Sample MBA Application Essay - After
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Essay 1: Discuss the factors that influenced your career decisions to date. Also discuss your career plans and why you want to obtain an MBA.
Early in my childhood, the Internet became more than just a luxury--it became a necessity. My father moved from Singapore to Indonesia to start a textile company when I was four years old, leaving me alone with my mother. To alleviate the pressures of separation, I developed the computer skills needed for electronic communication and was able to remain in close contact with my father. This experience solidified my interest in information technology and exposed me to the enormous potential of this developing field.
In the summer of 1992, I exploited my knowledge of IT to help those in my community. I volunteered at a local library, helping people with computer and Internet-related questions. Also at that time, my father's business had launched many technological changes that led to the automation of its production line. These improvements had saved his company from bankruptcy. Visiting him and seeing how the new system had increased his profits heightened my interest in IT. I now live in Canada, where computers continue to play a large role in my daily affairs. I use electronic mail and Internet chats to communicate with both parents, and have chosen management information systems as my course of study. Information technology fascinates me not only because it makes companies more competitive, but also because it can bridge great distances to bring people together. I have much respect for and interest in the IT industry.
Personal satisfaction also plays a key role in my career decision. While monetary rewards are of practical importance, true job satisfaction springs from the opportunity to grow and learn within an industry. I enjoy acquiring new skills and information, which help me to adapt to the fast-changing world, as well as pique my interest in innovation. In addition, a career with open prospects would give me constant incentive to improve myself and to gain more knowledge. I currently volunteer for an on-campus organization, Job Web, in which I am responsible for posting employment opportunities on the World Wide Web, answering questions and preparing informative handouts. This position has broadened my computing abilities and has improved my interpersonal skills, which are crucial to any business endeavor. I enjoy the sense of productivity and usefulness I gain from the work, and feel it is a valuable experience for future employment.
Given the confluence of my personal and professional interests, my goal is to obtain a master's degree and then to work in an IT-related industry, either with a consulting firm or as a systems analyst with a financial institution. In addition to this, I plan to use my private time to attend computer programming courses in order to maintain a competitive knowledge of technology. When I have gathered enough experience and skills, I plan to launch a consulting company of my own.
Attending a Master's of Science program will smooth the path to these goals. Such a program will deepen my expertise and broaden my perspectives. Moreover, the MIS option will help me to hone my skills in IT areas that I have not yet encountered. As I have attended the University of Toronto for four years, I am familiar with and have confidence in the faculty professors whom I believe can help me become an IT professional.
Essay 2: Describe two events in your life to date that demonstrate your ability to do well in business.
My classmates called me "the alien," and they avoided me like the plague. As a young boy, I suffered from severe dermatitis, which filled my limbs with ulcers and scars. The true pain of my condition, however, was social; I was alienated from my classmates and lived a life of loneliness and isolation. Doctors predicted that I would never fully recover, but my parents refused to accept this. They encouraged me to hope for the future, teaching me that any obstacle could be overcome. I therefore took an active role in my health, trying many medications and herbs.
Approaching my loneliness with bravery, I came to view it as a challenge to be overcome. The summer after I graduated from primary school, my disease improved dramatically. Although my body remained riddled with scars, the ulcers vanished. The self-confidence I regained was profound; I realized that my personal will had led to this improvement. I began to seek out friendships at school, and I took part in activities like volleyball, Girl Guide, and Art Club. Through it all, my attitude toward challenges remained the same. In every examination or competition, I told myself that I could easily excel since nothing could be more difficult than what I had already overcome. By the time I moved to Canada, I had fully recovered both socially and physically. Moreover, I had learned to be confident and never to fear failure. This credo echoes through my personal life and gives me the inner resolve to succeed at any endeavor, including my professional pursuits.
Like my personal battle with dermatitis, I learned a great deal about leadership by overcoming adversity. While enrolled in an ESL program in Canada, I joined the Culture Club as a Special Event Director. I managed a group of six individuals in organizing various functions. I was the most advanced ESL student among the group, and I therefore assumed myself to be the most capable. I quickly learned my mistake. While preparing our first function, I was strict with my team members and often rejected their ideas in favor of my own. I performed most of their tasks myself, allowing them to assist me only in minor details. As a result, the function was not very successful. Few people attended, and we had problems with decorations and presentation. The setback disheartened me, and I spoke of it to the club's supervisor. She responded that she trusted my ability to succeed in the future. This comment filled me with surprise, for I realized that I had never trusted my own team members. Although they were weak in English, they had many valuable talents. I immediately changed my policy, allowing team members to choose the tasks they desired and to complete them on their own.
