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NYU / Stern 2015-2016 Essay Topic Analysis

NYU / Stern 2015-2016 Essay Topic Analysis

Now that the NYU adcom has released the Stern MBA essays for the 2015-2016 admissions season — and now that Assistant Dean of MBA Admissions Isser Gallogly has offered his insight to NYU applicants via Clear Admit — we wanted to follow up with our analysis of this year’s NYU essay topics.

As has been the case for several years running, the Stern essay section comprises two required essays. The first, which focuses on the applicant’s professional goals and interest in the NYU MBA, is unchanged from last admissions season. Meanwhile, Stern has dropped one of the two options it posed in essay 2 last year, doing away with a response asking applicants to detail an alternate route to their target long-term position. This leaves the school’s classic Personal Expression essay, which is once again a required component of the NYU application.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the Stern 2015-2016 MBA essays:

Essay 1: Professional Aspirations (750 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font)
Why pursue an MBA (or dual degree) at this point in your life?
What actions have you taken to determine that Stern is the best fit for your MBA experience?
What do you see yourself doing professionally upon graduation?

This is a fairly straightforward career goals essay, asking applicants to comment on why business school makes sense for them at this point in their careers, to articulate their post-MBA career objectives, and to outline the steps they’ve taken to learn about the Stern MBA.

To tailor this essay to Stern, we recommend answering each question in the order in which it’s posed, if you can make that work with the flow of the response. You might touch on your work experience to date and hint at the future direction you wish to take (i.e. name the industry or functional shift you hope to accomplish), and explain why you need an MBA to advance along that path. To fully address this first question, applicants should also explain the timing on their application; whether you’ve reached a plateau in learning at your current job or see an exciting opportunity that you want to act on as soon as possible, explain why this is the ideal time for you to enroll in business school. This first phase of your discussion might also describe the skills and knowledge you hope to gain from an MBA with an eye to your future plans (to be expanded on later).

Next, sensitive to the fact that applicants targeting Stern may also be applying to other programs that are strong in finance – especially regional peer Columbia – NYU is essentially asking applicants exactly how much homework they’ve done on the Stern MBA program in the second part of the prompt. Further, in our interview with Assistant Dean Gallogly earlier this month, the admissions head pointed out that it’s in a candidate’s best interest to do an extensive amount of research on the programs they’re considering, given the financial investment and lifelong affiliation with the school’s network that comes with graduate business education. Therefore, applicants need to explain not just what they know about how Stern will position them for professional success, but also detail how they’ve learned this. Applicants should aim to highlight the insights that they gained from visiting the Stern campus or attending off-site information sessions, exploring the program’s video and social media offerings, and speaking with Stern students and alums.

Finally, applicants should double back to comment on the specifics of their post-MBA plans. Because the school explicitly asks what applicants see themselves doing upon graduation, applicants should outline their short-term plans very specifically, including both the position the candidate hopes to hold immediately after an MBA, along with 1-2 companies one plans to target. Space permitting, candidates may also consider describing their broader 5-10 year plan, especially if the long-term possibilities have been influential in the path to b-school that they’ll describe earlier in the essay. Beyond the “what” and the “where,” the admissions committee will also be interested in the “why”: the impact that the applicant hopes to make on an organization, sector, consumer base, or region. Finally, it would make sense for this discussion to cover the specific curricular and programmatic offerings that make the NYU MBA a fit with the applicant’s career goals and personal interests (Candidates might consider reading the Clear Admit School Guide to NYU Stern for some extra help in this area).

This is a good deal of information to pack into a 750-word essay for any applicant, but introducing the central elements of one’s candidacy in such a brief essay is definitely achievable, provided that applicants take their time to compose well-crafted and concise responses.

Essay 2: Personal Expression
Please describe yourself to your MBA classmates. You may use almost any method to convey your message (e.g. words, illustrations). Feel free to be creative. (500 words for a written essay, 5 minutes for a video or audio file)

NYU has gone back to basics with its second prompt, dropping the alternative-career-path option it had offered in recent years and instead making its long-standing personal expression a required response again. In our interview, Director Gollogly commented that both admissions readers and applicants seemed to favor this essay item over the newer alternative, and indeed other MBA programs including HBS and Columbia have recently hopped on the “introduce yourself” wagon. It’s clear that these kinds of open-ended questions yield information that the adcom values as they decide who to invite into their student community.

This essay option gives applicants a chance to showcase their creative sides by allowing them a broad range of (non-perishable) possible media in which to express themselves. This is a chance to literally show the adcom who you are, where you come from, and what you care about. Of course, it’s also a test of an applicants’ judgment; as Assistant Dean Gallogly told Clear Admit, if it’s not something you’d be comfortable telling your boss, it’s probably best to omit here as well.

Candidates should consider what they would truly want their classmates to know about them, while also being mindful of the balance of content between the two required essays. That is, because the first response asks about candidates’ professional background and career goals, it would make sense to focus the majority of one’s comments in this response on one’s life outside the workplace. Applicants will want to think reflectively about their values and personality, as well as strategically about what makes them unique with respect to other applicants. Naturally, you’ll also want to communicate your enthusiasm about meeting and working with your fellow students and comment on any ways you would engage with them that aren’t covered in your first essay.

Many applicants feel most at ease with the written word, and a prose response is absolutely acceptable here. Candidates should note, though, that their response must be some kind of creative presentation; i.e. a simple essay about themselves will not do here. Fortunately, there is still a great deal of room in which to be creative with a written response. For instance, your essay might be the opening to a chapter in an autobiography, a series of journal entries, an imagined interview with a magazine or newspaper, or a snapshot of a typical day. The goal will be to convey information about your interests, values, and personality in the context of this creative exercise.

Of course, this prompt also leaves the option of interspersing text with photos and graphics, for applicants who want to heighten the impact of their response through visuals but don’t want to go all-out with a video. A captioned photo album of particularly proud moments or a decision-making flow chart visualizing how you decide to spend your free time could show your creativity and willingness to put special effort into your Stern application. And, or course, video is an excellent option for applicants who feel comfortable in front of the camera and wish to showcase elements of their background that lend themselves well to this medium (e.g. active hobbies, favorite cultural experiences, etc.). Finally, no matter the format, applicants should pay attention to tone and ensure that they’re coming across as sincere, collaborative, and excited about the prospect of joining the NYU community.

Essay 3: Additional Information (optional)
Please provide any additional information that you would like to bring to the attention of the Admissions Committee. This may include current or past gaps in employment, further explanation of your undergraduate record or self-reported academic transcript(s), plans to retake the GMAT, GRE and/or TOEFL or any other relevant information.

If you are unable to submit a recommendation from your current supervisor, you must explain your reason, even if you are a re-applicant.
Given the scope of the two required essays and the explicit guidelines provided for this essay, applicants would do best to address only the topics outlined by the admissions committee for this prompt. Responses should be as brief as possible, providing explanations but not excuses and maintaining an air of humility.

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