The "Why Our School Essay" is your chance to convince admissions officers that their school is the perfect fit with what you are looking for in an MBA program. The best answers to these types of questions are both personal and specific. You need to effectively convey what you are looking for in an MBA program and tell the admissions committee why their school will best meet your needs. This Essay Professor lecture takes a closer look at the "Why Our School" 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 "Why Our School" Essay.
In one or more of your applications, you're almost sure to be asked why you believe you need an MBA and why you're applying to that particular school.
You can seriously undermine your chances for admission to a top tier program with a weak or generic answer to the "Why Our School" question.
Answering this essay question correctly begins with thoughtful research to decide which schools you'll apply to. It's going to take more than browsing the magazine rankings and spending a few minutes on each school's website. You need to explain at a deeper level what you're looking for in an MBA program and how the school you are applying to will best meet your needs.
In this Essay Professor lecture we'll show you the right way to answer this question. But -- because so many applicants submit generic, flawed answers to the "Why Our School" question, it's also worth spending a few moments examining an ineffective essay response.
In the caption on this slide, we've printed the essay answer of an aspiring MBA student. Pause the video for a moment and read his response:
This applicant will cut and paste this response into all of his applications, assuming he's adequately explained his motivations for applying. Months later, he'll scratch his head and wonder what went wrong when the "ding letters" start rolling in.
What's wrong with this essay answer? On the surface his reasons for applying to the school appear logical and he's said a number of flattering things about the program…
To understand the problems with this essay, put yourself in an admissions officer's shoes for a moment – would this essay response convince you that the applicant knows what sets your program apart from the others? Has he proved to you that your program is an excellent fit with his specific career goals, academic needs, and cultural expectations?
Answering the "Why Our School" essay effectively begins with selecting the schools you are going to apply to via thoughtful research.
If you have followed our entire MBA Prep Steps program you have already started the research you need to answer this essay question effectively. The research you completed in the school selection phase will pay-off now because you can use your findings to create the content for an excellent answer to the "Why Our School" essay.
If you haven't started your school research then you have some work to do before you're best prepared to proceed with this video.
The best answers to these types of essay questions are both personal and specific. They are personal because they cover the unique challenges that you need to prepare for given your short-term and long-term career goals. They are specific because they draw distinct connections between your motivations for an MBA and the specific resources that particular school has to offer. An excellent response will prove that you don't just want an MBA, you want an MBA from that particular school! Let's look at the scoring criteria for an outstanding Why Our School essay.
Our Essay Professor Scoring Chart™ will help you understand the characteristics of an outstanding "Why Our School" 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.
First off, it's important for you to know that admissions officers tend to use the "Why Our School" essay question as a test of your decision making abilities and your ability to communicate your rationale for a decision. These skills are obviously very important to succeeding in business school and as a business leader in the future. Therefore, our first scoring criteria is whether or not your essay expresses crystal clear reasons for pursuing an MBA at that school. By this stage in your application process, you should have the building blocks of a convincing case for pursuing an MBA at this particular school. Now it's time to argue that case on paper for the admissions officers. Your overarching objective is to persuade admissions officers that attending this program will benefit you tremendously – not just any student, but you specifically.
To understand the second scoring criterion, refer back to the the example in the previous slide about what not to do – don't cut-and-paste boiler plate reasons for why you want an MBA. Instead, show admissions officers that you truly understand the school's unique resources and culture. "Boiler plate" answers like I'm applying because you have great professors, an amazing student body, and a powerful alumni network – just won't cut it. Look carefully at each point in your essay outline – if you can make the same point about any top MBA program then you haven't tailored your essay enough to prove to the ad comm that you value what their school has to offer.
Building on that idea, write about the classes, clubs, professors, and special programs that matter most to you. If you turn in an essay that sounds like a strategic analysis of the competitive advantages of the program or like bullet points on the admission website you'll have missed the mark entirely. The things that are different about the school should be connected to your specific learning goals -- the new skills, knowledge, and experiences you'll acquire in the program that will help you to succeed in the future. If you have worked through our complete MBA Prep Steps program, it's time to take advantage of the Capabilities Inventory you created as part of the Career Goals exercises. Armed with a clear understanding of your learning agenda, tell admissions officers how you plan to close those gaps once you are a student at their school.
If you've done your school due diligence, then you've taken a number of active steps to get to know the program. However, name dropping the professors, students, or alumni you've spoken to won't help. Instead, tell them what you learned in your school research that really impressed you and why.
Next, once you have a complete draft consider the tone of your essay – have you expressed excitement and enthusiasm? Your emotional and personal reasons for applying can be just as convincing as the logical ones.
Finally, we will talk more about "what you plan to contribute" as a student in another Essay Professor lecture but keep in mind that this essay offers another opportunity to share plans for being an active contributor on campus. For example, if you write about a student club that appeals to you also tell the admissions officers how you might make the club even better as a student leader.
As you have with the other Essay Professor courses, use the Scoring Chart to test the quality of the points in your outline and to improve upon them before you start writing. You have a great deal to accomplish with a limited number of words so ensure that each message is making an impact before trying to create your rough draft.
Let's take a look at the content building blocks for an outstanding "Why Our School" essay.
The central message of the Essay Scoring Chart is that you need to make your "Why Our School" essay points personal, specific, and convincing. The trick is to synthesize your learning goals -- the new skills, knowledge, experience, and relationships you will need to succeed in your future career – with what impressed you about the school -- the academic programs, Professors, Student Organizations, special programs, and relationships that only this school can offer you.
In the next slide, we'll take a boilerplate response and show you how you can improve it by being both personal and specific:
Our case study applicant "Charles" plans to start a luxury retail goods company in the long-term. In general, Charles wants to focus his MBA studies on building marketing expertise but he specifically wants to acquire expertise in building a brand in the luxury retail sector. During his school research, he discovered that Columbia had a number of courses, professors, and resources that would address his learning goals. He then synthesized his career planning and school research to create points for his "Why Our School" essay.
First of all, Charles will go beyond boiler plate answers such as "I need to learn about marketing" and plans to write about the "Design and Marketing of Luxury Products Course" offered by Columbia.
Second, in lieu of a generic point about building relationships with his fellow students he will make the more specific point that Columbia is the ideal place to build relationships in the luxury retail sector given its location in New York, a global fashion hub. Furthermore, Columbia actually has a Retail and Luxury Goods Club and Charles aspires to be the President of that particular club.
Finally, whereas a weak essay refers vaguely to the appeal of "Top-Notch Professors "– Charles is going to write about plans to do a field study with the former CEO of Saks 5th Avenue who, he learned, is currently a visiting professor at Columbia.
So we hope this example convinces you of the power of synthesizing your development goals and conducting thorough school research. By doing so, you will have points for the "Why Our School" essay that are personalized to your development goals and tied to the school's unique attributes and resources.
In the self-study materials associated with this video, you will find an essay excerpt that show how Charles assembled his content building blocks into his "Why Our School" essay.
Review the sample essay carefully and then you can get to work outlining, drafting, scoring, and rewriting your own essay until you and your reviewers feel you have an outstanding "Why Our School" 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: "Why Our School" Essay
Tool: "Why Our School" Outline Template and Sample Essay