There are always more qualified candidates than there are seats in the class. The "What Will You Contribute" Essay is your opportunity to tell the admissions committee why you would be a valuable addition to their next class. The secret to scoring top marks is to be both concrete and specific. This Essay Professor lecture takes a closer look at the "What Will You Contribute" Essay and provides you with the insights, tools, and examples you need to succeed.
First, we'll talk about why the admissions committee asks these kinds of questions and we'll share the characteristics of an outstanding answer, which we've summarized for you in an Essay Professor Scoring Chart.
Second, we will provide you with a set of Content Building Blocks for crafting a unique and powerful response of your own.
Finally, in the self-study materials you'll find an example essay, building block templates, and a scoring chart that you and your essay reviewers can use to evaluate your essay and plan your next draft.
You will have everything you need to create an outstanding essay!
So let's talk about the "What Will You Contribute" Essay.
One of the secrets to developing powerful MBA essays is starting with a thorough understanding of who you are, what your strengths are, and what you have to offer the schools you're applying to.
Directly and indirectly, admission committees will be asking: "What will you contribute to our school if accepted?"
There are always more qualified candidates than there are seats in the class; so the admissions committee wants to know what you can bring to the table. In this Essay Professor Course, we will teach you an approach to answering this type of question.
The key to an outstanding essay is to convey what we will call your "Points of Difference", or PODs for short. Points of Difference is actually a marketing term that refers to the positive ways in which a company's product differs from its competitors. Used in this context, your PODS are the positive ways that you are different than other applicants. PODs capture the essence of who you are, what you've experienced, what you stand for, and what you can contribute to the class.
We recognize that it can be challenging to think about yourself and your experiences objectively. Those of you who are following our complete MBA Prep Steps program should have completed the self-assessment exercises at the outset of the process to identify your leadership capabilities, points of difference, and character strengths. If you haven't yet completed those exercises you should do so now because the outputs from those exercises will provide inputs not only for this essay but also for your resume, recommendation letters, and interview answers. You can also do self-assessment exercises on your own without the help of the MBA Prep School tools.
Either way, we are going to help you to understand the characteristics of an outstanding "What Will You Contribute" essay and show you how to shape the messages you come up with into convincing points that will persuade the admissions committee that you will be an excellent addition to the class.
Your essay will be evaluated across a few different dimensions, but keep in mind that mission one is writing an essay that represents the best of who you are and persuades the admissions committee that you will be a valuable addition to next year's class. Let's take a look at the Essay Professor Scoring Chart™ for the "What Will You Contribute" Essay.
Our Essay Professor Scoring Chart™ will help you understand the characteristics of an outstanding "What Will You Contribute" Essay. You should pause the video, and download the scoring chart for this essay now.
You will use the Essay Professor Scoring Chart™ in two important ways. First, you should use it to help you choose between the various essay topics you are considering. Second, after you've selected your essay topic, you will use the Scoring Chart at each stage of your writing process to identify opportunities for improvement. You should continue your drafting until you've created an essay that you deem to be "outstanding."
Let's briefly review the characteristics on the scoring chart for this essay.
The first thing to understand is that this essay serves as a test of self-awareness and maturity. The best way to ensure that you display a high-degree of self-awareness is to invest a great deal of time and care in crafting this essay. In my experience, every candidate has a number of unique things they might contribute, but it often takes work to identify and articulate what those things might be. Self-awareness is hard-won, which means you can't rush the process and you must work at it.
The second scoring criteria is related to the first – it has to do with the substance of your essay. When taken as a whole, does the essay portray you as a well-rounded individual with diverse interests and life experiences? Will your essay have an admissions officer thinking "This candidate seems really interesting – I'd like to meet him or her?" or have you written an essay that is indistinguishable from the thousands of others the admissions officers read every year. These essay questions are an invitation to express your unique personality, perspective, and values -- what we called a moment ago your Points of Difference. Your life experiences, how they've shaped your perspectives, and could benefit your classmates are gifts that only you can give. To build on that point, remember that admissions committees want to get to know you as a total person – don't make this essay all about your professional persona and work accomplishments.
Another flaw that we frequently see in these essays is that they are chocked full of messages (or we might call them bullet points) about how the applicant is unique but the messages don't go far enough in explaining to the reader how these differences might be of value to the class. Don't leave it up to the admissions officers to figure out how your attributes and life experiences will benefit your classmates. We will share a technique for addressing this problem in the Content Building Blocks section up next.
Providing examples of how you've contributed in the past is a great way to convince the admissions committee that you'll be a "giver" as a student. Does the evidence you present in the essay portray you as someone who enriches the lives of the people you've interacted with in the past? If possible, weave in examples in which you've made the communities you've been a part of that much stronger. If you can do that then the admissions office is likely to conclude that you will enrich their MBA community if accepted.
However, this essay isn't only about what you've contributed in the past -- concrete messages about what you plan to contribute to the school if accepted are very important. Too many candidates answer this question with vague generalities: "I'll be a student leader" or "I can offer diversity to my classmates." I'm never sure what they mean by statements like those. The schools are looking for candidates who plan to get involved and make a difference once accepted. Share a few specifics of your plans for doing so.
