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2020-2021 MBA Essay Prompts for the M7

2020-2021 MBA Essay Prompts for the M7

One of the most challenging, yet crucial parts of the MBA application process is the essay. A way to express your accomplishments and goals, along with personal and professional attributes, the MBA essay can give you an edge over other candidates with similar scores and work experience. 

With questions such as “What strengths and weaknesses have shaped your character?” ‘What will you contribute to…” or “How will your unique history and values enhance the programme?” business schools aim to ascertain your personality as it relates to your experiences, adversities or setbacks. How you have dealt with these and most importantly, what you learned? While some of these are posed as long essay questions, a lot of business schools will have short-answer or one-liner questions embedded in the application form. These are only visible after you log in to your account. We recommend that you register and go through the application a few weeks before the deadlines to ensure that there are no surprises. 

Learn more each business school’s MBA essay prompts and requirements below:

Business School Number of Essays/Video Essays Word Limit Additional Questions
Columbia Business School Three  Essay 1: 500 words
Essay 2 & 3: 250 words
A compulsory short answer, an optional non-formal essay & a specific question for Knight-Bagehot Fellows
Harvard Business School One No word limit A specific question for joint-programme applicants
Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University Two & three video essays Essay 1 & 2: 450 words
Video essays 1, 2  & 3: 60 seconds
Specific questions for One-Year MBA, JD-MBA & MMM programme & compulsory reapplicant essay
MIT Sloan School of Management One cover letter & one video essay Cover letter: 300 words
Video essay: 60 seconds
A compulsory resume & interview essay (if invited)
Stanford Graduate School of Business Two

1150 words total 

Essay 1: 650 words
Essay 2: 400 words

Optional short answer questions
The University of Chicago Booth School of Business Two  Essay 1 & 2: 250-word minimum, no maximum  An optional essay & a compulsory reapplicant essay
Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania Two Essay 1: 500 words
Essay 2: 400 words 
An optional essay & a compulsory reapplicant essay


1) Columbia Business School: 

The MBA essay prompts for Columbia Business School are holistic and span career goals, fit and your personality. Before you sit down to attempt these questions, it is imperative that you think about your future and how you can take advantage of the opportunities that New York City has to offer.

Essay Prompts: 

Essay 1: “Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next 3-5 years and what, in your imagination, would be your long-term dream job?”

Essay 2: “Why do you feel that Columbia Business School is a good fit for you?”

Essay 3: “Tell us about your favorite book, movie or song and why it resonates with you.”

Essay Requirements: 

While the first essay prompt has a 500-word limit, the other two essays each require a maximum of 250 words. As the third essay allows you to display a side that can’t be reflected in any other part of your application, make sure to express why something resonated with you and what you have learnt from it. 

Additional Questions:

1. Columbia Business School also has a compulsory short answer question of  50 characters: “What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal?” Your answer could be simply, “Launch a [xxx] start-up” or “Work in [xxx] at a consultancy firm.” 

2. There is also a 500-word optional non-formal essay that can be submitted in bullet points: “Is there any further information that you wish to provide the Admissions Committee? If so, use this space to provide an explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or your personal history.”  

3. Knight-Bagehot Fellows should replace the first essay with the 500-word Wiegers Fellowship application essay: “What are your career goals? How has the Knight-Bagehot Fellowship affected these goals? How will an MBA help you achieve these goals?”

2) Harvard Business School:

The open-ended Harvard Business School question is the same as it was last year. With no word limit, it is easy to get carried away when answering the question, so ensure that you don’t go overboard.  

Essay Prompt: 

Essay 1: “As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA program?”

Essay Requirements: 

There is no word limit for this essay, however, ensure that you don’t provide unnecessary details. Answer the question in clear language and don’t overthink it.

Additional Questions:

1. Joint-programme applicants to the Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Harvard Law School or Harvard Kennedy School have an additional 400-word question: “How do you expect the joint degree experience to benefit you on both a professional and a personal level?”

3) Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University:

For the class of 2023, Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University’s essays and video essays serve as a way to get to know you better. Be authentic and to the point so that the admissions committee can get a glimpse into how you will contribute to the business school community. 

Essay Prompts: 

Essay 1: “Kellogg’s purpose is to educate, equip and inspire brave leaders who create lasting value. Provide a recent example where you have demonstrated leadership and created value. What challenges did you face and what did you learn?”

Essay 2: “Values are what guide you in your life and work. What values are important to you and how have they influenced you?”

