INSEAD's MBA program has announced its essay questions and application deadlines for the class of 2014 and 2014, respectively.  (Yeah, it sounds weird, but that's the way INSEAD rolls. It must be a French thing.)

The deadlines are as follows:

Application Deadlines – September 2013 Intake (Class of July 2014)

Round 1 Deadline: October 3, 2012
Round 2 Deadline: December 5, 2012
Round 3 Deadline: March 13, 2013

Applications Deadlines -- January 2014 Intake (Class of December 2014)

Round 1 Deadline: April 3, 2013
Round 2 Deadline: June 12, 2013
Round 3 Deadline: August 7, 2013

The essay questions are identical to last year's questions, and can be found in our INSEAD Essay Guide. But for those of you who are too lazy to click on the link, here they are:

Job Description Essays

1. Briefly summarise your current (or most recent) job, including the nature of work, major responsibilities, and, where relevant, employees under your supervision, size of budget, clients/ products and results achieved. (250 words maximum)

2. Please give a full description of your career since graduating from university. If you were to remain with your present employer, what would be your next step in terms of position? (250 words maximum)

3. If you are currently not working, what are you doing and what do you plan to do until you start the MBA programme? (250 words maximum)


1. Give a candid description of yourself, stressing the personal characteristics you feel to be your strengths and weaknesses and the main factors, which have influenced your personal development, giving examples when necessary. (600 words maximum)

2. Describe what you believe to be your two most substantial accomplishments to date (if possible specify one personal and one professional), explaining why you view them as such. (400 words maximum)

3. Describe a situation taken from your personal or professional life where you failed. Discuss what you learned. (400 words maximum)

4. a) Discuss your short and long term career goals. (300 words maximum) and b) How will studying at INSEAD help you achieve your vision? (250 words maximum)

5. Please choose one of the following two essay topics:

  • Have you ever experienced culture shock? What insights did you gain? (250 words maximum)
  • Describe the ways in which a foreigner in your country might experience culture shock. (250 words maximum)

Forster-Thomas essay coach Susan Clark shares her tips on how to answer the Columbia GSB essay questions for the class of 2015

Essay 1:

  • Part A. Why are you pursuing an MBA at this point in your career, and how do you plan to achieve your immediate and long term post-MBA professional goals? (Maximum 500 words)

Thanks, Columbia, for including in your prompt an essential part of great goal setting: “What’s your plan, Stan?” “You wanna see Mecca? Ya goin’ by boat, plane, or camel?” In other words, you have a degree in earth science and your dream is to build a green tech consulting company … now what? Your short term goal of a position in a consulting firm is a start, but still a long way from establishing your own company. Including a job currently not attainable, even with your MBA, is an essential interim step. Moving into a strategy position at a sustainability program in a major corporation—eventually becoming senior sustainability officer—would allow you to develop expertise in the industry and the credibility and network to raise funds. Include in your plan the specific role education plays: “An MBA will give me the internship necessary to move into consulting, the management training to lead a corporate department, and the entrepreneurial mindset to start my own company,” for example. Believable steps from where you are now can take you anywhere you like, to Mecca or even the Moon. Make sure the final destination is worth the effort. Demonstrate leadership and creativity in your goal. By the end of the essay, you’ve transformed your image from that of a tree hugger into a thoroughbred the ad-com can bet on.

  • Part B. Please view this video, entitled Community at Columbia. Diverse, tight-knit clusters and carefully selected learning teams are defining features of the first year at Columbia Business School. Along with more than 100 student organizations and countless events each semester, the cluster system helps to create a supportive and devoted lifelong community. Describe why you are interested in becoming a part of the Columbia community. (Maximum 250 words)

What do business schools expect when they ask a “Why do you love us” question? It’s like my husband showing off his muscles (he’s been working out) and asking “You like these guns?” The only thing I can say is “Ooh, ahh, wonderful.” Columbia makes it worse by nearly dictating what they want you to say. They seem to be begging for “I want to be part of Columbia’s community because of its wonderful student organizations, countless events, and lifelong friends.” It’s enough to make you gag. If you want to stand out—and you do—you have to give them something other than the canned answer.

