Scott Edinburgh
September 28, 2023

How to Approach the Top MBA Essays

a desk with the tools to write the Top MBA Essays

While there are an increasing number of compelling MBA programs around the world, with impressive rankings and strong alumni networks, the M7 schools continue to be attractive choices for MBA hopefuls.

For those planning to apply to one or more of the M7 schools this winter, Personal MBA Coach is here to help you navigate the essay-writing process.

Accessible to all Personal MBA Coach newsletter subscribers, our free M7 Essay Analysis e-book features our exclusive guidance on how to approach the 2023-2024 application essays for each of the M7 business schools.

Below, Personal MBA Coach shares the required essay questions for all of the M7 schools, as well as some quick tips for how to respond successfully to these top MBA program essays!

Stanford GSB Essays

Number of Required Essays: 2

Essay 1: What matters most to you, and why? (650 words suggested) 

Personal MBA Coach’s Quick Tips: Take considerable time to reflect upon what you are most passionate about. In an ideal scenario, you have acted on this passion, and it is reflected in more than one aspect of your life. Think carefully about why this passion is important to you, and do not forget the WHAT here. At the end of the day, a cause or passion that you have done nothing with will not resonate strongly with the admissions committee (or be very believable).

Essay 2: Why Stanford? (400 words suggested)

Personal MBA Coach’s Quick Tips: For this second Stanford GSB essay, start by setting up why you want an MBA, including your goals and the skills needed to make these goals a reality. Then, make it clear how Stanford specifically will help you fill these skill gaps, mentioning classes, clubs, and programs that interest you. Do not forget to detail what draws you to Stanford’s culture as well!

For more Stanford GSB essay advice, check out Personal MBA Coach’s full blog here.

Wharton Essays

Number of Required Essays: 2

Personal MBA Coach suggests that you consider each Wharton essay individually while also making sure that your two responses complement one another.

Essay 1: How do you plan to use the Wharton MBA program to help you achieve your future professional goals? You might consider your past experience, short- and long-term goals, and resources available at Wharton. (500 words)

Personal MBA Coach’s Quick Tips: The first Wharton essay gives applicants the opportunity to reflect on their high-level aspirations. As you consider your future, think about your skill gaps and how attending Wharton will enable you to close these gaps. Cover the opportunities you want to avail yourself of on campus and be sure to demonstrate a clear understanding of Wharton’s culture.

Essay 2: Taking into consideration your background – personal, professional, and/or academic – how do you plan to make specific, meaningful contributions to the Wharton community? (400 words)

Personal MBA Coach’s Quick Tips: This second MBA essay question gives candidates a chance to showcase previous accomplishments and potential contributions to the Wharton community. Applicants can choose from impressive extracurricular accomplishments, specific talents, and/or distinct professional skills. A powerful response will highlight multiple contributions that clearly unite your personal story, career goals, and passions!

Get Personal MBA Coach’s detailed guidance on Wharton essays 1 and 2 here.


Harvard Business School Essay

Number of Required Essays: 1

Essay: As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA Program? (900 words maximum)

Personal MBA Coach’s Quick Tips: The HBS essay is an invitation to reveal what is truly interesting about you and let the admissions committee “meet” the person behind your MBA application.

That said, responses will vary significantly for everyone. Do not try to write what you think the admissions committee wants to read. Instead, consider the unique value that you will add to the HBS community.

Strong essays often share a detailed personal story, or at least some kind of personal anecdote, which is usually tied to a recurring theme within your HBS essay. However, be wary of trying too hard – you do not need to describe a super traumatic personal experience to impress the admissions directors.

Looking for more HBS essay advice? Visit our full blog here.

MIT Sloan Cover Letter

Rather than asking applicants to submit a standard MBA essay, MIT Sloan requests that candidates submit a cover letter.

Cover Letter: MIT Sloan seeks students whose personal characteristics demonstrate that they will make the most of the incredible opportunities at MIT, both academic and non-academic. We are on a quest to find those whose presence will enhance the experience of other students. We seek thoughtful leaders with exceptional intellectual abilities and the drive and determination to put their stamp on the world. We welcome people who are independent, authentic, and fearlessly creative — true doers. We want people who can redefine solutions to conventional problems, and strive to preempt unconventional dilemmas with cutting-edge ideas. We demand integrity and respect passion.

Taking the above into consideration, please submit a cover letter seeking a place in the MIT Sloan MBA program. Your letter should conform to a standard business correspondence, include one or more professional examples that illustrate why you meet the desired criteria above, and be addressed to the Admissions Committee (300 words or fewer, excluding address and salutation).

