Why Our School? — The Inevitable MBA Essay Question

Oh, MBA admissions committees. Always wanting applicants to show the love. To prove that their school is the best and there is nowhere anyone would rather be.

Makes sense. No one wants to be second best, not even the world’s top MBA programs. And if you’re spending the time and money to apply, you should want to be there, right? Right.

Yet this question trips up tons of folks. How do you…do it?

Well, it’s easy. Sorta.

The key to a compelling response here is to make your response BULLETPROOF.

What does that mean? If you say “I like Stanford because of its reputation, its pre-eminent staff of award-winning profs, its prestige, the breadth of courses it offers, blah blah blah…” Great. Except, those things are also true for just about every other school in its class. So, while you’ve said a bunch of really nice things, for our purposes, you haven’t made any movement toward a convincing, meaningful argument.

Imagine those questions said this: “Assume that our school has the same books and professors and clubs and classes as school x, y, and z. Taking all of that for rote, why do you (a) STILL want to go (b) HERE… And not (c) THERE?”

Imagine the argument that goes “Harvard will provide me with the necessary tools to go out into the real world and accomplish x, y, and z.”

Maybe so, but will Stanford NOT do that?

Here’s a silly example, meant only to illustrate a point:

If you say, when I visited Harvard, I saw a bright yellow tree in the center of campus, and was awe struck. No other school has trees with color, let alone a BRIGHT YELLOW one!!! I’ve always wanted to go to a school with a great big tree in the center of the campus and my favorite color is yellow, and Harvard hit it out of the park. It is for THIS reason I want Harvard (and nowhere else).

Absurd example, obviously, but here’s what nice about the nature of that response: no matter how hard you try… You just can’t ARGUE with it.

1. The guy likes trees
2. Loves the color yellow…
3. Harvard has the only yellow tree of any school
4. Conclusion: he wants Harvard

Makes SENSE. And is AIR TIGHT. Now… It’s your job—when answering this type of question—to define what YOU want out of B-School… And to find that “yellow tree” in the school for which you’re making an argument. Talk to people, do research, spend time there if you can… Develop a GENUINE love of certain (specific) things and talk about them. No one can tell you that you don’t like xyz that are SPECIFIC to that school.

Don’t just write ABOUT the stuff you’ve pulled from the Internet—-anyone can do that (and most do). And it’s obvious when it happens. Figure out the ways in which this school complements what YOU want to do. Poke holes in your argument, tweak, and keep doing it until you find yourself with an argument that you simply can’t pick apart.

I guarantee you that’ll happen when you get SPECIFIC, and specificity is pure gold on this one.

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