Now that Columbia has released its essay questions, you may be wondering about other schools. As we said on our Columbia MBA Essay Questions page, this year’s questions from this school are tweaked, but not overly different than what they’ve asked for years. Is that the case elsewhere?
Predicting where a school will go with its application strategy is a fairly useless pastime – ‘cuz like how does it matter when most people are not even thinking about writing essays yet?? – but it’s one we can never resist partaking in. It’s fun to see if we know the schools as well as we think we do! There are a few schools where it’s safe to predict that they will do one thing or another, and there’s others that are much more difficult to forecast. Most schools tend to at least tweak their questions every year, both to keep things fresh for their adcom readers who must get very tired of reading the same essays every day, and also of course to help keep BSers honest and not succumb to the trap of buying some book of “Winning MBA Essays!” and copying from there.
Even with the occasional tweaking, one school that’s been very stable and consistent in its essay questions for something like two decades now is Stanford. Their first essay question – “What matters most to you and why?” – has been an MBA application staple. (Of course, now that we call the GSB out on this, it could be the year that they finally change it! 🙂 Though we doubt that will happen.) Stanford essay 1 is also one of the hardest questions in the world, so even though Stanford is unlikely to move away from that essay, we do not suggest that you start working on it quite yet.
It’s probably safe to say that Stanford will also maintain a version of “Why Stanford?” as a second essay. They may tweak it in terms of length, or vary the wording, but that’s a pretty dependable one in the overall essay arsenal.
We wish that Stanford would bring back one of its behavioral questions as a third essay but we’re doubtful that will happen. These are questions that go like, “Tell us about a time when…” They would ask about how you had been effective in a team, or when you had to lead without a mandate, things like that. Those are great opportunities for BSers to share a story of significance yet few schools had these last year. It would be nice to see those questions come back.
While we’re on the subject and in case any adcom peeps are reading: Why not go back to a three-essay app? In the past two years, the trend was reduce reduce reduce, and many schools ended up with a one-essay app. Nice idea but not helpful to the applicants who struggle to express themselves. In the zeal to cut things down (which honestly is about making sure that the school’s app volumes don’t go down over “too many essays”), it seems that many schools may have gone too far. One unlimited-length essay could be perfectly fine if you happen to be named Harvard Business School… but that’s not where other schools ended up and we believe that it’s done a disservice to candidates. Not like we’re volunteering to critique more essays this season but we do believe that many candidates have felt short-changed in terms of what they have been able to share with the adcoms. More essays is not necessarily a bad thing.
OK, back to which schools may or may not change their apps:
Chicago Booth is likely to have a very similar set of requirements this year, with a free-form PowerPoint or written essay (plus maybe they’ll allow video now?).
Wharton will be focusing on the “Why MBA?” question again though they will be changing the wording that they use in asking it. Here’s another school where we hope they’ll add a second essay back into the mix – not multiple optional ones, but a real essay question that everyone answers.
Tuck is likely to stick with exactly what they had last year (at least, we hope so!).
Berkeley will probably tweak things a bit but they will (again, hopefully!) keep three essays – and we can only pray that they retain their excellent career goals question.
We’re doubtful this will happen but we’d love to see UCLA Anderson switch back to what they had for the 2013-’14 application season, which was a very straightforward question on goals. The 2014 change in the wording wasn’t so great, in our opinion. This is a school that we expect the essence of the question to be the same but the phrasing of the prompt to change. We don’t believe they will be increasing the number of essays from the one that they have had lately (a ‘Snark can dream).
NYU Stern is another consistent school, we don’t foresee any big changes there.
MIT Sloan is a tricky one. We were totally wrong last year, when we said that they would be ditching their woefully poorly-worded and nearly inscrutable question about their mission. They kept it. We have seen BSers struggle with the wording of that question more than any other in recent memory. Maybe that makes it easier on MIT, since they can quickly spot a quality essay and can just as quickly dismiss someone who couldn’t hack their way through the complexity. Perhaps admit decisions are thus simplified. Dunno. We’re guessing they’ll keep it again – and oh gawd hopefully not but probably they’ll stick with that “recommend yourself” one too (another question whose wording required BSers to contort themselves in trying to answer). We just don’t know.
We’re betting that Duke Fuqua keeps things just as they had last year. They created a winner some time back with their “25 Random Things” question and we don’t see that going away. Similarly, we’ll say the same about Cornell Johnson – they’ve had the “book of your life” variation for some time and we doubt that is going to change.
Schools that EssaySnark’s Prediction Engine says will definitely be changing essay questions:
- UVA Darden
We’re not expecting to see massive overhauls in those schools’ respective admissions strategies, but we are confident in saying that the actual questions will be different for 2015 for these six.
Moral of this story?
There is always value in reviewing the application requirements that your target school has laid out – yes, even in this between-season time, before the next season’s applications are released. This is because even though many schools change their essays from year to year, they almost never change what they’re looking for in a candidate.
Reviewing class profiles is critical to see where you stand against their current student body (just as long as you remember what the term “average” means). Understanding the other requirements in terms of transcripts and recommendations is also helpful, provided you don’t get too gung-ho in trying to literally secure those application assets too far ahead of time.
Of course, as soon as official word comes from any of these MBA programs, you’ll be first to hear about it here!
Want to get started on your MBA apps? We’re covering the basics to help you navigate this confusing world and make the most of this early-season time with the Class of 2018 Start Your Engines series!