Meetings evolved into group brainstorming sessions, which yielded many good ideas. Most importantly, the atmosphere among us improved dramatically. We were happier and more eager to devote time to the program. I learned what true leadership is, and the experience undoubtedly improved my ability to handle challenging business situations.
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Click Here for the Edited Version.
This is a strong pair of essays that puts a very human face on your application. You come across as an engaging and likeable IT professional, and the details you provide about your personal life are both interesting and informative.
However, there were ways in which these essays could be improved.
The major problem I noticed with these essays was the length of your paragraphs. It is necessary to break your discussions into easily digestible segments so that the reader is not overwhelmed by the breadth of your observations. I have substantially reworked the structure of these essays to make them more accessible to the reader.
Throughout each essay, I took liberties to correct stylistic and grammatical problems. My changes largely took the form of making sentence transitions smoother and more compelling, varying sentence structure to keep the reader interested, and pruning unnecessary words to increase sentence comprehension and coherence. I consciously tried to leave your own voice and ideas intact.
Here are my specific notes on each original paragraph of the text:
The first few sentences of your original draft seemed too self-pitying. It is essential to begin your essay with something that captures the reader's interest. I have provided a new introduction that illustrates the unique role that the Internet played in your family dynamic.
In addition, it is useful to separate the introduction proper from the rest of the first paragraph. I have provided a strong transition that illustrates the relevance of your volunteer IT experience.
Finally, the new second paragraph that I have adapted from your original text incorporates extensive sentence-level adjustments to improve your diction.
"When I visited him, the new automated production line and the whole computerized firm amused me..."
It is best to omit this detail since it suggests that you failed to appreciate the difficulty of your father's work. See the alternative treatment of this idea I have proposed in the revised essay.
I provided a stronger transition to this sentence, which encapsulates your main motivation for pursuing a career in IT. Your original paragraph was a bit too general, so I anchored your assertions in concrete fact to make them more compelling.
"Although monetary reward is practically important in reality..."
This is redundant. I suggest the following: "While monetary rewards are of practical importance..."
"I like learning new skills and acquiring up-dated information, because they can help me adapt the fast-changing world, enrich my experiences, explore my interest, and give me higher self-esteem as I am a valuable person."
This is too effusive. I have provided a shorter version of this idea below.
I have improved the diction of this paragraph to make it more compelling.
"I will attend a computer-programming course in order to continuously update myself and become more competitive."
This construction is slightly awkward. You can rephrase this idea as follows: "I plan to use my private time to attend computer programming courses in order to maintain a competitive knowledge of technology."
I have adjusted the tone of this paragraph to use a more confident voice. For instance, I replaced the phrase, "the program can deepen expertise," with, "such a program will deepen my expertise." This adjustment is subtle, but it makes a big difference.
Your original introduction failed to introduce your subject to the reader in an adequate fashion or to engage his attention. Rather than summarizing your arguments in an essay this short, it is better to provide a "hook" that draws your reader into the piece. See my suggestion in the text.
This paragraph was too wordy, and many of your arguments were redundant. I have streamlined your discussion to make it more direct, and I have separated this paragraph into two parts to make it more readable.
In addition, it was necessary to reduce the graphic description of your physical ailment. It is better to focus on how you overcame adversity rather than to dwell on how you suffered as a child.
"...full of ulcers, sores, bandages and scars. I always felt itchy and painful, and I dared not play with others. Moreover, my hairs had never been longer that two inches..."
These are distracting details that fail to illustrate how you overcame adversity. I suggest reducing these descriptions to a minimum.
"During every examination and competition, I told myself that I was able to do the best because nothing was tougher than the time when I was in the primary school."
This is a very powerful argument that does a great job of illustrating your resolve. I have highlighted and expanded upon this idea in the revised essay.
This paragraph is also best divided into two separate parts. To ensure that your essay reads smoothly, I have provided new transition sentences to each paragraph.
"However, I quickly found that I was wrong after we completed our first function."
This is a good place to vary sentence length for dramatic effect. I propose the following: "I quickly learned my mistake."
"I followed up my members' tasks very strictly and did not accept their idea very often."