Beneath this question and video is an interesting piece of information. Columbia is looking for students who love student organizations, attending diverse events, and are inspired by working with others. “No loners need apply” is the subtext. Columbia wants community leaders: let them know you are one. Slip in that service accomplishment: “After a month as a volunteer cleaning plastic off Hong Kong beaches, I organized a fundraiser for Project Kaisei, a non-profit cleaning up the Pacific Ocean. I raised $30,000 and convinced the CEO of my investment firm to institute sustainable plastic-use policies in every portfolio investment.” Then, demonstrate how this interest of yours is relevant: “I envision creating opportunities for Columbia students to make an impact on our local environment and community by generating an interface between Columbia’s Community Action Rewards Everyone, and the nonprofit Bronx River Alliance.” 80 words spent on that, plus a few more on why it’s meaningful to you, are infinitely more powerful than the gush about the gorgeous campus and tight knit community in the Big Apple. And, of course, your demonstrated interest in the environment needs to be for real, not for resume.

Essay 2:

Describe a personal experience and how it has influenced who you are today. This essay should have a personal rather than a professional focus. (Maximum 500 words)

Personal. That is a very specific word. This is not the time for the career failure you wrote for that other school. It is about your life as a real person—your dad, your first car, the most embarrassing moment of your life—an experience that made you who you are. Personal does not mean intimate, however. Don’t use that very tempting “My girlfriend broke up with me” story. Slipping in a line or two at the end about how the personal experience resulted in fame and fortune could work; however, remember not to let those few words pull attention away from the main event.

You can look at this question as consisting of three significant parts.

The experience:

  • This can be a story about be an event that caused you to make a decision, or to change your mind. It can be about your first puppy, or about the time your drill sergeant pushed you until you nearly died. It can be beneficial to have an event that stymied you in some way or forced you to make a choice of some sort. I would probably write about the time when I was six and stole a quarter from the church collection plate to buy an ice cream. I cried for three hours after confessing to my mother. You can also take another approach. You can describe an experience that is broader than just an event—one that arises from a condition, like being the shortest kid in class, or growing up with a popular sister. Any state of being is ok: being the loser, the immigrant, the only one that didn’t speak Spanish, the rich kid. I would use the fact that I was one of eight kids raised in the inner city of Trenton, New Jersey.

The influence:

  • This is the heart of the essay—how the experience influenced you. Your response to the experience should be life-affirming and active, rather than passive. “Because my mother dropped me, I became afraid of heights” is passive: Something else was the causal factor. Active is: “My mother dropped me. I decided that I wanted to make sure all babies have safe environments.” This is the part of the essay where you define what you are made of, what kind of thinking drives your behavior. How awful I felt after the theft of the quarter made me realize that nothing is more important to me than my integrity. My large, struggling family made me into a bit of a tough but I also discovered how to stand by others and be loyal.

The result of that influence:

  • Demonstrate how this influence plays out in your life. For my quarter story, I could cite a time my integrity was challenged, but I think I would go with the time I helped a kid make the right decision when he was tempted to make the wrong one. The result of influence could be expressed in a variety of ways. For example, my loyalty has been challenged many times with good and bad results. A lot of my essay could be about the progression of my experience of what it means to be loyal.

Overall, this essay is very adaptable: it can be all touchy-feely, or accomplishment-driven. At its heart, this prompt wants you to reveal who you are. The ad-com wants to get to know you better, just as you learned that I am a Catholic inner city street tough who will never let you down. Given half a chance, I’ll kick your butt all the way into the best MBA program possible.

For more information about the Columbia essay questions and deadlines, see our Columbia Essay Guide.

