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Be Yourself in Your MBA Admission Essays

Today's MBA programs are built around training and developing leaders, not followers. To that end, admissions committees look for applicants who have character, who stand out in the crowd. With applications to MBA programs increasing steadily, separating yourself from the rest is crucial.

The essay portion of the b-school application is the best area to demonstrate your character. The best way to do that, says business school admissions consultant Susan Shaffer, "is to be yourself."

"Too many people think they have to sound perfect in their essays," says Susan. "But it just comes across as contrived. They don't seem real."

One of her biggest pet peeves when she worked as the Senior Associate Director of MBA Admissions at NYU was reading essays that "presented clichéd statements in stilted language." These essays not only added nothing to the case for admitting the applicant who submitted them, but also represented a wasted opportunity. The applicant behind the essay had passed up a chance to impress the admissions committee with who he or she really was.

Susan says honesty is the best policy in deciding what to write about, and how. "Let your personality show through in your essays. Show your strengths, but be honest."

Don't exaggerate your accomplishments or claim to have done things you didn't really do, Susan cautions. There's a good chance you won't get away with it anyway. Speaking from her own experience, she remarks that "Committee members can always see through a story that's put together just to project a certain image."

– Contributed by Senior Consultant Susan Shaffer. Susan earned her MBA at NYU and served as the school's Senior Associate Director of MBA Admissions.

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