October 8, 2018

Nanyang Technical University MBA Essay 4

Nanyang Technological University

NTU MBA Essay 4

Share with us a situation where you faced adversity. Describe how you resolved it and what you learned from this experience. (400 word limit)

Let’s be very careful here. With every problem that needs solving, there are a certain number of challenges that are EXPECTED from the very start. For example, let’s say you’re tasked with the completion of a new project, and you’re given a very tight timeline, and that’s “the job.” As long as you’re expected to come through on that challenge, the “tight timeline” doesn’t exactly constitute adversity, in this case. What they’re getting at, are things that come up along the way ABOVE AND BEYOND the expected hurdles. The things that compound and amplify the difficulty, and could possibly even lead to FAILURE of completion, and people would understand, and accept. That’s adversity.

So, when looking back at examples, don’t just identify “garden variety” challenges that would have been faced by ANYONE in your shoes. The better examples are the things that you couldn’t have anticipated when you signed up for the task, and that you had to deal with along the way. The thing we’re interested in seeing is how you behaved in response to that unanticipated challenge, how you changed gears, how you (re)strategized, how you tried some things and possibly failed, but eventually found your way THROUGH it to some kind of resolution. We want to be dropped into the decision-nodes as you experienced them, almost “listening” to your brain debating certain choices and “hearing” how you came to certain decisions. This is the thing Nanyang wants to invest in. The strength of your “processor.”

Here’s a suggestion for how to structure this:

Part 1 – Quickly and clearly indicate whatever the task was, laying out the objective, what was expected of you, what the deliverables were, etc. Next, lay out all the EXPECTED challenges that made the execution possibly difficult, but still known to everyone involved. Finally, establish the stakes. What would happen if you FAILED to execute properly? What would the consequences of that be? Similarly, what positive thing would happen if you succeeded, in other words, what was at stake?

Part 2 – Now, walk us through the thing or things that occurred that were UNEXPECTED that compounded and amplified the difficulty of accomplishing the objective. What was it? What made it particularly challenging? How exactly did it throw your plan OFF TRACK? Now explain to us the choices you had in ADDRESSING this adversity. What were the choices? Reveal to us the pros and cons, and walk us through the way you were deciding for or against certain approaches. It should be clear what the dilemma was and why this was difficult to navigate.

Part 3 – Next, take us through “the fix.” Focusing on actions, explain what you did, and how you led this project THROUGH the adverse circumstances, to a successful outcome. Show us very clearly what it was you were doing that led to success at every micro-step. Do not belabor the success itself, we don’t need to hear more than simply THAT you achieved the goal, ultimately. Remember, the key is the PROCESS by which you achieved it.

Part 4 – Finally, explain what it was you LEARNED. This is tricky. Consider the experience in two ways: Version 1, without the unexpected challenges, and Version 2, the real version that HAD the unexpected challenges you ultimately overcame. What did you LEARN from dealing with the curveballs? Where were you assumptions WRONG? What did you know after this experience that you didn’t know before it? This is hard to do, but don’t be afraid to admit to “not knowing” something when the project began. Your capacity to absorb a lesson and add it to your arsenal is VERY appealing to admissions committees. Admitting to not knowing something, in fact, can demonstrate lots of promise for an impressive growth curve, the capacity to improve, etc. This is very exciting for business schools as you can imagine.


You can also read through our team’s analysis of the rest of NTU’s application essays.

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