The last of the top 10 MBA programs has finally spoken. Here are the essay questions for Kellogg's  class of 2015:

  1. Discuss moments or influences in your personal life that have defined who you are today. (500 word limit)

  2. What have been your most significant leadership experiences? What challenges did you face, and what impact did you have? This is your opportunity to explain how you Think Bravely (personally and/or professionally). (500 word limit)

  3. Imagine yourself at your Kellogg graduation. What career will you be preparing to enter, and how have the MBA and Kellogg helped you get there? (Please answer in terms of your program choice: One-Year, Two-Year, MMM, JD-MBA) (500 word limit)

  4. What one interesting or fun fact would you want your future Kellogg classmates to know about you? (25 words or less)

There are also essays for re-applicants, MMM applicants, and an optional essay, all of which can be found on our Kellogg essay guide.  

The University of Chicago's Booth MBA program has announced its essay questions and application deadlines for the Class of 2015. 

Perhaps following in HBS's footsteps, Booth has moved its Round 1 deadline up a full week; it is now October 2nd, 2012. The Round 2 deadline is January 8th, and the Round 3 deadline is April 4th, no doubt intended to coincide with the auspicious births of Russian cosmonaut Vladimir Timofeyevich Isakov and actor Heath Ledger.

The Essays are:

1 - Essay
What are your short- and long-term goals, and how will an MBA from Chicago Booth help you reach them? (500 words)

2 - Short Answer Essays

  • a. What has been your biggest challenge, and what have you learned from it? (200 words maximum)
  • b. Tell us about something that has fundamentally transformed the way you think. (200 words maximum)

3 - Presentation/Essay
The Chicago experience will take you deeper into issues, force you to challenge assumptions, and broaden your perspective. In a four-slide presentation or an essay of no more than 600 words, broaden our perspective about who you are. Understanding what we currently know about you from the application, what else would you like us to know?

For more information, see our Chicago Booth Essay Guide.

The University of Michigan's Ross MBA program has announced its essay questions and deadlines for the Class of 2015.  Drum roll, please...

Round 1 Deadline: October 10, 2012
Round 2 Deadline: January 3, 2013
Round 3 Deadline: March 4, 2013 

The Essays are as follows:

  1. Introduce yourself to your future Ross classmates in 100 words or less.
  2. Describe your career goals. How will an MBA from Ross help you to achieve those goals? (300 word maximum)
  3. Describe a time in your career when you were frustrated or disappointed. What did you learn from that experience? (500 words)
  4. What are you most passionate about and why?  How will this passion positively impact Ross (300 word maximum)
  5. Optional question: Is there anything else you think the Admissions Committee should know about you to evaluate your candidacy? (500 word maximum)

For more information, see our Ross Essay Guide.

Tree-huggers rejoice: Mother MBA has spoken. Berkeley's Haas School of Business has released its essay questions and deadlines for the Class of 2015.

The deadlines are:

Round 1 Deadline: October 17, 2012
Round 2 Deadline: November 29, 2012
Round 3 Deadline: January 16, 2013
Round 4 Deadline: March 12, 2013

The Haas essays haven't changed dramatically from previous years, but the new essay #1 question is sure to have the blogosphere chatting and b-school applicants buzzing about what to do (the answer: be honest).  Here you go:

At Berkeley-Haas, our distinctive culture is defined by four key principles — question the status quo; confidence without attitude; students always; and beyond yourself. We seek candidates from a broad range of cultures, backgrounds, and industries who demonstrate a strong cultural fit with our program and defining principles. Please use the following essays as an opportunity to reflect on and share with us the values, experiences, and accomplishments that have helped shape who you are. (Learn more about Berkeley-Haas' Defining Principles)

  1. If you could choose one song that expresses who you are, what is it and why? (250 word maximum)
  2. What is your most significant accomplishment? (250 word maximum)
  3. Describe a time when you questioned an established practice or thought within an organization. How did your actions create positive change? (250 word maximum)
  4. Describe a time when you were a student of your own failure. What specific insight from this experience has shaped your development? (250 word maximum)
  5. a. What are your post-MBA short-term and long-term career goals? How have your professional experiences prepared you to achieve these goals?
    b. How will an MBA from Haas help you achieve these goals? (750 word maximum for 5a. and 5b.)
For more info, check out our Haas Essay Guide.