A final red flag to watch out for is the tone of your essay. Finding the right balance between explaining how you shine and bragging can sometimes be tricky. Ask your reviewers to keep an eye out for spots where you might have crossed the line into bragging.
In the Content Building Blocks section for this essay, which we'll cover next, we are going to show you how to shape messages about what makes unique into into effective points about what you will contribute to the class if accepted.
At this point in the process, if you completed your self-assessment work with MBA Prep School's help or on your own, you have the raw materials for an outstanding "What Will You Contribute" essay. When taken together, your Points of Difference make you a candidate who is unlike any other.
The important thing to understand is that the list of things that are unique about you are not your contributions but rather they relate to your potential to contribute. What you need to do now is to take your output from the self-assessment exercises and shape those ideas into benefits to the program and your classmates. As I mentioned, too many candidates answer in vague generalities: "I've traveled extensively" or "I am an outgoing person." Recall our definition of Points of Difference – they aren't just differences, they are differences that other people, namely your MBA classmates, will value.
In short, the secret to scoring top marks with your "What Will You Contribute" Essay is to be both concrete and specific.
You are unique – but don't stop there -- the question to ask yourself is: "How could these different, interesting, and unusual things about you benefit the program and your future classmates?
As you work through your list, you will discover that some of the unique things about you may not easily translate into benefits to your classmates. The ones you want to concentrate on in your essay are those that will. You may have to be creative in your translation work as we'll see in our example in a moment.
For each benefit you come up with the final step is to customize those benefits for the MBA Program you are applying to.
The building block question is: "In what concrete ways can I deliver those benefits if am accepted by the school I'm I applying for?"
Don't make the admissions officers infer how you will deliver the benefit you are promising – tell them directly.
This essay is about painting a picture of the kind of student you will be if accepted; furthermore, you show your knowledge of the program by specifying the ways you can get involved.
I like to tell applicants about my client who was a professionally trained singer who had participated in musical theater her whole life. She didn't think there was any point in mentioning this until she found out that Wharton has an acappella group called the Whartones and that the Wharton Follies, an annual student produced show that is one of the centerpieces of Wharton's social programs, was pure musical theater. Suddenly, she had an interesting and memorable talent to talk about that could specifically benefit her future classmates.
Let me just emphasize that If you know the name of Wharton's acappella choir, do you think there will be an doubt in the ad comm's mind that you've done your school research and are sincerely interested in going to Wharton? Probably not.
Let's take a look at how another MBA Prep School student translated his Points of Difference into essay points:
Travis, our example applicant, completed his self-assessment work and identified three points of difference that he'd like to focus on in his "What Will You Contribute" essay:
--First, he was army brat who moved to a new city every three years growing up.
--Second, as a professional, he has done extensive work on alternative energy and recently published a study on the business models that alternative energy companies are pursuing.
--Finally, as the community service coordinator for his firm, he has developed an ability to motivate his busy colleagues to help others.
The outputs of the self-assessment exercise become the inputs to this essay. Let's look at how Travis shaped the first of these three points – the fact that he was an army brat -- into a content building block for his essay.
"Travis" started with a somewhat unique feature about his childhood -- he was an army brat and had moved to a new city every three years when he was growing up.
Now that's interesting, but he needed to ask himself how this aspect of his life experience might be a benefit to his classmates.
After some thinking he realized that his army brat upbringing had taught him how to build new friendships quickly wherever he went, he was quite adept at breaking the ice and making friends; so he could help his new classmates connect.
Travis now had a Point of Difference that would enrich the Kellogg community, but he still had one more step to go to customize that contribution to Kellogg.
After some research, Travis learned that first years at Kellogg could volunteer for the entering student orientation committee – that committee definitely needed outgoing members who could help newly arriving students get to know one another – Travis wrote in his essay that he'd like to serve on this committee first year and to lead the committee by second year.
As you can see, Travis now has the makings of a very solid essay point about one of the ways he could contribute to the Kellogg community. His answer will be both concrete and specific.
So we've covered one example of how this candidate translated a Point of Difference into a tailored benefit for the school he was applying to.
In the self-study materials you will see how he translated the other two points into concrete, specific benefits and then wove these together into a "What Will You Contribute" Essay for his Kellogg application.
Review the sample essay carefully and then you should get to work outlining, drafting, scoring, and rewriting your own essay until you and your advisors feel you have an outstanding "What Will You Contribute" Essay for your application.
In addition to our core videos and transcripts, as a free registered member you can:
- Track your progress through each application module;
- Follow our specific "Next Step Actions" to keep you focused on the most critical tasks each step of the way;
- Receive our Essay Writing Bootcamp email course; and
- Listen to recordings from our Premium Member Q&A sessions.
Reference: Lecture Slides and Speaker Notes
Tool: Essay Professor Scoring Chart: "What Will You Contribute"
Tool: "What Will You Contribute" Outline Template and Sample Essay