MBA Programs

Lesson Nine: Getting Personal


The Admissions Essay Prep Leader shares essay writing strategies and samples that will help you gain entrance to your first choice business school. For more free essay writing advice and for help with your admissions essay, visit EssayEdge.com
 
Business School Statement Strategies
Why MBA?
Contribution and Diversity
Accomplishments
Leadership
Hobbies and Interests
Role Models and Influence
Failure
Ethical Dilemma
Getting Personal
Wait-list Follow-up
Transfer Essays

Getting Personal

If we had met you five years ago and then met you again today, how would we say that you have changed? Include specific examples that characterize your development. (Sloan)

In thirty to forty years, when you reflect back on your life, what criteria will you use when judging if you have been successful? What are the main achievements/events that you hope will have taken place? (Anderson)

Please provide us with a summary of your personal and family background. Include information about where you grew up, your parents' occupations, your siblings, and perhaps a highlight or special memory from your youth. (Anderson)

Each of us has been influenced by the people, events, and situations occurring in our lives. How have these influences shaped who you are today? (Stanford)

What seminal influences or experiences, broadly defined (a book, teacher, friend, relative, sojourn, hobby, and so forth), have especially contributed to your personal development? What correlation, if any, does your personal development have to your professional goals? (Berkeley)

Describe yourself and the significant events that have shaped you. (Michigan)

All essay questions, as we have already mentioned, are a way for the admissions committee to learn more about you personally. The getting personal questions just ask more directly than others. They give you a direct opportunity to speak for yourself. They can be tricky, though, because they are often extremely open-ended.

Be selective. You cannot include every detail about yourself, so you have to pick wisely. Some applicants want to tell everything, fearful that they will leave out a crucial detail on which their acceptance, and future, could hinge. Do not give in to this temptation. Instead, focus on one or two significant qualities or characteristics that give the admissions committee genuine insight into you.

Many of the questions in this category are worded creatively or ask you to use your imagination. This is intended to get you to loosen up and be yourself. If the question takes you off guard, let it-it means the committee is looking for an unguarded answer. This makes many applicants uncomfortable. They try to present themselves objectively but end up distancing themselves from the subject matter with overly long words and a dry, academic tone. This is a grave mistake since the whole point of this essay is to reveal something about yourself. Therefore, put your heart into this essay.

This category does not have one standard question-every school asks it in a different way. Although each school's question will differ from the next, most of the personal questions still fit into one of three categories: personal development, personal goals, or personal background and influence. If you are having trouble with a specific question, try to approach it from the vantage point of one of these categories. See if the tips and advice given below help.

Personal Development

If we had met you five years ago and then met you again today, how would we say that you have changed? Include specific examples that characterize your development.

This question tries to find out about you by asking how you have grown and developed over the past few years. Making you compare yourself at two different stages of your life is a clever way to get you to open up about who you really are. Although you do want to show that you have matured, remember that the child is father of the man. Do not overplay what a terrible person you once were just to make the point of what a great person you are now. No one changes that much in five years. Do, however, highlight one or two turning points or significant events, and show how they have affected you. They need not be dramatic, just personally meaningful. Also remember to show that you took a proactive as well as a reactive role in your own development. How did your growth result from the decisions you made and the actions you took? Significant events and people can serve as inspiration, but real change always results from the work, effort, and initiative you have put into yourself.

Personal Goals

In thirty to forty years, when you reflect back on your life, what criteria will you use when judging if you have been successful? What are the main achievements/events that you hope will have taken place?

This question, although worded creatively, really just asks you what goals you have set for your personal life. The only difference is that you will talk about your goals in the past tense, as though they have already happened. The inevitable question here (especially for women) becomes, is it OK to say that I want a family? If that truly is a goal (and it is for most people), then yes, of course you can write about it. Admissions officers have a grasp on reality and they understand that, business person or not, most people end up married and with children. To expect otherwise would be unrealistic and naive.

Not mentioning marriage and family is fine, too. If the subject makes you uncomfortable, leave it out. Because it is expected, it is often left unsaid. You might want to focus instead on one or two unique goals of yours. Do you want to have traveled to a certain place, climbed a specific mountain, or run the Boston Marathon by then? Perhaps you have smaller goals, like learning to play the piano or cook a gourmet meal.

Many people look at their goals from a grander scale by choosing overriding themes like philanthropy and discussing the ways in which they hope the theme will have come into fruition. No matter what you choose, show that you have a realistic goal and not just a pipe dream. Either outline a game plan or prove that you have already taken the first steps toward making the goals come true. Most important of all, do not forget to mention the role that your business career will have had in helping you attain your goals and lead a fulfilling personal life. Goals can be personal and still include your career.

Personal Background and Influence

Please provide us with a summary of your personal and family background. Include information about where you grew up, your parents' occupations, your siblings, and perhaps a highlight or special memory from your youth. (Anderson)

Each of us has been influenced by the people, events, and situations occurring in our lives. How have these influences shaped who you are today? (Stanford)

What seminal influences or experiences, broadly defined (a book, teacher, friend, relative, sojourn, hobby, and so forth), have especially contributed to your personal development? What correlation, if any, does your personal development have to your professional goals? (Berkeley)

Describe yourself and the significant events that have shaped you. (Michigan)

This type of question is similar to the role model question. It attempts to learn more about you through the forces that have shaped you. Many applicants mistakenly believe that this is an essay about a trip, a person, or a pastime. They go on at length, describing the influence in detail, without making a connection between it and themselves. The school is not interested in learning more about a dear relative, a memorable holiday, or a motivational book. They are interested in learning more about you. Demonstrate which qualities of the person or experience under discussion have influenced you and in what ways.