Yesterday, Karen Marks, the director of admissions at Dartmouth's Tuck MBA program, announced the new essay questions for the Class of 2015 in her blog. While the number of mandatory questions has been cutfrom four to three, the three remaining questions are almost identical to those asked last year. Here they are:

Please respond fully but concisely to the following essay questions. Compose each of your answers offline in separate document files and upload them individually in the appropriate spaces. We encourage applicants to limit the length of their responses to 500 words for each essay. There are no right or wrong answers.

Please double-space your responses.

  • Essay 1:Why is an MBA a critical next step toward your short- and long-term career goals? Why is Tuck the best MBA program for you, and what will you uniquely contribute to the community? (If you are applying for a joint or dual degree, please explain how the additional degree will contribute to those goals.)
  • Essay 2: Discuss your most meaningful leadership experience. What did you learn about your own individual strengths and weaknesses through this experience?   
  • Essay 3: Describe a circumstance in your life in which you faced adversity, failure, or setback. What actions did you take as a result and what did you learn from this experience? 
  • Essay 4: (Optional) Please provide any additional insight or information that you have not addressed elsewhere that may be helpful in reviewing your application (e.g., unusual choice of evaluators, weaknesses in academic performance, unexplained job gaps or changes, etc.). Complete this question only if you feel your candidacy is not fully represented by this application.
 For more information, see our Tuck essay guide


MIT's Sloan MBA program has joined in the June madness, announcing their essay questions for the Class of 2015.  And in case you have trouble spelling MIT, they have provided a handy photograph on their admissions website

The new application deadlines are October 24th, 2012 for Round 1 and December 27th, 2012 for Round 2. If you celebrate Christmas and plan on applying in Round 2, you might want to start changing your holdiay plans now.

As in previous years, candidates must include a cover letter and essays. 

Cover Letter: Prepare a cover letter (up to 500 words) seeking a place in the MIT Sloan MBA Program. Your letter should describe your accomplishments, address any extenuating circumstances that may apply to your application, and conform to standard business correspondence. Your letter should be addressed to Mr. Rod Garcia, Senior Director of Admissions.


We are interested in learning more about how you work, think, and act. For each essay, please provide a brief overview of the situation followed by a detailed description of your response. Please limit the experiences you discuss to those which have occurred in the past three years.

In each of the essays, please describe in detail what you thought, felt, said, and did.

  • Essay 1: Please describe a time when you had to convince a person or a group of your idea. (500 words or fewer, limited to one page)
  • Essay 2: Please describe a time when you overcame a personal setback. (500 words or fewer, limited to one page)
Check out our MIT Sloan essay guide for more information.

The Ivy League strikes again. Cornell's Johnson Graduate School of Management announced their new essay questions and deadlines for the class of 2015 today, leaving Dartmouth's Tuck as the last of the Ivy League b-schools to put their proverbial flag in the sand.

Cornell's application deadlines are:

Round 1 Deadline: October 17, 2012
Round 2 Deadline: November 28, 2012
Round 3 Deadline: January 30, 2013
Round 4 Deadline: March 27, 2013

The Essay questions are divided into three parts:

Part I:  Career Choice Essay (300 word maximum)

How would you characterize your career since college?

This is not your job description or complete history of your work since graduating (we already ask for that in the online portion and can see this on your resume).  You need to choose the most important elements that show your initiative, contribution, leadership and results achieved.

Part II:  Career Goal Essay (400 word maximum)

Tell us about your short and long term career goals.

Please show you have a clear direction for your goal post-MBA.  Good essays will emphasize what an applicant wants to do while at Johnson and how you will use this experience to accomplish your goal.

Part III:  Character Essay (400 word maximum for chosen question), please choose one of the following to write about:

  • A) You are the author for the book of Your Life Story.  Please write the table of contents for the book.  Note: Approach this essay with your unique style.  We value creativity and authenticity.
  • B) Describe a situation taken from your personal or professional life where you failed and tell us what you learned.
  • C) What does diversity mean to you and how will you contribute to the diversity of our community at Johnson? 