Essay Requirements: 

Both essays have a word limit of 450 words. As the essays let you explain why you think this business school is the right place for you, you need to take some time to reflect and think about your experiences and how they have influenced you. 

Video Essay Prompts: 

Video essay 1: “Please introduce yourself to the admissions committee.” 

Video essay 2:  “What path are you interested in pursuing, how will you get there, and why is this program right for you?”

Video essay 3: “The third question will ask about a challenge you’ve faced.”

Video Essay Requirements: 

After submitting your application, you will have access to video essays. Each prompt should be answered in 60 seconds and you only get one try. Before you attempt the video essays, utilise the practice questions provided to familiarise yourself with the process. The first video essay allows you to tell the admissions committee something unique about you, while the second allows you to explain in detail your reasons for pursuing an MBA and why Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University is the right fit for you.

Additional Questions:

1. Applicants to the fast-paced One-Year MBA will have an additional 250-word question: “Please discuss your post-MBA career goal, the current experience you will leverage to support the transition, and the Kellogg 1Y opportunities that will help you reach this goal.”

2. If you are applying to the JD-MBA programme, you are required to answer the following prompt in 250 words: “Please discuss your post-JD-MBA career goals and why the JD-MBA Program is the right program to help you reach those goals.” 

3. The unique MMM programme requires applicants to answer the following 250-word prompt: “The five core values of the MMM Program are curiosity, creativity, empathy, open-mindedness and a learning mindset. Describe a situation in which you demonstrated one of these values. Why is this value an important part of the MMM experience for you?”

4. If you are a reapplicant, you would have had time to build your profile since the last time you applied. In 250-words, Kellogg allows you to expand on what you have done with the prompt: “Since your previous application, what steps have you taken to strengthen your candidacy?” 

5. Along with this, if you would like further clarify any particular part of your application, there is an Additional Information section where you can explain and expand on particular instances. 

4) MIT Sloan School of Management:

Rather than an essay question, MIT Sloan School of Management requires all applicants to submit a cover letter, video essay and resume. This straightforward approach is similar to applying for a competitive job where you should highlight key instances that are mentioned in the prompt. 

Cover Letter: 

“MIT Sloan seeks students whose personal characteristics demonstrate that they will make the most of the incredible opportunities at MIT, both academic and non-academic. We are on a quest to find those whose presence will enhance the experience of other students. We seek thoughtful leaders with exceptional intellectual abilities and the drive and determination to put their stamp on the world. We welcome people who are independent, authentic, and fearlessly creative — true doers. We want people who can redefine solutions to conventional problems, and strive to preempt unconventional dilemmas with cutting-edge ideas. We demand integrity and respect passion.
Taking the above into consideration, please submit a cover letter seeking a place in the MIT Sloan MBA Program.”

Cover Letter Requirements: 

You need to address your cover letter to the Assistant Deans of Admissions, Rod Garcia and Dawna Levenson. Your cover letter should not exceed 300 words (excluding the address and salutation). Make sure to include one or more examples of how you are the ideal candidate for the business school. 

Video Essay Prompt:

“In your video, you should introduce yourself to your future classmates, tell us about your past experiences, and touch on why MIT Sloan is the best place for you to pursue your degree.”

Video Essay Requirements:
The video should be no longer than one minute and should be taken in a single take and should not be edited. You should speak directly into the camera and not have any background music or use captions. The following formats are supported: avi, .flv, .m1v, .m2v, .m4v, .mkv, .mov, .mpeg, .mpg, .mp4, .webm, .wmv. Apple ProRes is not currently supported. If uploading a .mov, please use an alternate codec.


In addition to the cover letter, all applicants are required to submit a resume that includes:

“Education – Please feel free to include relevant awards, scholarships, and professional societies.

Work Experience – Please list in reverse chronological order and include: company name, title, results-oriented bullets that demonstrate your skillset, and dates.

Additional information – Languages, extracurricular activities/community service, technical skills/certifications, and special skills/interests (if appropriate).”

Resume Requirements: 

Your resume should be a single page in Times New Roman font, size 10. Only word or PDF formats will be accepted. Do not include your name, address, and contact information. For formatting, stick to the sections and order above. Include details in reverse chronological order:

Interview Essay: 

Applicants who are invited for an interview will have to answer the following prompt: “The mission of the MIT Sloan School of Management is to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and to generate ideas that advance management practice. We believe that a commitment to diversity, inclusion, equity, and well-being is a key component of both principled leadership and sound management practice. In 250 words or less, please describe a time when you contributed toward making a work environment or organization more welcoming, inclusive, and diverse.”

