Scott Edinburgh
May 7, 2020

What to Expect from the 2020 – 2021 MBA Application Essays

What to Expect from the 2020-2021 MBA Application Essays

Many MBA hopefuls who have already narrowed down their target school lists are anxiously awaiting the release of the 2020-2021 MBA application questions and deadlines. In previous years, we have seen essay questions released as early as this week. Given the extended round 3 deadlines (still thinking about joining the class of 2023? There is time!), we have been told that some schools will delay the release of the 2020-2021 applications and application essays.

I also would speculate that fewer schools will change questions this year, given the extra work the administrators are balancing as they determine what the fall of 2020 will look like.

While we cannot perfectly predict the future, our 13 years of MBA Admissions Consulting experience and careful analysis of past trends and recent campus announcements can help us to assess what MBA candidates should expect this year.

Given the lower likelihood of essay changes, the extra time most candidates have while working from home and the potential for a delayed release of new application questions, Personal MBA Coach clients have already begun work on a number of essays.

For the essays that are least likely to change, I advise that you, too, get started today!

These schools and essays include:

Harvard Business School

HBS has asked the same question over the past few years and I would suspect this year’s question is likely to remain the same.

“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?”

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Like HBS, Stanford GSB has not changed things up in recent years. I would begin to think about how to approach last year’s Stanford essays as well.

“Essay A: What matters most to you, and why?

For this essay, we would like you to reflect deeply and write from the heart. Once you’ve identified what matters most to you, help us understand why. You might consider, for example, what makes this so important to you? What people, insights, or experiences have shaped your perspectives?

Essay B: Why Stanford?

Describe your aspirations and how your Stanford GSB experience will help you realize them. If you are applying to both the MBA and MSx programs, use Essay B to address your interest in both programs.”

Columbia Business School

Columbia Business School’s first essay has taken a similar form over the past years. While the exact word limit could vary, we expect Columbia to ask students something similar to last year’s first question:

Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next 3-5 years and what, in your imagination, would be your long-term dream job?


As with CBS, Wharton has kept its first essay question largely the same for the past few years and we expect the same this year:

What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)


Kellogg also is unlikely to change its first essay question:

Kellogg’s purpose is to educate, equip and inspire brave leaders who create lasting value. Provide a recent example where you have demonstrated leadership and created value. What challenges did you face and what did you learn? (450 words)

Chicago Booth

Chicago Booth joins the list of schools for which Personal MBA Coach clients are working on last year’s essay #1:

How will a Booth MBA help you achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA career goals? (Minimum 250 words, no maximum.)

Other schools that are less likely to significantly change their essays include:

Yale SOM, Duke Fuqua, London Business School, Vanderbilt and MIT Sloan. Aside from minor tweaks or word limit adjustments, we would be more surprised to see changes from these programs.

If one or more of these schools/essays are on your list, I suggest you begin brainstorming, outlining and hopefully writing your essays ASAP. This will free up time (both personally and professionally) when the warmer weather (and hopefully fewer restrictions) emerge.

Keep in mind, the details shared above are predictions only! As soon as this year’s questions are released, Personal MBA Coach will let you know what has changed and will share advice on how to tackle each question. Join our weekly MBA Tips newsletter to be sure you do not miss anything!

Need help? Personal MBA Coach is willing to be your guide. Founded by a Wharton and MIT graduate, we regularly help applicants navigate their applications each year. We also conduct mock interviews with former M7 interviewers on our team.

Personal MBA Coach has been guiding candidates through all aspects of the MBA application process for 13 years with a 96% success rate. Call us today at +1 617-645-2424 or email for a free consultation on your profile along with how we can help make your MBA dreams a reality!