What specific aspect(s) of the book, person, or event made an impression on you and how? What action did you take to turn this impression into personal development and change? This is the key. You must make clear that the influence had an identifiable impact. Did your uncle's willingness to take risks and ability to bounce back from failure inspire you to pick up and move on after a personal setback? Did a trip to a factory in a third-world country cause you to reconsider your position about child labor laws? This is the type of information business schools seek when they ask this question.

A question can be daunting when it asks you to describe your family background. No family is ideal. You need not have had 1.5 siblings, a dog, and a white picket fence in order to write comfortably about your family. In fact, a unique background will set you apart. Still, this is no place to air dirty laundry. If this question has you staring uncomfortably at a blank page, then stop thinking about trying to describe your entire family history in a few paragraphs. Just think of two or three defining moments or interesting incidents. Concentrate on bringing them to life. You will then find that by focusing on the parts, you have painted an accurate picture of the whole.

SAMPLE ESSAY:

Note: This essay appears unedited for instructional purposes. Essays edited by EssayEdge are substantially improved. For samples of EssayEdge editing, please visit EssayEdge.com.

If we had met you five years ago and then met you again today, how would we say that you have changed? Include specific examples that characterize your development. 

Five years ago I was twenty years old, just finishing up my first semester of my sophomore year in school. I had curly blond hair down to my waist and had never worked a full-time job in my life. I had only been out of the country two times. I found the white, preppy uniformity of Georgetown to be familiar and comforting.

Now I live in a rowdy, crazy, colorful, slightly shady neighborhood in Washington, D.C.; I couldn't get out of Georgetown fast enough after graduation. I love to walk down the street and see men in dresses or the Rastas who sit in front of Safeway vending incense and such. I lived and traveled abroad for a full year. I've had a Real Job for over two and a half years. And the further I get from school the more I rediscover a creative spirit that was dormant for four years-I love to paint and draw and write now, which I didn't do at all during college.

But the biggest changes have been in how I relate to my work and the people around me. In the past five years, I learned that the most important achievement in life is to be truly happy. And reaching that goal, for me, required that I try looking at the world with a new view.

I learned how to learn. I was never much of a student-I did the minimum amount of work required to get good grades, and rarely more. That lasted until I was studying at the London School of Economics. The first paper I handed in there came back with a D and comments that indicated the professor felt actual pity and concern for a student of my low caliber. I found out quickly that the study methods I had used throughout my life were not acceptable at the LSE. Rather than just memorizing the notes of the professor's lecture, and my highlighted notes from the textbook, I actually had to use the list of 10-15 books that accompanied each day's lecture, do my own research on the topic, and genuinely understand the concepts in question, backwards and forwards. It was exhilarating. I regretted all the wonderful courses and professors I had wasted in the past. I began my senior year at Georgetown with a new enthusiasm, and ended my fall semester with my first 4.0.

I've learned to enjoy the small moments of joy that every day contains. I've learned that it's okay to pass up one party, because another is sure to come along. Right after my freshman year in school I spent a summer in Boston caring for my sister and her two-year-old son after she had surgery. Basically, every moment I spent in domestic activity was a small hell for me. I was sure that the city held wonders untold, but I was chained inside, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, reading "Once Upon A Potty" over and over and over. This year, as I visited my sister for Christmas, I was cast into the Mommy role again when she hurt her knee skiing. This time I relished every minute of it. I played chess with the seven-year-old, and tried to teach the two-month-old to say "Elvis". I delivered cups of tea and bags of ice to my fallen sister, and whipped up a special pot of soup for everyone when we all came down with the same cold. I let my brother-in-law hide in a corner with my nice new laptop. I was actually glad that I barely left the house. I've mellowed out.

I've learned to forgive myself. I'm always my own worst critic, especially when I made mistakes. I could torment myself with a past failure for weeks. But in my current job I've had the chance to fall on my face several times, and to see that the world does not stop turning when I do. One of my bosses has a motto: "Let's turn this negative into a positive"-in his world, there is no failure because there is always a lesson to be learned, at the very least. After a couple of years of being subjected to this unrelenting optimism, I finally yielded and accepted it. I learned that time spent worrying over a mistake is wasted time-instead, I should be figuring out how to correct the mistake and move on.

I've learned to be a positive member of the team. Attitude counts. I will admit that I used to indulge myself in the occasional prima donna fit. I was aware of my value at the company, that there were many things that only I knew how to do, and I played on it to get my way. But this past summer I worked with a vendor, the owner of a mailhouse, who changed my whole way of thinking. Though the work that her company did was timely and basically error-free, dealing with this woman drove me up a wall. She had no concept of customer service-any error that her mailhouse made was somehow our fault. She would not take responsibility for mistakes, she refused to do little things that would have saved us money or made our job easier, and I could never get her off the phone before her life story came out. So even though the mailhouse produced quality work, I will not be using them again next year because working with her was so unpleasant. This taught me an important lesson: it doesn't matter how good your work is-if you're a pain to work with, that's what people remember and react to. Since then I've endeavored to present a consistently pleasant face to my coworkers; whenever I feel a little cranky, I hear the voice of Melissa and just relax.

In five years, I've grown more confident, more secure, and more at ease. I wouldn't say I'm a different person that I was at twenty, but I'm definitely an improved version. Plus-the biggest change of all-I'm a brunette now.

 

From ESSAYS THAT WILL GET YOU INTO BUSINESS SCHOOL, by Amy Burnham, Daniel Kaufman, and Chris Dowhan.  Copyright 1998 by Dan Kaufman.  Reprinted by arrangement with Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

 


© Copyright 2002-2017 MBA Programs - All Rights Reserved
 
 

MBA programs

School Rankings
GMAT Test
TOEFL Test
Admissions Essays
Study Tips