Personal MBA Coach’s Quick Tips: Here, applicants must think about their most noteworthy accomplishments, making it clear what they will bring to the Sloan community. Approach the MIT Sloan cover letter as you would approach any other professional cover letter. This means that you must tell the reader who you are and specifically ask for a place in the MIT Sloan class.

Get more of Personal MBA Coach’s MIT Sloan cover letter advice here.

Chicago Booth Essays

Number of Required Essays: 2

Essay 1: How will the Booth MBA help you achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA career goals? (250 words minimum)

Personal MBA Coach’s Quick Tips: This first Chicago Booth essay is a standard goals question (for more tips on how to approach this as well as other types of application essays , check out our How to Write Winning MBA Essays blog ). Think about your short- and long-term goals, highlighting how you developed these goals and identifying your higher-level aspirations. Do not forget to think about your skill gaps and how a Booth MBA will help you achieve your post-MBA goals. You will want to detail the classes, programs, or clubs that you hope to take advantage of.

Essay 2: An MBA is as much about personal growth as it is about professional development. In addition to sharing your experience and goals in terms of career, we’d like to learn more about you outside of the office. Use this opportunity to tell us something about who you are… (250 words minimum)

Personal MBA Coach’s Quick Tips: This MBA essay prompt encourages candidates to reflect upon the personal aspects of their profile. Use this as your opportunity to show what differentiates you from other applicants. Possible topics to cover include values, passions, extracurricular activities, and hobbies.

Learn more about tackling the Chicago Booth essays here.

Kellogg Essays

Number of Required Essays: 2

Essay 1: Kellogg Leaders are primed to tackle today’s pressing concerns everywhere, from the boardroom to their neighborhoods. Tell us about a time in your life where you’ve needed a combination of skills to solve a problem or overcome a challenge. Which skills did you use? What did you accomplish? (450 words)

Personal MBA Coach’s Quick Tips: While most share a professional story for this first question, leadership examples in your extracurriculars could also work here. A successful response for this Kellogg essay will showcase your strengths and specific skillsets.

Essay 2: At Kellogg, our values are based on research that concludes organizations comprised of leaders with varied backgrounds and perspectives outperform homogeneous ones. How do you believe your personal and professional experiences to date will help to enrich the Kellogg community? (450 words)

Personal MBA Coach’s Quick Tips: This second Kellogg MBA essay is new, replacing Kellogg’s longstanding “values” essay. When answering this prompt, ask yourself what makes you special— and tell the admissions committee how you will bring your unique traits to Kellogg.

For more information, visit Personal MBA Coach’s full Kellogg essay analysis blog here.

Columbia Business School Essays

Number of Required Essays: 3

Essay 1: Through your resume and recommendation, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next three to five years and what is your long-term dream job? (500 words)

Personal MBA Coach’s Quick Tips: This Columbia Business School essay prompt enables you to show how you envision your career unfolding. The school asks for a short- and long-term dream job so make sure you include both. Although candidates should have lofty goals here, these goals should also align with their short-term goals and story as a whole.

Essay 2: The Phillips Pathway for Inclusive Leadership (PPIL) is a co-curricular program designed to ensure that every CBS student develops the skills to become an ethical and inclusive leader. Through PPIL, students attend programming focused on five essential diversity, equity, and inclusion skills: Creating an Inclusive Environment, Mitigating Bias and Prejudice, Managing Intercultural Dialogue, Addressing Systemic Inequity, and Understanding Identity and Perspective Taking.

Tell us about a time when you were challenged around one of these five skills. Describe the situation, the actions you took, and the outcome. (250 words)

Personal MBA Coach’s Quick Tips: This question directly addresses a topic that is continually top of mind for admissions directors at most business schools: DEI. It is ok to think about DEI broadly here. As you write this essay, be direct and authentic and of course avoid being preachy or judgmental.

Essay 3: Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you academically, culturally, and professionally? (250 words)

Personal MBA Coach’s Quick Tips: CBS’s third MBA essay gives applicants a chance to share what attracts them to CBS. This is the perfect opportunity to talk about the classes, clubs, and additional programs that interest you, such as speaker series and immersion seminars. Be sure to cover classes and programs that are specifically unique to Columbia Business School!

Columbia Business School applicants can access our additional CBS essay advice here.

Ready to get started? Check out our Comprehensive Packages to see how Personal MBA Coach can help you craft your MBA application essay to any of these schools!