MBA essay tips from admissions consultant Petia Whitmore

Petia Whitmore is an MBA admissions consultant and founder of My MBA Path. In the second of our series of interviews with her, she gives her top MBA application essay tips and advice.

In short

Petia Whitmore – MBA essay tips

Petia’s top MBA essay tips

  1. Don’t write what you think the admissions team wants to read.
  2. Try to show them what type of person you are, what type of student you will be, and what type of alumni you will become.
  3. Write down the most important things you’ve accomplished and think about how they have shaped you. Remember that your essays are your stories.
  4. Ask for feedback from friends, family, and colleagues.
  5. Write, re-write, and edit. Time and repetition are key!

What the admissions committee really want to read about

The essays are often one part of the application that candidates almost agonize about. Some of them are not good writers, but even more importantly, I think what they sometimes get wrong is they try to write what they think the admissions committee wants to read. (00:03)

The thing is, the admissions committee really wants to read about who you are. They want to read your true story. They want to understand what kind of candidate you are, what kind of student you’re going to be, what kind of member of the student community you’re going to be, and then what kind of alumni you’re going to become. (00:25)

The ingredient at the heart of MBA essays

So, how do you get to the point where you can show your personality? It starts with reflection and it starts with your story. The first thing you can do is think of some examples of the most important things you’ve accomplished in your personal life and in your extracurricular activities. If you’ve done your homework and you’ve documented all of these examples, you’re not going to have that difficult a time answering the MBA essay questions. (00:45)

That’s because, at the heart of the essay questions, the schools are looking for examples of leadership, examples of impact, a story that demonstrates how you have been part of something bigger than yourself. If you have helped to develop others, support others, or create opportunities for other people in some way, then you should mention it. (01:25)

This is what truly needs to be in your essays. Your response is essentially going to be a story, so the most important part is to think about these stories throughout your life, how they have influenced you, and then to start writing about them. (01:56)

The value of patience when it comes to writing your MBA essays

The second ingredient is time and repetition. You’re not going to sit down and write this amazing essay in one day. You’re going to have to revisit it, you’re going to have to edit, you’re going to want some other people – friends, family, colleagues – to take a look at it and give you some feedback. (02:24)

Sometimes you’re even going to have to scrap it and start all over again. You’re going to have more than one version and, again, that requires time. (02:49)

Your MBA essays are your stories, and as every accomplished writer would tell you, they don’t appear at the snap of your fingers. Inspiration is a fickle friend, and finding it requires time and effort. (02:58)


Petia Whitmore was speaking to MBAGRADSCHOOL’s Nick Harland

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