MBA Application Deadlines and Essay Question Analyses: An Overview of 2018-19

The 2018-2019 MBA application season is well under way. Most schools have released this year’s deadlines and many have released or confirmed the application essays. Here is a round up from Personal MBA Coach along with some tips for tackling the released essay questions.

HBS, Yale SOM, LBS, Kellogg and Stanford have all chosen to leave their questions unchanged this year. Others, including Wharton, Booth, Columbia, Stern and Ross have changed things up for this year’s group of hopefuls.

Here’s the summary of all 2018-2019 MBA Application Deadlines:

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Read on for Personal MBA Coach Founder Scott Edinburgh’s tips on tackling this year’s questions.


Harvard Business School first kicked off the application season with an announcement that the application question will remain the same for class of 2021 hopefuls (as below):

“As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA Program?”

This is an open invitation to tell HBS what is truly interesting about your profile. This question allows you to hone in on what is important and unique, without feeling the need to discuss every aspect of your profile. While it is recommended that most applicants show their professional accomplishments, make sure to share enough so that the admissions committee can learn more about you on a personal level.

Successful essays often include some sort of personal anecdote at a minimum and often a much more detailed personal story. Here are some tips to handling HBS’s essay question.

Chicago Booth 

Chicago Booth has made some major changes this year by replacing the Booth Moments with two new essay questions:

“How will the Booth MBA help you achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA career goals?”

“Chicago Booth immerses you in a choice-rich environment. How have your interests, leadership experiences, and other passions influenced the choices in your life? “

There’s also an optional question for candidates:

“Is there any unclear information in your application that needs further explanation?”

As is expected, all questions have word limits. The word limit for the optional question (300 words maximum) differs from the limit on the other two questions (250 words minimum).

Stay tuned for Personal MBA Coach’s take on these questions (to be out soon)!


For the first time in 3 years, Wharton has changed the second essay question, while keeping the first one unchanged:

“What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA?” (500 words)

“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) 

The new question is good news, because it gives you a chance to cover three things. Personal MBA Coach advises that all candidates consider each of these three areas as they draft the essay.

First, you can share additional information about yourself that will further illuminate your unique strengths that essentially make you stand out. Here’s another article you might want to refer for help with that.

Second, by sharing your learning from this experience, you will be able to show a bit about your character as well as how you are able to adapt to and grow from situations.

Finally, the question allows you the chance to tell admissions committee members specifically how you will add value on campus.

Some tips on tackling this year’s questions for Wharton here.


Stanford, as expected, did not change the essay questions this year:

“What matters most to you, and why?” (750 words suggested )

“Why Stanford?” (400 words suggested )

This challenging first question requires candidates to speak from the heart. As Stanford advises, think more about your values here and WHY you made the choices you have made, rather than WHAT you have done.

The best way to begin here is to do some serious soul searching! Focus on being yourself vs. writing what you think the admissions committee wants to hear. Check-out Stanford’s complete tips on this question and stay tuned for a more detailed analysis from Personal MBA Coach.

Yale SOM 

Yale School of Management has released its essay for the 2018-2019 application year, leaving the question unchanged for the third year in a row:

“Describe the biggest commitment you have ever made” (500 words)

As you craft your essay, keep in mind that Yale strives to “educate leaders for business and society.”

With a passionate and committed student body, Yale takes pride in the small group learning teams and close-knit community. This question gives candidates a chance to provide admissions committee members with a glimpse of who they are and what matters to them, confirming they can and will live up to the school’s lofty mission. Check out this post for an in-depth understanding of Yale’s question and how you can use it to show your unique story.

Michigan Ross

Ross has made some minor changes this year to the school’s MBA application essays. While the three short answer prompts remain, Ross has narrowed the choices and altered the career goals essay.

Part 1: Short Answer Questions:

“Select a prompt from each group of the three groups. Respond to your selected prompt in 100 words or fewer” (<100 words each; 300 words total) 

Group 1
· I want people to know that I:
· I made a difference when I:

Group 2
· I was humbled when:
· I am out of my comfort zone when:

Group 3
· I was aware that I am different when:
· I find it challenging when people:

Part 2: Essay

“Michigan Ross is a place where people from all backgrounds with different career goals can thrive. Please share your short-term career goal. Why is this the right choice for you?” (300 words).

