August 10, 2022

UCLA Anderson School of Management MBA Essay A

UCLA Anderson

Anderson MBA Application Essay 1

We have one essay question that is required for first-time applicants and optional for re-applicants: Tell us about a recent personal or professional achievement and how it connects to your MBA goals. (250 words maximum)

Strong essays describe the impact of your achievement and clarify its connection to your future MBA plans in the short- and long-term. We look forward to learning about the specific ways your achievement helped set you up for future success.

Folks, this UCLA MBA essay prompt is as “bog-standard” as it gets. But (and we hope this is the case?) assuming you’re applying to several business schools, you may find slight variations on this question. So let’s zero in on the elements you need to pay attention to here, along with the 250-word frame the MBA Admissions committee at Anderson has given us.

First, we’ve got to pick that “recent personal or professional achievement.” Given the limited word count UCLA provides for essays, a professional achievement is likely the best use of the space. But which one? Consider your “greatest hits” in the context of the prompt… which has the clearest connection to your future plans? This achievement has to both show the impact you’ve had at work, AND the impact your work has had on your future plans. If you’re choosing between a story with a slightly more impressive outcome, and a story with a more obvious connection to your future goals, pick the second one all day. With only 250 words, we can’t afford long-winded explanations: the connection has to be straightforward.

When considering your goals, the name of the game is “how good is your plan.” Put differently, “how good are you at conceiving of an objective, and then mapping out an action plan to getting it done?” There’s ONE additional layer, which is, “does this plan make sense given who you are, your background, strengths, weaknesses, etc. or… is it a stretch?”

Those are the only things that matter, folks. Notice how we didn’t say “is your actual goal interesting, or good?” Why? Because it’s actually irrelevant. No one’s going to follow-up on you to make sure you’re continuing along “the path you set out in your business school application.” This is a test. “Do you have a business school mind? Can you plan smartly? Are you logical? Is your brain efficient? are you connecting the right dots?” You get the picture. As long as you pass that test, the actual goal is immaterial. Those of you who can wrap your head around that will relinquish that vice-like grip around needing to SELL the idea itself. Again, no one cares about your idea. They ONLY care about that other stuff.

So, to review, the 250 words in Essay A should go something like:

  1. Establish the situation and challenge you faced (75 words)
  1. Explain how you dealt with it, emphasizing MBA-relevant leadership skills (75 words)
  2. Connect the dots between the story and your future, showing how the experience shaped your goals and vision for your future career (100 words)
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