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Be sure to read my Key Posts on the admissions process. Topics include essay analysis, resumes, recommendations, rankings, and more.

September 28, 2008

Oxford Said Fall 2009

This will be a relatively brief post on the Oxford Said Business School MBA application essay questions for Fall 2009 admission. I have taken the questions from the Online Application.

Oxford has two questions.

1)Explain why you chose your current job. How do you hope to see your career developing over the next five years? How will an MBA assist you in the development of these ambitions? Maximum 1,000 words.
As the first and third parts of this question are similar to my analysis of Wharton, I would suggest you read that in addition to what I say here.

That said, Oxford Essay 1 is a completely practical question. Unlike schools like Stanford that ask about the applicant's "career aspirations" or
even a school like Wharton that asks for long and short-term goals, Oxford is looking for something more grounded and more specific: A FIVE YEAR PLAN. Note the ambiguity in the question itself, the plan maybe written from the perspective of the present or from the perspective of after one finishes the MBA. I advise clients to treat it as as post-MBA five year plan as I think that is implied by the presence of the third part of the question ("
How will an MBA assist you in the development of these ambitions?"), but I would not insist on that. I think most applicants should treat it as a post-MBA five year plan.

A plan is practical. It has details. It shows you have really thought about what you want to do. It shows you have done research about your intended future employer and/or future entrepreneurial venture. It shows you are realistic. That does not mean that it should be boring or lack ambition, but it does mean that it has to rise beyond a level of mere abstraction. Treat it as seriously as you would treat a memo to your boss on the future direction of your department, a proposal to a client on an expensive project, or a business plan. Make sure you show how Oxford fits the plan. If you can't establish a tight connection between your plan and Oxford, either apply somewhere else or change your plan. And remember as long as you can speak effectively about your plan in an interview, the second after you are admitted, you have no obligation to stick to that plan.

Which recent development, world event or book has most influenced your thinking and why? Maximum 2,000 words.
This is "The Oxford Question" and just as Essay 1 is highly practical, this one is the place to think great thoughts, to show your personality, and to establish you fit at a school known for centuries as one of the great centers of scholarship. Over the years, including last year, I have worked with great applicants who used this question successfully to win admission to Oxford. Each told their own story. The things that were common to all, was a willingness to take on a big subject and to show their connection to it.

THE RELEVANCE TEST: A great answer here will be on something relevant to why Oxford should admit you:

- A concept or value that has influenced a major decision(s) you have made in your life
-An important aspect of the way you view an issue critical to your goals
-Your commitment to something greater than your own personal interest
-Your inner intellectual life
-Your ethical values
-Some other aspect of who you are that will compel admissions to want to interview you

The thing that has influenced you is less important then how it is has influenced you. A good answer will focus less on the recent development, world event, or book and more on its impact on you. This is not supposed to be a book report. Focus on those aspects of the development, world event, or book that specifically impact you. Show how it has done so.

Make certain that your explanation of the recent development, world event, or book is very clear as Oxford is using this question to determine your ability to analyze something. Be precise in your explanation and do not assume the reader has extensive knowledge of the subject. Even if the subject is well known, say "9/11" in the US, it would still be critical that you explain the exact impact of particular aspects of that event had on you.

Finally, effective answers are always personal. Given the limited space in Essay 1 to discuss accomplishments, you may very well find that you can do so in Essay 2, but if you have a great topic for Essay 2 and it is not necessarily focused on your accomplishments, don't worry as long as it clearly helps Oxford understand why they should interview you.

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to. Before emailing me questions about your chances for admission or personal profile, please see "Why I don't analyze profiles without consulting with the applicant." If you are interested in my graduate admission consulting services, please click here.

-Adam Markus
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