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Why Your Personal Brand is the Key to an Effective MBA Essay

Posted by Chioma Isiadinso

Are you thinking about applying for an MBA? This is the time of year when application deadlines are rolling out and MBA candidates start to really think in depth about the application process. On paper, each of the MBA application elements are pretty simple: take a test or two, fill out an application, write some essays, get a recommendation or two, and do an interview.

But of course, with top business schools receiving thousands of applicants each year, the process is far less simple than it seems. For a truly effective MBA application, you need to think about what the admissions committee wants.


There are several important qualities that admissions committees are looking for in an MBA candidate: Leadership. Integrity. Ambition. And when they’re reading through application essays or conducting interviews, adcoms want to see applicants who present themselves with authenticity.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when writing your MBA essay is to tell the adcom what you think they want to hear. Your application essay shouldn’t read like a generic list of “good MBA applicant traits”. Admissions committees read thousands of application essays each year, and conduct hundreds of interviews. Not only are they not fooled by that kind of thing, they’re bored by it.

A generic essay is boring. It’s forgettable. If you want to stand out, be remembered, and improve your chances of getting admitted, you need to tell a story. Your story. And understanding your personal brand is the key to writing that story.

Stand Out from the MBA Applicant Crowd with a Compelling Personal Brand

 If you’ve done the research on your target business schools, you should have a good sense of what they’re looking for in their MBA candidates. Now it’s time to show how your background and skills make you an excellent candidate. And if you don’t want to write one of those boring, generic, forgettable essays, you need to be specific.

Developing your personal brand is all about introspection. What do you really value? What are your passions and your goals in life? What about your background, your childhood, your schooling, your career has helped to shape who you are today, and where you want to go in life? 

“Show, don’t tell” may be an overused phrase when it comes to writing advice, but it’s one that almost always applies. If you want the admissions committee to see that you are an ambitious person, you need to show them. What does ambition mean to you? How have you shown ambition throughout your life? What results have you achieved because of your ambition? Why has your ambition prompted you to apply for an MBA, and how do you expect it to carry you through school and beyond? 

These questions should guide you to think of examples and experiences in your life that serve as evidence that you really are an ambitious person. Developing your personal brand takes time; it’s not a ten-minute brainstorming session, but a real process of thinking through what motivates you, and what you want from your life and career.

If you’re planning to apply to business school, all this work is worth it. Developing a strong personal brand comes with a lot of advantages: 

-A clear and concise personal brand helps to cement you as a candidate in the admissions committee’s mind. They’ll understand your story and see how you’ll fit into the class they’re building.

-Understanding your brand makes it easier to choose recommenders, and will guide them in writing recommendations that reflect your message.

-Refining your personal brand will help you understand your own strengths, and gain the confidence that you belong at an elite business school. This is particularly valuable for non-traditional applicants, applicants who feel that their profile has weak areas like a low GPA or a lack of work experience, or applicants who don’t know how to stand out from the crowd of other candidates.

-Interviews are much easier and more effective when you’re well prepared with relevant examples from your experience and background. 

Your personal brand can provide you with a road map for the rest of the MBA application process. It might seem like a silly exercise at first, but if you’re considering applying to a top business school, I strongly urge you to invest the time into developing a personal brand. If you have more questions or would like the support of experienced admissions consultants as you refine your brand, EXPARTUS can help.

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