when you lead a team. What obstacles did you encounter and how did you overcome them as a leader?
  2. Tell us about the person you admire most and why.
  3. Describe a personal achievement and how it has impacted your life.
  4. What are your career goals and why is pursuing an MBA important to achieving these goals?
  5. How will you contribute to our school community and your MBA student cohort?
  6. Tell us about a time you failed. What did you learn from this experience?

Give yourself time to gather the necessary information for your document, ponder your answers deeply, write mock essays to perfect your voice and style so you will be fully prepared to write your winning essay when applications open.

Don’t wait to make yourself professionally great.

Now is the perfect time to consider how a respected online MBA program—that puts people first in business—could boost your bottom line for a lifetime.

The Marquette University online MBA program prepares you with the core business knowledge needed to thrive in any organization around the globe. You’ll gain a comprehensive set of essential business skills and leading-edge competencies through study with our faculty innovators and industry veterans. Waivers for the GMAT/GRE-score requirement are available. Reach out to our Admissions Advisors with questions and start your application today.

  1. Retrieved on January 19, 2022, from wsj.com/articles/m-b-a-starting-salaries-are-soaring-11636952464
  2. Retrieved on January 19, 2022, from fortune.com/education/business/articles/2021/04/24/will-your-online-mba-result-in-a-higher-salary/
  3. Retrieved on January 19, 2022, from usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/top-business-schools/applying/articles/2016-10-25/2-mba-admissions-essays-that-worked