Scott Edinburgh
October 26, 2023

Articulating Your Personal Story

Personal MBA Coach started with the premise that everyone has a personal story and that the most successful candidates craft unique and compelling stories. This continues to be a cornerstone of our support and the area where we find our clients need the most guidance.

We advise candidates to start thinking about their stories months, if not years, in advance! The good news? Everyone has a personal story; you may just need help figuring out how to make it shine.

Keep in Mind: This is not the time to tell the admissions committee what you think they want to hear. As an Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) Board Member and Committee Chair, Personal MBA Coach is fortunate to attend an annual conference with Admissions Directors from 25+ top MBA programs including HBS, Stanford, Booth, Kellogg, Wharton, Ross, Sloan, Yale, Darden, Fuqua and many others. Authenticity is often a key point of discussion.

The most successful candidates do not always write essays about overcoming a horrible tragedy or solving world hunger. Sure, if you have done something impressive or triumphed over a difficult situation, include it—if it fits with your story. But you also can write compelling essays without this.

What should you include in your personal story?

This answer will differ for every candidate but across the board, I can tell you, NOT EVERYTHING!

No one wants to read a long explanation detailing a chronological flow of your life. Instead, you must be focused, logical and unique.

Woman writes her MBA application essays on a MAC laptop.

When Personal MBA Coach meets with a new candidate, we start by asking a lot of questions. We talk about everything the applicant has done, often starting from childhood. You should start with a similar process.

  1. Make a list of everything you have done in your life and take the time to write it all down. Think carefully about the decisions you have made, activities you enjoy and, most importantly, why you made those choices.
  2. Think about your future goals. What do you want to do after you earn your MBA and, again, why?
  3. Next, look for a theme! What single idea connects items from #1 and #2? This is the hard part, so give it time.

Here is an example:

One candidate’s passion for education began as a result of a family tragedy. Instead of centering his essay on his misfortunes, however, he barely mentioned the tragedy in his essay as, frankly, it did not say anything about him.

He focused instead on what he did in the face of this situation. He shared his penchant for education starting at a young age. His extracurricular activities, past career choices, and future aspirations laddered up to this. Sharing these highlights led to a compelling statement. His application strength did not come from his career successes but from how his essays were focused, his personal and professional moves were logical, and his career path was unique.

This candidate was accepted to an M7 school.

Two students talk about their MBA program application essays.

Business schools want to know how you will make the business world (and the world more broadly) better when you leave their campuses. They also want to know how you will leave a unique mark.

Past behavior is the best predictor of the future, and we all have left a mark in one way or another. No candidate is ever perfect; instead, we chart the best course we can with the hand we are dealt. The best personal statements show this.

As you can see from this discussion, crafting a personal statement is not easy—but Personal MBA Coach is here to help! Find out how Personal MBA Coach has helped a client articulate her story in this testimonial video:

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