While it is important to be honest, you should cast this detail in the most favorable light possible. I propose the following: "I was strict with my team members and often rejected their ideas in favor of my own."
With all the changes I have proposed, you will have to use your judgment and accept only those which you think are best.
Overall, these essays now do a very good job of putting a human face on your application. I wish you the best of luck in the application process.
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Conducting a Career Self-Assessment – for New MBA Admits (Part 1 of 3)
MBAs are often told that a new job search should begin with a process of introspection known as “self-assessment,” yet that advice is not always accompanied by a prescriptive guide for what that process should entail … the words themselves are deemed sufficiently self-explanatory.
At the same time, a good career self-assessment is not rocket science. It involves focusing on three time periods – past, present, and future – and it can benefit from use of a small handful of exercises and instruments, the most prevalent (and useful) of which are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), whose intellectual antecedent is the philosophy of Carl Jung, and the CareerLeader assessment, developed by Drs. Tim Butler and Jim Waldroop at Harvard Business School.
For a rising MBA, the need to conduct a critical self-assessment is acute because the cost of having to reverse course or of simply “getting it wrong” – for example, by chasing after “your roommate’s dream job” rather than your own, or by discovering that your dream career path lies in private wealth management one week after deadlines for private wealth management internships have passed – is high.
For those who naturally resist the notion that a personality test or any form of psychological or career-oriented instrument can accurately capture and reduce the uniqueness and extraordinary breadth of the human condition to a few letters or symbols, my suggestion is to evaluate these tools not on the basis of whether they can be elevated to the level of immutable laws of physics, but simply on the basis of their usefulness in helping one to be more effective and to reach better decisions.
Examining the Past
With regard to past experience, the simplest way to begin to categorize and make sense of one’s true abilities and preferences is to conduct what I call a “highs” and “lows” exercise. For each chunk of bullet text in your current résumé – whether a particular job, a specific assignment or project, an educational, sports, or other experience – write down the absolute best part of that experience, the “high,” and the absolute worst one as well, the “low” (identify both a positive and a negative experience for each chunk of time and effort).
At what point were your experiences akin to pure pleasure? Describe days in which you felt completely immersed in work, derived pride in your effort, approached challenges and hurdles as though they were fun puzzles to solve, enjoyed the company of your work peers or schoolmates, and looked forward to the next day ( … what specifically made that experience seem that way)? Conversely, what experiences made you feel miserable? Describe the days in which you felt the opposite of all the above, those experiences from which you couldn’t wait to be reprieved. Do this for each significant period (1-2 years) of school and work experience.
A “highs” and “lows” exercise can be useful when facilitated by an experienced career coach (who can recognize patterns across many professionals and MBAs in similar situations), and especially so if the exercise is combined with an MBTI and CareerLeader assessment – the former can help you understand ways in which you prefer to organize information, make decisions, and interact in team work settings, while the latter can help prescribe MBA-relevant career path options (helping you decide, for example, whether working as a venture capitalist or becoming an entrepreneur might make the most sense for you).
Ideally, to bring your self-assessment up to date, you should integrate all three of the above – the facilitated (or self-conducted) “highs” and “lows” exercise, plus the two professionally-delivered instruments (MBTI and CareerLeader are available as part of a number or pre-MBA programs and during many business schools’ orientation programs). The end result is a strong awareness of the contexts in which your talents, interests, and abilities have been most successfully applied in the past … and a guide to where they are most likely to help you flourish in the future.
Tune in next week for the continuation of how to conduct an MBA career self-assessment in the context of the Present (the duration of your business school degree) as well as the Future (the next 3-5, and then 10 or more, years beyond graduation). The goal is to arrive on “day 1” of business school with a critical sense of where you’ve been and with both a highly self-aware and marketplace-relevant strategy for how to succeed in business school and project yourself into the next phase of your life and career.
Ivan Kerbel – bio:
Ivan Kerbel is the CEO of Practice LLC, an educational services firm that conducts an intensive, annual pre-orientation program for newly-admitted MBAs, The Practice MBA Summer Forum.
Ivan served previously as Director of the Career Development Office at The Yale School of Management and as a Sr. Associate Director at Wharton’s MBA Career Management office. He is a Wharton MBA alumnus and a former management consultant at Katzenbach Partners, a New York City strategy consulting boutique. Ivan can be reached via LinkedIn.
Posted in: MBA Career Strategy