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Application Corner: MBA Personal Statement Guide

June 08, 2020
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The MBA personal statement is a rite of passage for most business school applicants. MBA application essays come in many shapes and sizes, but all of them serve the purpose of demonstrating your qualification for admission, your drive to succeed, and your reasons for choosing a particular MBA program.

For many MBA applicants, the personal statement can be challenging. Striking a balance between telling an engaging personal story and demonstrating your professionalism and preparation for the rigors of business school isn’t always easy. All too often, applicants simply rehash their resume, or write vague or generic essays that don’t help separate them from the pack.

We've put together a list of hints to help you craft a compelling narrative and nail your MBA personal statement.

Answer the Questions

If your business school of choice requires an MBA personal statement, they will often provide a question or set of questions to guide your writing. At least one of these questions is typically aimed toward helping you construct a business narrative in which you briefly name organizations for which you’ve worked and describe some specific roles and responsibilities you’ve had. This should only be a small portion of your essay—ideally, no more than 10 to 15 percent—and you should be brief but very clear in your response.1

Applicants may also be asked more specific questions about their goals, their vision for the future, or their strength. Applicants to the Online MBA program at California State University, Chico are asked questions that cover each of these categories:

  • Discuss your background and why you want an MBA
  • What makes you a strong candidate for our Online MBA program?

You should be as honest and authentic in your answers as possible. Don’t try to anticipate what the admissions committee wants to hear. Your readers don’t want to see buzzwords or stock phrases, they want you to be real and unique, and draw meaningful connections between your skills, your goals, and the course of study you seek in their MBA program.

Don’t Be Generic

Above all, your MBA personal statement should make clear why you—specifically you—are a great fit for your program of choice.2 Avoid generic statements like, "I am the ideal candidate," as they don’t tell the reader anything about you or provide depth beyond the superficial. You need to show your passion and vision rather than simply telling your reader that you are qualified.

Some key ways to achieve uniqueness in your personal essay are:

  • Focus on the "personal." This is your story, not anyone else’s. It is about how you got where you are and where you see yourself headed
  • Use illustrative examples from your life. Share some anecdotes that can help define you and give depth to your character. Don’t just say that you are a great leader: Narrate in detail a time when you demonstrated leadership
  • Highlight risks and bold choices. Business schools like to see courage and ambition in their MBA candidates. Describe a time you took a risk, even if the outcome wasn’t exactly what you hoped
  • Emphasize your passion. Taking things seriously and caring deeply are strong indicators of success, and admissions committees want to see how much you invest yourself in your work

Before you write, outline everything that makes you special. What obstacles have you overcome in your life and career, and what traits have helped you do so? These are the details that will get your statement noticed.

Focus on Your Goals

The goal of your MBA application essay is not to hammer your resume into paragraph form. Focus on content your readers can’t get anywhere else: Where do you want to go in your career? And how will the MBA help you get there? Discuss specific ways you can use the skills and knowledge you gain in an MBA program to solve real-world problems, and frame this effort as a meaningful personal goal. Make your readers see the value you will add in the business world and beyond with your graduate-level education.

Sharpen and Perfect

Your MBA personal statement should demonstrate impeccable attention to detail. This starts before you even begin writing: Outline your thoughts and organize your essay into discrete, manageable sections.3 Refer to this outline frequently as you write to keep yourself on track and to ensure you don’t accidentally omit any key pieces of information.

Proofread your work carefully to eliminate any grammatical errors and typos. If you think it might help, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance with your essay. Find a friend or colleague whose writing you admire—ideally one who knows you well—and have them read your statement to determine whether it really captures your goals and business acumen, and to find any issues you may have missed. Even if you are a strong writer, having a second set of eyes on an essay this important is never a bad idea.

Start Telling Your Story Today at Chico State

With polished writing and a compelling story, your MBA application essay can be the crucial differentiator that secures your admission to the program of your dreams. Check out the application requirements for the Online MBA program at Chico State and read our blog post on requesting letters of recommendation for more helpful application tips.

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  1. Retrieved on June 1, 2020, from businessinsider.com/how-to-write-personal-statements-for-mba-students-2012-7
  2. Retrieved on June 1, 2020, from princetonreview.com/business-school-advice/mba-essay-tips
  3. Retrieved on June 1, 2020, from mbamission.com/docs/mbamission_personal_statement_guide.pdf