With the release of essays by Columbia and Stanford, we are officially in the midst of b-school application season 2012. If you somehow missed the major essay releases, here they are for your viewing pleasure:
What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (200 characters maximum)
Why are you pursuing an MBA at this point in your career, and how do you plan to achieve your immediate and long term post-MBA professional goals? (Maximum 500 words)
Please view this video, entitled Community at Columbia. Diverse, tight-knit clusters and carefully selected learning teams are defining features of the first year at Columbia Business School. Along with more than 100 student organizations and countless events each semester, the cluster system helps to create a supportive and devoted lifelong community. Describe why you are interested in becoming a part of the Columbia community. (Maximum 250 words)
Describe a personal experience and how it has influenced who you are today. This essay should have a personal rather than a professional focus. (Maximum 500 words)
An optional fourth essay will allow you to discuss any issues that do not fall within the purview of the required essays.
What matters most to you, and why?
What do you want to do—REALLY—and why Stanford?
Answer one of the three questions below. Tell us not only what you did but also how you did it. What was the outcome? How did people respond? Only describe experiences that have occurred during the last three years.
- Tell us about a time in the last three years when you built or developed a team whose performance exceeded expectations.
- Tell us about a time in the last three years when you identified and pursued an opportunity to improve an organization.
- Tell us about a time in the last three years when you went beyond what was defined or established.
My thoughts on the applications:
Columbia - This seems like a pretty well-rounded set of essays. The short answer question provides a title and context for your application while highlighting you short-term goal. The second question asks about your long-term goals and how an MBA makes sense for you at this time. The NEW video section allows you to address the why Columbia question while trying to show that you have done your research on and are truly interested in attending the program. I know Columbia hates being a second-choice / safety for applicants applying to other top programs on the east coast and I think that this section, coupled with their early-decision option is an attempt to combat that problem. The personal experience question is pretty standard and the optional essay is useful for addressing weaknesses in your application and/or highlighting other unique aspects of your candidacy. All in all, the application seems doable and useful in helping you solidify your story for other applications - for this reason, I think it would be a good application to complete early in the season because it will help you with your other applications.
Stanford - This set of essays seems difficult yet doable. The infamous "what matters most to you" question is never easy...'nuff said. The second question, although it seems like they are goading you into cutting the bullshit and giving a real answer, is pretty standard. The last question seems difficult, but given the fact that there are three choices, seems doable for most people. Another aspect of the Stanford application that seems convenient, but may actually make the essays harder for some, is the word count of 1600, which is a total for all three essays. Although they have recommended word counts for each essay, it really is up to you to do with your 1600 words as you wish. Also, note that the admissions committee has dropped one essay and cut the word count from 1800 to 1600.
The question that I am most interested in is the "what matters most to you, and why" question. I have heard that this question is one of the hardest for b-school applicants to answer every year. My question is, WHY? Shouldn't we know what matters most to us? It seems sad that intelligent and motivated people would be going through life without knowing the answer to this question.
I would think that one would be able to answer this question easily, but as I sit here pondering how I would answer, I am stumped (for lack of a better word). Am I the only one? What matters most to you, WSO? I am not necessarily asking how you would answer the question, just what you think matters most to you in life.