Laptop illustration on maroon background with yellow pencil bulb

How to Prepare for Your Written and Video Essays

Monday, October 18, 2021

There are many crucial steps in the MBA application process, and one that can sometimes be overlooked is the essay or personal statement portion. While all application materials are taken into consideration, this portion of the process allows you to highlight your authentic self and connect all the components of your application into one cohesive story.

When you apply to a business school, they want to know about you. You’re more than a GMAT score and a resume, and the essay or personal statement portion of your application is the best way for you to showcase who you are and what you would bring to a business school program. Below are some examples of what might be included in this portion of the application as well as some tips to get you started.


Written Essay and Personal Statement

A written essay or personal statement is a chance for the business school to get to know you more closely. Most universities will give you a prompt, some guidelines, and the rest is up to you. Each prompt will likely be different for this written portion, with some business schools asking about your career goals, how you can add to their school’s community, your previous experiences, or more.

For example, the Carlson School’s MBA and Master's programs personal essay statement could ask you to address the following (or something similar):

  • Why are you choosing to pursue a graduate at this time in your career? What are you hoping to accomplish by doing so?
  • What excites you about being part of the Carlson School graduate program? Do you have an enterprise program that you are currently interested in and why?
  • Can you tell us about how you have participated in and/or advocated for building more inclusive communities in your career?

So what makes for the best-written essays? Here are five tips to get you started.

  1. Be authentic. Business schools want to learn about YOU. Schools aren’t looking for just one answer, so make sure your personality shines through in your writing.
  2. Talk about real-life examples. Adding specific anecdotes and details can have a tremendous impact.
  3. Don’t just repeat your resume. Business schools have already seen your resume and your other materials, so use the essay as a way to expand on why you would be a great fit for the school. You can build on things that are mentioned on your resume, but make sure it’s additive to the rest of your application.
  4. If you’re a unique applicant to a business school, play it up. Business schools across the country are looking to diversify their programs, and that includes people from unique backgrounds or who have an unorthodox path to getting an MBA.
  5. Sell yourself. Ultimately, the essay portion of your application is your chance to sell yourself to a business school. Offer a convincing argument about why you would be a great fit for a particular school. Be sure to highlight what you will bring to the table and make sure your can-do attitude shows through.

Video Essays

In addition to written essays, some business schools also include a video essay portion of the application process. Think of this as a short elevator pitch where you’re answering a 'getting to know you' question with a member of the admissions team.

For instance, at the Carlson School, you will be asked one impromptu question from a bank of imaginative or behavioral questions selected by the school’s admissions team. You will then be given two minutes to prepare for an answer and then two minutes to record an answer.

Video essays are another great way for you to show a business school your individuality. Here are three tips for this portion of the process:

  1. Be yourself. Programs are using this format as a way to get to know you, your personality, and how you would fit at the school. The best video essays reveal the applicant’s personality.
  2. Practice, practice, practice. While students applying for the Carlson School only get one attempt at recording themselves, you can practice responding to the impromptu questions offline with a friend or colleague. Make sure you’re answering the questions directly and staying within the timeframe.
  3. Don’t study too hard. The video essay questions are assigned at random, so while you should practice cadence and timing, it is not recommended you memorize all of the questions. Remember, you want to share your experiences, not a script!
  4. Relax. The video essay is often one of the last pieces of your application. Your GMAT, letters of recommendation, and most of your application is finished. All the hard work is done, so take a deep breath to help you not come across as nervous in your video.