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What is an MBA Personal Statement?

By Jennifer Fecio McDougall
Updated Jan 23, 2024
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Applying for admission to a program for a master’s degree in business administration can be a multi-step process. In the US for example, applicants typically must take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT®), submit an application, and participate in an interview. The MBA personal statement is part of the application. It is an essay designed to provide the applicant with an opportunity to share personal information in a meaningful way. In some cases, it is a critical factor for admissions personnel as they work to determine which applicants they will accept.

Not all schools require personal statements, or personal essays, in their application processes. These schools might base their decisions solely on GMAT scores, undergraduate grades, and other basic information provided in the application. Many schools, however, require a personal statement because they consider it a valuable way to learn more about the applicant, including his or her writing abilities, interests, and thought processes. In some cases, the personal statement component may be an open invitation for the applicant to decide what he or she would like to share with the admissions team. In other cases, the school may pose a specific question for the applicant to answer.

The content of MBA personal statements can vary greatly. Generally, however, they're fact-oriented essays that focus on the applicant’s education, professional experience, accomplishments, interests and goals. For those schools that don't have an interview component in their application process, the MBA personal statement is the applicant’s sole opportunity to give the admissions team a more well-rounded picture of him or herself. As a result, the MBA personal statement can be pivotal in determining whether or not the applicant will be granted admission to the program.

When selecting a topic for an MBA personal statement, applicants will often consider those things that might separate themselves from their competitors. Major accomplishments — personal or professional, as well as common and uncommon ones — are often a primary focus. Future plans including how the applicant expects to use the MBA might also be a focus of the essay.

In addition to determining a general focus for their personal statments, MBA applicants often will consult some general do's and don'ts to consider when crafting their essays. Many of the do's simply have to do with the rules of good writing — write in active voice, write in first person, start with an outline, write clearly, include an interesting introduction so the reader's attention is not lost, and write concisely. Common don'ts include: getting defensive about a lower GPA, trying to be funny, including typos, restating what's on the applicant's resume.

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