The Art of Writing MBA Application Essays – Expert Speak

Several MBA aspirants often stumble when institutes ask them to submit a Statement of Purpose or an Essay about their life in the admission process. This aspect of writing winning SOPs forms a cornerstone of your application process, and could make or break your chances of getting into a top b-school.

Mansie Dewan, the founder of Mansie Dewan Consulting and author of the bestselling “Destination MBA: Showing You How to Get There”, agreed to interact with aspirants on Live Chat and made several insightful recommendations on how to improve your chances of securing admission in an institute of your choice.

Here, she focuses on writing SOP applications for MBA schools in India and abroad.

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What are some of the general guidelines that students must follow while framing their MBA Application essays?

I’d like to share a few basic tips on how to go about drafting a suitable SOP for your application:

– Introspect and conduct a thorough self-assessment. Outline the turning points in your life and identify major milestones and failures.

– Think about yourself professionally and personally – business schools want to know both aspects of your personality.

– Research on the program you’re applying to. Don’t craft essays that show that you have not duly studied about the program, its offerings and your fit.

– Don’t just parrot the school’s offerings mentioned on the school websites. Show that you’ve made the effort to find out more about the school.

– Don’t list data points. Share experiences while adhering to the scope of the prompt of the essay in question. SHOW, DON’T TELL.

– Present strong communication skills. Spelling and grammar errors, incorrect punctuation spell disaster.

– Look at the essays as an opportunity to share your personality and uniqueness. Use them to solidify the impression the admissions committee might get from the other components of your application.

– Tailor your essays to particular school requirements.

– Follow directions and always stay within the word limit.

– Answer the question or sub questions asked. Do not leave out any section of the essay question unanswered.

– Share the most meaningful work and life experiences as examples to corroborate the point you’re trying to make. Also clearly show the value of these experiences.

– Don’t make the mistake of writing generic GOALS essays.


What do you mean by Generic Goals?

The goals that you mention in your essay should align well with your past experience and skills set. Be very clear about the industry or function you want to be a part of, highlighting why you are a good fit for such a role. If you’re looking to change your career line, demonstrate interest in your chosen field and make a strong argument for why you are suited for it.


How soon should we start preparing for the essays and is it advisable to always apply in Round 1?

When to start on the essays depends on the number of colleges you’re targeting. Generally, if you’re applying to 3-4 colleges in Round 1, you should begin working on your application strategies by now (3 months in advance), even though some colleges have not released their essay prompts yet.

It is not mandatory to apply in Round 1. You should apply when you feel you are ready and can devote sufficient time to your applications. It takes considerable time and effort. That being said, a majority of the scholarships are given out in Round 1, so if you’re targeting scholarships, it is advisable to apply early.


Is there any special preparation required for an ISB essay?

The only preparation required is clarity of thought on two topics – why do you need an MBA and what do you bring to the class.


Is there a particular tested approach to follow while writing essays?

It is advisable to follow the STAR approach for essays – Situation Task Action Result. The STAR model is useful not just for essays, but also for interviews. For the essays, when you recount a personal experience, you should begin by identifying the situation – this sets the context. Then, elaborate upon the task you faced in that situation. Next is the action you took while dealing with the situation and any challenges you faced. Finally, write about the result of your work.

The more distinct and detailed your essay, the higher are the chances of it striking a chord with the admissions committee.


How to begin researching the right schools for MBA abroad? Since MBA is a costly program, is it only worth it if we get into the top 20 schools?

Not at all, there are plenty of excellent b-schools beyond the top 20.

Rankings are a good way to start your research. Zeroing down on a perfect combo of 5-6 schools may seem challenging if you fail to consider the parameters relevant to your profile and look at colleges solely based on its brand, ranking or endorsement from friends or family.

The best way is to picture yourself a few years down the line. Think about your long term career goals. Then look at the most likely way to get there. Look at the schools that actively place students in the industry and function of your choice.

Course offerings differ from school to school, and what may seem as a perfect fit for one may not even make the shortlist of another. That is why there is no substitute to doing your own detailed research.


Who are the ideal people to get letters of recommendation from?

Try to obtain LORs from people you’ve worked closely with and can vouch for your strengths with relevant examples. Rank does not matter as much as the content.

Do visit Mansie’s website for detailed information and guidance: