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UCLA Business School MBA Essay tips 2010-11

The UCLA Business School admissions committee instructs candidates to “be introspective, genuine, and succinct,” and goes on to say they are most interested in content rather than style. All of this is great advice in approaching any set of MBA application essays.

UCLA Business School has two required essays this year for first time applicants, and two optional essays meant for candidates who would like to provide more information to the admissions committee. The optional essays are truly optional, so evaluate your application strategy carefully to make sure you need to answer the questions. The first optional question provides the option to record audio, video or write a 250 word essay. If you are going to use the unconventional media options, we recommend taking a look at these tips Anderson provided for the essay last year.

UCLA Business School has several unique attributes as compared to other MBA programs and has posted myth busters for the application process. The close knit UCLA Anderson class is diverse and international, though Anderson is often most attractive to Los Angeles based applicants. Anderson is probably the most prestigious local MBA program, and attracts many applicants interested in Entertainment and Real Estate, some of Los Angeles’ more popular industries. Anderson has a focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, and it will be important to be familiar with the many UCLA research center programs and electives when preparing your essays.

For applicants who prefer the part time option, UCLA FEMBA is an excellent executive MBA for anyone in the Los Angeles area. Make sure to check the deadlines carefully before starting your application process.

The two required essays for first-time applicants are:

1. What event or life experience has had the greatest influence in shaping your character and why? (750 words)

Starting this set of essays with a personal question about your background establishes Anderson’s interest in seeing the genuine person you are. When approaching this question, keep your overall application strategy in mind, and make sure you are presenting a holistic view of yourself. Much like Stanford’s “what matters most” essay, brainstorming an overall theme that can take you from the personal tone of Essay 1 to the career goals in Essay 2 could provide a thread to unite your application strategy.

Specific examples are always a smart way to demonstrate your personal qualities without sounding generic. In this essay you are invited to tell a personal story. You are unique and a vivid personal memory can be an effective way to set the tone for your application holistically. If you choose effectively, your personal memory will support the overall theme of your essays and support what you say about your career, community and personal development.

2. Describe your short-term and long-term career goals. What is your motivation for pursuing an MBA now and how will UCLA Anderson help you to achieve your goals? (750 words)

A fairly typical career goals essay, UCLA is asking for a clear set of career goals that will demonstrate the need for an MBA from UCLA Anderson. Since you are not directly asked to explain your entire career path, focus on the high points that are most relevant to your career goals. When did you face a turning point or make a big decision about your career? What were some of your proudest accomplishments? If you are a management consultant now and want to become an entrepreneur, what have you learned and experienced that will help you with those plans?

Because you have effectively set the stage with question one, you have likely established your passions and personal interests, which will back up your career goals. Briefly explain what you plan to do immediately after graduation, and then what you want to accomplish over the long-term with your career.
It will also be important to demonstrate your fit with UCLA and why it is the right program to pursue your MBA. Having you’re your research on UCLA’s unique academics and resources will help you demonstrate your fit with the school. Choose specific classes, professors and programs that fit into your career goals. Think about clubs and conferences that are unique to UCLA Anderson and will advance your career goals.

Optional Essays

1. You may respond to the following question via written essay, audio, or video clip: What is something people will find surprising about you?


In a continued effort to learn more about you as a person, UCLA Business school would like to hear you speak or watch you speak and gesture on video. If you do pursue the video or audio option, it will be most effective to write out what you plan to say ahead of time and have someone help you by providing feedback and recording for you.

The video response may require some editing expertise, though most PCs have basic video editing software you can use. Speaking with poise will be especially important for either the video or audio essay. If you choose video you also need to consider what you wear, and where you decide to record the file. You may submit a written response if you think that will present your thoughts and personality more clearly to the admissions committee.

If essay 1 did not provide an opportunity to differentiate yourself from others in the applicant pool, this may be your opportunity. This question is entirely open ended, which could be a gift. Try to remain focused, consider your overall application strategy, along with your strengths and weaknesses when answering this question. Think of a specific example of what you will be discussing, and explain why others would find it surprising.

2. Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? (250 words)

Focusing on explanations in this essay, rather than excuses, is very important. Potential extenuating circumstances may be a very low GPA, academic probation or using a recommender other than your current supervisor. Clearly explain the situation, and if it is a situation from the past, explain why you have changed. Providing evidence that you will not repeat the actions in question will be very important.

Re-applicant Essay

1. Please describe your career progress since you last applied and ways in which you have enhanced your candidacy. Include updates on short-term and long-term career goals, as well as your continued interest in UCLA Anderson. (750 words)

The reapplication essay requires demonstrating significant strides since your last application. Keep in mind that the admissions committee will have access to your previous application. UCLA Anderson specifically asks for an update on your career progress since your last application. You may not have been promoted or taken a new job, so think about the areas in your career that have been improved since last year. Did you take on new responsibility? What about projects or leadership opportunities? While refining your goals is progress and can enhance your application, make sure your story is consistent with your last application and that you have thoroughly explained any changes in your thinking since the last time you applied.

Soul searching and feedback from others likely set you on the path to improve one or more areas that may have been weak in your last application. This essay is your opportunity to outline your better GMAT score, classes you took, additional extra-curriculars, or a significant increase in responsibility at work.

The third part of this essay is to demonstrate how you will contribute to UCLA Anderson Business School. If you are a re-applicant you have likely had the time to learn even more about the school since your last application, and your research will pay off in this essay. Be specific about your skills and how you will contribute, along with the aspects of UCLA Anderson that will be of benefit to your goals.


Stacy Blackman Consulting


This article brought to you by Stacy Blackman Consulting.

Founded in 2001, Stacy Blackman Consulting has helped thousands of MBA applicants gain admission to the most selective business schools in the world.  The Stacy Blackman team, comprised of MBA graduates, former admissions officers and expert writers, editors and marketers, helps clients develop and implement a winning marketing strategy. 

Stacy Blackman clients have a significantly increased probability of admission to top schools and are frequent recipients of merit scholarships.  The company is regularly featured in publications such as BusinessWeek, the Wall Street Journal and the Economist.  

For a more thorough discussion of what the schools are looking for, an analysis of what is being asked and why, tips to help answer questions, and samples essays, check out our school specific Essay Guides:  http://www.stacyblackman.com/essay-guides/


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