For the short career goals essays, there is a lot to cover in a small amount of space. As advised, be straightforward here. If you need help thinking through your goals, find some of Personal MBA Coach’s tips here.


This year, Columbia has updated questions two and three, while leaving the first question unchanged.

Essay 1:”Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next 3 – 5 years and what, in your imagination, would be your long-term dream job?” (500 words)

Columbia again specifically asks that candidates not repeat their resumes in this career goals question. While some mention of your past is still expected, it should be brief and used as context to further elaborate on why your goals are attainable. This question explicitly asks for both a short-term goal and a long-term dream job so be sure to include both.

Essay 2:”How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? Please watch this short video featuring Dean Glenn Hubbard. “(250 Words)

This question was asked two years ago, but with a longer word limit. Now, with only 250 words and a lot to potentially cover, it is important to be focused and specific.

Essay 3: “Please provide an example of a team failure of which you have been a part.  If given a second chance, what would you do differently?” (250 Words)

Unlike in past years, essay 3 does not ask about your personal interests. Instead, by asking about a team failure and what you would change, Columbia is probing into both your teamwork and leadership skills. It is important to show how you are and can be a team player while remaining humble and willing to grow.

Be sure not to repeat yourself across the essays and try to have all three work together to paint an accurate and consistent picture of your candidacy. Advice on how to blend together your story for Columbia on Personal MBA Coach’s blog.

London Business School

The first essay is a straightforward career goals essay. Candidates will be best served thinking about it in three distinct parts, all of similar weight.  The second is optional.

Essay 1: “What are your post-MBA goals and how will your prior experience and the London Business School program contribute towards these?” (500-word limit)

Explain your goals in a way that accounts for both your short-term and long-term goals. Succinctly discuss your career to date, and explain why LBS!

Essay 2 (optional): “Is there any other information you believe the Admissions Committee should know about you and your application to London Business School?” (500-word limit)

Everyone will have a different approach to this optional question and there is no one right topic. Instead, think about your best selling point(s) and cover that/them here. This is the chance to tell LBS a bit more about you, who you are and what makes you unique. See Personal MBA Coach’s in depth analysis here.

NYU Stern

This year Stern has cut back to two questions, both of which were asked last year. The career goals question and the school’s unique “Pick Six” have remained.

Essay 1: Professional Aspirations (500 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font)

•    What are your short and long-term career goals?
•    How will the MBA help you achieve them?

Essay 2: Personal Expression (a.k.a. “Pick Six”)

Describe yourself to the Admissions Committee and to your future classmates using six images and corresponding captions. Your uploaded PDF should contain all of the following elements:

•    A brief introduction or overview of your “Pick Six” (no more than 3 sentences).
•    Six images that help illustrate who you are.
•    A one-sentence caption for each of the six images that helps explain why they were selected and are significant to you.

Check-out this blog from last year which includes Personal MBA Coach’s thoughts for addressing each of these questions.


Kellogg’s questions also remain unchanged this year.

Essay 1: “Kellogg’s purpose is to educate, equip & inspire brave leaders who create lasting value.  Tell us about a time you have demonstrated leadership and created lasting value.  What challenges did you face, and what did you learn?” (450 words)

Most candidates are likely to share a professional story with this first essay. However, strong leadership examples in your extra-curricular activities could also work well here. Be sure to think of a significant undertaking where you can clearly demonstrate the value you added.

Essay 2: “Pursuing an MBA is a catalyst for personal and professional growth. How have you grown in the past? How do you intend to grow at Kellogg?” (450 words)

This essay is fairly straightforward and is a great opportunity to talk about unique and impressive aspects of both your personal and professional background. There is a lot to discuss here and a short word limit so choose your words very carefully. Think about projects at work that stretched you, required you to tackle a fear or particular area of weakness or demanded that you learn a new skill.

For a more detailed and customized plan, and individualized support with various aspects of the MBA application process such as early planning, school selection, essay editing or interview preparation, visit Personal MBA Coach.

This article has been re-published from Personal MBA Coach’s blog.


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