 For more information, check out our Cornell Johnson essay guide

Evan Forster, founder of Forster-Thomas, provides his tips and advice on how to answer the HBS essay questions for the class of 2015.

When you've been doing this as long as I have, there's one proverb you know is always true: The more things change, the more they stay the same. And this couldn't be truer than with the new Harvard Business School essay questions.

Hidden deep within essay 1, "Tell us something you did well," is your basic accomplishment and/or leadership question (see chapters 9 and 10 of The MBA Reality Check). The choice is yours, but I'd go with leadership. This is HBS, so it's all about leadership potential. The obvious default is to find a great professional moment in your work history, but if you don't have one, don't despair. After all, you're barely 25. What did you expect? (If your answer is, "to rule the world" you're a perfect HBS candidate). What you need now is to—dare I say it—dig down deep and find a great moment in your not-so-distant past wherein you led the charge, faced a challenge, and got others to row that boat across the Delaware with you at its prow. (No white wig unless there's a drag aspect to your triumphant tale).

But if not at work, then where? Leadership is everywhere: in your family, with your friends, and in your extracurriculars (or as we like to call them at Forster-Thomas Inc, your Power-curriculars ©2012—things you do that change a community). This means anything from throwing a really great surprise bachelorette party to launching a college mentor program. The key is in the lesson you learn that you can and do apply to every part of your professional life. Remember, you need to demonstrate a strength or, as we like to call it, a super power!  

Essay 2: "Tell us about something you wish you had done better." What's behind that door, Vanna White? Well let's pull the curtain back and what do we find—yes, it's another failure or mistake question in disguise (see Chapter 13 in The MBA Reality Check). In this essay, you need to communicate a weakness, or at the risk of overdoing the metaphor, your personal Kryptonite. Again, this means digging down deep and really telling the truth about something you screwed up and what you learned from it—not how you fixed it or saved the day in the 11th hour. Remember, in this reality show, you do not get immunity. You must face the music, no holds barred. Admit the truth about yourself: something not so great; something you wish no one knew; something you would love to take back, but can't.

Does this flop come from your personal or professional life? It does not matter. (That said, it cannot be a bad grade. That's a different essay entirely—see Optional Essays in Chapter 19 of The MBA Reality Check). What matters here is that you see your weakness and change your behavior as you move forward. And when you see it and come out with it, admissions is gonna love you. They're gonna see what your good friends, lover, wife, partner, frat brothers, and teammates love about you—your ability to face the truth about you.

Finally, it's all about what you learned from this personal or professional error. How have you grown? How, when faced with subsequent similar circumstances, do you take your life/profession on now? That's what makes you an awesome leader—now and in the future.

Tip: If you're not a little worried about sharing this story with the committee, you are not HBS material. In fact, you're not top ten material—and the Tribal Council will definitely vote you off the treacherous Island of Harvard.

This year, if you make it to the HBS interview, you will encounter Question 3, "The Last Word," as Dean Leopold refers to it (I like to call this one Survivor: HBS, The Final Round).

Should you make it this far, just think talk radio. Nothing is more difficult than having to figure out the "underlying issue" in 8 minutes or less when Uncle David and I host Job Talk. So, what do you do? Well, you can't prepare for this one since the topic of the essay is the interview, and until you've had it, you won't know what was said.

What I can tell you is that you need to be authentic. Real. Ask yourself what you really wished you could've told that interviewer. What do you truly think needed expanding? Or what burning question did you have—after you walked out. We all get 'em. Hindsight is 20/20. This is your opportunity to show your ability to dance in the moment and zero in on the underlying issue—just like we have to do with our callers. So, be your own radio talk show host and, no matter what, say what you are thinking. Identify the elephant in the room during the interview and go for it. It's not a time to be careful. Ultimately this is about taking a huge risk. Doug Flutie, throw that Hail Mary pass!

For more information about the HBS essay questions and deadlines, see our HBS essay guide.