According to an article in Hindustan Times last year, roughly half a million students prepare for management entrance tests. They seek admissions at the some of the best from 6000 B Schools present in the country today, and abroad. While candidates are putting their confident step forward to gain an edge over competition, renowned B Schools are focused on opening their doors to only the best suited aspirants. And one way of ascertaining that is the Personal Essay.
Your entrance test score, your academic record gives B Schools inkling about your capabilities. But the essay question will offer them insights into your mind and character. It allows them to determine whether their programs can transform you into leaders of tomorrow. Given the significance of the essay and the possibility of plagiarism, they are routinely changed by B Schools. But there are a few broad types that are consistent and we look at how to tackle them.
Your career plans and how does MBA fit into them?
This is a crucial essay question that offers B Schools a peek into your mind. To answer this question, you can talk about your background, existing skills and career aspirations. Then make a note of how your MBA training can help you upskill and bring you closer to your goals. Experts also recommend use of certain keywords in answers to all essay questions that will make their mark with evaluators. In this case talk about ambition, aspiration, purpose etc.
What did you learn from your biggest failure?
Everyone makes mistakes, and the question is not intended to remind you of them. B Schools want to know how you responded to the failures when it would have been easy to give up instead of rising again. Self-awareness is an important quality for all business managers; only when you can recognize your flaws and limitations, you can find ways to surmount them. Keywords to keep in mind: failure, weakness, adversity, learning.
Talk about your most meaningful Leadership experience.
Many MBA applicants have been in leadership positions in their careers, undergraduate student clubs, volunteering organizations etc. But it doesn’t automatically translate to being good leaders. You will need to demonstrate your leadership style through the experience to your evaluators. It doesn’t have to be a achievement but something that proves you have the right attitude. Keywords like motivate, initiative, mentor etc. can have the desired impact.
How does your past academic experience help you bring unique values to the table?
If you look at the class intake of some of the top B Schools in India and abroad you will see a strong theme of diversity. Your past academic and professional background, bring their own value to the class and will add to the enriching learning experience for all students. When writing this essay your attempt should be to distinguish yourself from the other prospective batchmates. Talk about diversity, perspective, attributes, expertise etc. to catch the eye.
Describe situations in your life where you dealt with ethical dilemma and complexity.
This is arguably the question that you will need to be the most thoughtful with. Of course, all of us understand that good ethics and values are desirable. Yet, talking about them, and more so, demonstrating them can be extremely tricky. Rather than creating a scenario to describe the war of emotions in your heart, focus on describing your values, resisting temptations, loyalty to a friend etc. Standards, ethics, ideals, principles are some of the poignant keywords.
You can similarly devise strategies for other essay questions and craft answers that help you get a foot in the door with top B Schools.