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MBA essay – 5 types of essays explained with examples

MBA essay – 5 types of essays explained with examples
A 5 min read

MBA essay is a powerful means for you to showcase your worth to your target business school. It holds a 15% weightage in your application. The essay in MBA applications gives you a chance to showcase those aspects that you’re unable to show in your resume.

But, what are the various ways in which admissions officers use the MBA essay to evaluate your candidacy?

In this article, we’ll explore the 5 types of MBA essays that you can expect to answer through your MBA applications.

Here are the 5 types of MBA essays typically asked in a business school application:

  1. MBA essay 1 – Goals
  2. MBA essay 2 – Self-reflection
  3. MBA essay 3 – Contribution
  4. MBA essay 4 – Leadership
  5. MBA essay 5 – Video
different types of mba essays

Let’s look at each one of these five types of MBA essays:

Goals Essay

This is one essay that you can expect to see in most schools’ MBA applications. The purpose of this essay is to understand your motivations for coming to business school and your plans thereafter. The question comes in all kinds of variants and word limits.

mba essay on goals

For example, Wharton has a 500-word question on this, whereas Tuck has a 300-word question on this. MIT Sloan, on the other hand, does not ask you about your goals at all. Some schools ask you to also talk about why you are interested in their specific program, as part of the same prompt.

Some examples of such MBA essays include:

  • Booth: How will the Booth MBA help you achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA career goals? (250 words minimum)
  • Darden: What is your short-term, post-MBA goal and why? (150 words)

Here are articles on MBA essay analysis for 2021 admissions for a few top US business schools:

Values, Identity, Personal Qualities, and Self-Reflection Essay

This is a broad category that encompasses several different kinds of MBA essays. For example, some schools ask you to introduce yourself to your classmates (e.g. HBS, UT Austin). Answering such a question would require you to introspect.

mba essay introspection

On the other hand, for over a decade, Stanford GSB required applicants to talk about what matters most to them and why. Such questions require deep introspection in order for you to get to the core of your personality and influences. Such essays could also include failure essays or essays that ask you to talk about an ethical dilemma that you might have faced. Many schools have a variant of this kind of essay.

Some examples of such MBA essays include:

  • Kellogg: What values are important to you and how have they influenced you? (450 words)
  • Yale: Describe the biggest commitment you’ve ever made. (500 words)
  • Tuck: Tell us who you are. (300 words)

Here are detailed articles on MBA essay analysis for 2019 – 2020 admissions for a few top European business schools:

Contribution Essay

Student-led activities are at the forefront of most schools’ culture. Consequently, an active student body is imperative for the success of student life initiatives.

mba essay on contribution

The contribution essay in MBA applications is a great way for schools to assess what applicants might bring to the table. Some examples of such essays include:

  • Wharton: Describe an impactful experience or accomplishment that is not reflected elsewhere in your application. How will you use what you learned through that experience to contribute to the Wharton community? (400 words)
  • ISB: There will be 900 students in the class of 2021. Why should you be one of them? (400 words)

Leadership, Achievements & Impact Essay

mba essay on leadership

In this type of MBA essay, you usually have an opportunity to share a positive anecdote from your past to communicate your future potential to the admissions committee.

Some examples of such MBA essays include:

  • Darden: Please provide an example of a situation in which you made a meaningful impact (200 words)
  • INSEAD: Describe the achievement of which you are most proud and explain why

Video Essay

Video essays have been a relatively new innovation. These essays have an important distinction in that you may either have an opportunity to do retakes and submit your response in a considered manner or record your video impromptu.

These essays could demonstrate your executive presence and ability to think on your feet. These could give the admissions committee a chance to assess softer aspects of your candidacy like body language, communication skills, and presence of mind.

video mba essay

Some examples of such MBA essays include:

  • MIT Sloan (pre-recorded): Please introduce yourself to your future classmates via a brief 60-second video statement.
  • Kellogg (impromptu): What are your career aspirations? How will you fulfill them and how will Kellogg help you?

Helpful MBA Essay tips

The above list is not a mutually exclusive cumulatively exhaustive (MECE) list of MBA essays. The idea here is to introduce you to the different kinds of MBA essay questions.

I have seen cases where an applicant can come across as a totally different person from one school to another simply on the basis of the essay questions asked and the responses to those questions.

While applying, you may experience that the application process can be taxing. In this time of duress, you may be tempted to recycle content from one school’s MBA essay in another place.

In those cases, I recommend that you resist the temptation and write a new response, catered to the specific essay prompt for the business school, even if leveraging the same anecdote. This would allow you to put your best foot forward.

About the author

why mba

Nupur Gupta is a Wharton graduate and also the recipient of the Wharton India fellowship. She serves on the board of the US-based non-profit AIGAC, i.e. the Association for International Graduate Admissions Consultants. Nupur is also the founder of Crack The MBA, an MBA consulting firm that has a 95% success rate to leading business schools globally. To get in touch, please send your profile details to

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