Define what success means to you. (300 words)
A very cool and unique MBA application essay prompt. This is one of the more open-ended questions you’ll ever see in a b-school app. And as such, there is no formulaic way for how to approach it. No one really cares what your definition of success is. What we really care about is how your brain works. And if it’s “impressive” and “promising” or… not. Does the way your brain works promise big and bright things for your future? If so, we’re gonna notice. If not, you will blend in with the rest.
So what do you need to do in order to stand out here? Well, here are some tips on how to get started.
Question 1. Has the definition of success EVOLVED for you, at all? Did you used to think about it one way when you were younger, and do you think about it differently TODAY? If so, walk us through THAT evolution. And don’t be shy to admit things about your previous understanding that may seem silly now. The evolution is all that matters. And the more profound that CURVE in your evolution, the better.
Question 2. Was there a specific moment that FORCED you to grapple with the meaning of success? If so, walk us through it. Perhaps you witnessed something in someone else, or experienced something yourself that CHANGED your sense of what success meant, or even simply forced you to wrestle with the concept itself. An example might be a moment where you completed Objective X, others celebrated your “success,” but somehow… you didn’t feel what they were feeling. And it forced you to consider what it means to succeed. Or, flip it. You pulled something off that you were proud of, but others (like your superiors, or colleagues) did NOT share the same appreciation, and in THEIR eyes, you didn’t succeed… but in your soul, you felt like you had. Walk us through all of it.
Try to avoid platitudes and lovely-sounding cliches. It’s so tempting for an essay like this to try to say things you THINK will sound good to readers. The best thing you can do is to show some kind of DIFFERENCE in understanding of what the term “success” means, either between others and you, or between your own prior understanding and what it is today. It’s the DELTA which is usually key. If you can identify a difference, one way or another, use that to focus your response. Good things are bound to happen from there.
You can also read through our team’s analysis of the rest of NUS’s application essays.
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