5) Stanford Graduate School of Business: 

The Stanford Graduate School of Business MBA essays aim to know about your values, passions, aims and dreams. Ensure that you are genuine and display who you are as a person. The two optional questions serve as a way for you to explain any contributions or details of your background that may not have been clearly explained in other parts of the application. 

Essay Prompts: 

Essay 1: “What matters most to you, and why?” 

Essay 2: “Why Stanford?” 

Essay Requirements: 

There is a combined 1,150-word limit for both essays, with a suggested breakup of up to 750 words for Essay 1 and 400 words for Essay 2. For the first prompt, you need to showcase what matters the most to you and help the admissions officers gain an insight into how it has shaped you. For the second essay, you need to identify how Stanford Graduate School of Business will help you achieve your goals. Applicants to the MBA and MSx programmes will have to talk about both programmes in the second prompt. Both essays are to be uploaded in a single double-spaced document, with each page numbered. 

Additional Questions:

1. Using three examples of 1,200 characters, or approximately 200 words each, you can describe in detail some contributions through the optional question prompt: “Think about times you’ve created a positive impact, whether in professional, extracurricular, academic, or other settings. What was your impact? What made it significant to you or to others?”

2. If you need to explain more about how background and life experiences have influenced your actions or choices, the second optional question gives you 1,100 characters or approximately 180 words to explain this: “Tell us about a time within the last three years when your background influenced your participation at work or school.” 

3. If you feel that there is additional information that isn’t covered in the application, Stanford Graduate School of Business allows you to expand on this in the “Additional Information” section. 

6) The University of Chicago Booth School of Business:

This year, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business MBA essays focus on both career goals and your personality. As there is no word limit for the essays, the school is giving you all the space you need to answer the prompt thoroughly. 

Essay Prompts: 

Essay 1: “How will a Booth MBA help you achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA career goals?”

Essay 2: “Chicago Booth immerses you in a choice-rich environment. How have your interests, leadership experiences, and other passions influenced the choices in your life?”

Essay Requirements: 

The essays have a minimum requirement of 250 words and no maximum limit. It is important however to remain focused in your essay and not deviate too much due to the lack of word limitation. Use your judgement to ascertain how long the essays should be and how to best utilise this opportunity. You will have to answer these questions in the text box provided in the application. 

Additional Questions:
1. There is also an optional question with a 300-word limit: “Is there any unclear information in your application that needs further explanation?”

2. If you are a reapplicant, you can highlight the progress you have made in the time between your applications and how your perspective might have changed over time in a 300-word prompt: “Upon reflection, how has your perspective regarding your future, Chicago Booth, and/or getting an MBA changed since the time of your last application?” 

7) Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania: 

Through the essay prompts, the admissions committee at the Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania aims to get to know your professional side as well as understand your personality. They want to know the person behind the data points and credentials. 

Essay Prompts: 

Essay 1: “What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA?”

Essay 2: “Taking into consideration your background – personal, professional, and/or academic – how do you plan to make specific, meaningful contributions to the Wharton community?” 

Essay Requirements: 

Essay 1 has a 500-word limit, while Essay 2 has a 400-word limit. Both essays require you to be introspective, candid and succinct. 

Additional Questions:

1. There is also an optional essay, with no word limit: “Please use this space to share any additional information about yourself that cannot be found elsewhere in your application and that you would like to share with the Admissions Committee. This space can also be used to address any extenuating circumstances (e.g., unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance, areas of weakness, etc.) that you would like the Admissions Committee to consider.”

2. All reapplicants must write an additional 250-word essay that should focus on your progress and why you are a better candidate this time around: “Please use this space to share with the Admissions Committee how you have reflected and grown since your previous application and discuss any relevant updates to your candidacy (e.g., changes in your professional life, additional coursework, and extracurricular/volunteer engagements).”

When writing your essays, you might be tempted to recycle the same content. especially when referring to the same experiences. However, as each business school is looking for different traits in their students, it is always better to start fresh. 

Our blog has many resources that can help you make your business school shortlist, a guide on how to apply and even a final checklist to go over before you submit your application. You can also get some interview insights such as how to answer “Can you tell me about yourself?” question and some general interview tips to help you prepare. If you require any further assistance in putting together your application, get in touch with us.

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