40 Questions to Ask Yourself When Brainstorming Your MBA Personal Statement

Padya Paramita

40 Questions to Ask Yourself When Brainstorming Your MBA Personal Statement

You’ve been working in consulting for a couple years, and have decided that it’s time for a change. It’s finally the year you leave the workforce for a bit and start looking into those business school applications. So you’ve got the grades, you’ve got excellent test scores, and your boss at work is going to write a wonderful recommendation. Don’t get overconfident and try to wing your essay. The MBA personal statement is definitely not one to take for granted.

While your transcript and GRE/GMAT score could both be great, they will not help you stand out if admissions officers have no idea who you are as a person, what motivates you, and what you like to do in your free time. This is why the MBA personal statement is an integral component of your business school applications.

A strong essay not only conveys a clearer picture of who you are to admissions officers, but if your other components are less than stellar, a memorable personal statement can actually help make up for weaker grades or test scores. So the amount of thought and effort you put into your business school essay can make a huge difference to your application. Although the MBA personal statement prompt varies from program to program, business schools usually want to know about one of the following: who you are, what your goals are, why you’re drawn to the particular school, and what you consider greatest achievement or setback. Some of the most popular questions are:

  • What are your principle interests outside of work or school?
  • Who do you admire the most?
  • Describe your career aspirations and your reasons for pursuing an MBA.
  • Describe a situation where you led a team. What challenges did you overcome?
  • Our business school is a diverse environment. How will your experiences contribute to this?
  • Why this school?
  • Describe a career accomplishment you’re most proud of.

Choosing the right topic is extremely important. The theme and the topic of your essay could make or break your application. To help you brainstorm your MBA personal statement, I’ll guided you through a series of questions about different parts of your life and career - including interests and goals, extracurricular activities, and your identity - to help find the topic that works for you. Once you’ve written a first draft, go over the questions at the end to see if your topic is truly suited for the crucial MBA personal statement.

Academic and Career Interests and Goals

  • What is your ideal career?
  • What kind of business do you wish to pursue?
  • Where do you see yourself in five or ten years?
  • What features and opportunities of the particular business school appeal to you?
  • Why are you a good fit for this program?
  • How did your undergraduate experience shape your career goals?
  • How has your work experience before business school prepared you for an MBA program?
  • What was the most valuable lesson you learned while in the workforce?
  • Was there a particular professional incident in the last few years which inspired you to apply to business school?
  • Have you led any significant projects at work?
  • Was there an instance when you overcame a challenge?
  • Was there a time you failed, and what have you learned from it?
  • Was there a time you helped make a difference in your academic or professional setting?
  • Which of your career accomplishments are you most proud of?
  • Have you ever faced an ethical dilemma? How did you handle it?
  • If you weren’t applying to business school what would you be doing?

Identity

  • How has your upbringing shaped you?
  • How has your cultural identity formed your goals and career path?
  • What was it like growing up in your hometown?
  • Did you or your family overcome any hardships that influenced the way you think?
  • Who is the most inspiring member of your family and how have they inspired you?
  • What do you appreciate the most about your cultural heritage?
  • Did a significant personal event impact your decision to attend business school?
  • What do you consider your biggest strength and weakness?
  • What are some things on your bucket list and why?
  • Do you have a defining personal value or characteristic? How has it developed over the years?
  • Has there been a specific incident that shaped or influenced you as a person?
  • Is there a place that is particularly important to you? Why?
  • What do you appreciate the most about your culture and your heritage?
  • What are you the most grateful for?
  • Is there a community that you have been a part of that you appreciate a great deal?

Extracurriculars

  • What has been your most meaningful activity in recent years?
  • Do you have a unique or unusual hobby that most of your peers don’t?
  • What activity can you never get tired of?
  • What valuable lessons have you learned from your extracurriculars?
  • How do your extracurriculars tie in with your career goals?
  • Have there been any specific ways in which your interests align with business?
  • Have you started your own organization?
  • What passion motivates you to get out of bed every day?
  • Have you won any awards for any extracurriculars in the last few years?

Editing Your Essay

Once you’ve finished your first draft, the work is far from done. Read and reread your essay. Your essay is evaluated based on what you’ve written. It’s also dependent on the quality of your writing. Ask yourself the following questions to make sure you’re not making any errors that could easily put your application at the bottom of the pile:

  • Is your MBA personal statement centered around a high school experience? (It shouldn’t be)
  • Does your essay answer the question the prompt asks?
  • Have you used a lot of business industry jargon in your writing that might otherwise be irrelevant to the core of your essay?
  • Is your essay about someone else?
  • Is your MBA personal statement too broad or general?
  • Do your goals come across as vague?
  • Is earning a high salary the only motivation you’ve stated for wishing to attend business school?
  • Have you checked thoroughly for typos and grammatical errors?
  • Is the story you’ve told unique to you?
  • Have you demonstrated enough ambition and passion throughout your essay?

Writing your MBA personal statement is by no means an easy task, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. If the rest of your application is great but your essay demonstrates no personality, your application automatically leans towards mediocre. On the flip side, if your numbers are average, but your personal statement is wonderful, your application receives a boost.

Don’t underestimate the power of the MBA personal statement, which all starts with the right topic. Remember, your personal statement is about YOU. Take the time to reflect on your upbringing, experiences and adventures and find the one which defines and distinguishes you the most. Once you’re done, don’t forget to go through a number of revised versions. The b-school dream isn’t easy, but a strong personal statement is key in every standout application. A powerful essay can help separate you from the rest of the applicant pool, and it all starts with the right topic.

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