3 Common Mistakes MBA Applicants Make Choosing Essay Topics

Law School Applicant SurveyOne of the most undervalued steps in the business school essay-writing process is to make sure it the essay ties in with each component of the MBA application – the essays, CV, letters of recommendation, transcripts, and GMAT scores. In the process and stress of making the major life decision of attending business school, many applicants often anchor their essays by one of the common factors below, and thus, lose out on presenting a stronger overall profile.

Let’s examine these mistakes one by one:

Professional Domain
A candidate’s pre-MBA industry, company, and job function are all important, so it is understandable that these may become top of mind when brainstorming for examples and highlights to include in your essay. When it comes to the MBA essay, however, it is always best to consider mixing in different elements of your life experiences – ones that would help complement your resume and not just elaborate on what the reader will already glean from it.

Extracurricular activities, especially those that are not related to your profession, help show a multidimensional personality, so it would be wise to discuss the ones you are involved with in your essays. For instance, an accomplished banker with excellent academics may be better off sharing leadership experiences with his mountain hiking group rather than detailing how he was able to do well in the CFA exams. In this case, valuable space in the essays can be better used to show additional dimensions to the applicant’s profile.

Most Performed Activity
Another common error, especially when creating your resume and even preparing for your interview, is to focus on the activities you perform most frequently. As critical as operational and maintenance tasks are, it would be better to play up more attention-grabbing tasks. For example, it would be better to showcase how you led the financial review for your company’s new distribution model or new product lines than to describe the regular payroll disbursements you assist with.

In short, when asked to describe what you do, it is not always best to prioritize your activities by the number of hours you spend on them. Instead, choose the ones that would be the most exciting to discuss, and the ones that will highlight more of your strengths.

Technical Accomplishments
Applicants from technical fields typically want to share their most technically challenging work. Sharing complexity does demonstrate deep expertise, and that your company trusts you to take on tremendous responsibilities, however you must also consider if there are better examples that would better showcase your experiences with collaboration and leadership.

Remember, the MBA is geared towards developing your ability to work with people, whether it is through motivating teams of people, mentoring individuals, or managing challenging relationships. Thus, details on your technical accomplishments should be shared in a way that is understandable to non-industry readers. Details on these more technical achievements should be descriptive enough to show impact and expertise, but concise enough that you still have room to display the key transferable skills you learned from this accomplishment, such as leadership and teamwork.

Following the tips above should help you decide how to use the limited space in your MBA application package and present a complete picture of your unique personality.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! And as always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD. You can read more articles by him here