For Fall 2009 admission, I had the opportunity to work with five clients who were admitted to UCLA. You find testimonials from three of them here.
Here are the questions and instructions taken from UCLA's website:
GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS: Please be introspective and authentic in your responses. We value the opportunity to learn about your life experiences, aspirations, and goals.
All responses to essays must be on double-spaced pages that are uploaded in document form, except for Essay 4 for first-time applicants, which may be submitted as an audio or video file instead. (Please note the word limits in parentheses.)
First-time applicants -- 4 required essays:
- Describe the ways in which your family and/or community have helped shape your development. (750 words)
- Describe the biggest risk you have ever taken, the outcome, and what you learned in the process. (500 words)
- 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)
- Select and respond to one of the two following questions.
a. Entrepreneurship is a mindset that creates new opportunities in established and new organizations. Describe an instance in which you exhibited this mindset.b. What is something people will find surprising about you?We would like you to respond to the question by recording an audio response (up to 2 minutes) or video response (up to 1 minute). If you are unable to submit your response via audio, then please upload a written response instead (250 words).
Supported File Types:
Audio: .avi, .wmv, .wav, .mp3, .midi, .wma, .aiff, .au, .mp4
Video: .avi, .wmv, .mov, .mpeg
- OPTIONAL: Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? (250 words)
The first thing you should notice about this set of questions is that it begins with a very unique question that emphasizes personality. It is fair to say that it is almost the total opposite of application like Columbia Business School's that have a focus on work-related topics. It would indeed be possible to write UCLA's entire set of questions without including a standard "leadership" or "greatest work accomplishment" essay. It is worth considering what UCLA says about its admission criteria:
The Admissions Committee evaluates applicants? prospects as leaders in management and their projected ability succeed in, benefit from and contribute to the UCLA Anderson MBA Program. Committee members carefully consider personal and academic background information, GMAT scores, TOEFL scores (for most international applicants), achievements, awards and honors, employment history, letters of recommendation, and college and community involvement, especially where candidates have served in leadership capacities. The Admissions Committee seeks to create a community of students who bring unique contributions from their diverse backgrounds and experiences and who will collectively enrich the educational experience.
UCLA is very focused on understanding your ability to make a contribution to their community. This very much at the center of the education they offer and how how they differentiate their program:
- Challenges: Whether it?s tackling the intricacies of corporate strategy, leading a student initiative, or climbing a nearby mountain, students will be tested by both the academic rigors of UCLA Anderson and development activities outside of class.
- Values: The values of UCLA Anderson set it apart from other schools. By working with professors and administrators, students forge a community that values learning, teamwork and research-based practical knowledge
- Collegiality: The hallmarks of student life at Anderson are compassion, mutual respect and support, which students demonstrate toward one another. The UCLA Anderson community is built on the collective strengths of our diverse student body.
- Access: The network of personal relationships and industry contacts that students develop while attending UCLA Anderson and after they graduate is arguably as important as the academic degree they earn. Countless opportunities exist for students to connect with individuals, business and community outside the classroom, and for alumni to stay in touch with the school, faculty, fellow alumni and current students.
1. Describe the ways in which your family and/or community have helped shape your development. (750 words)
The "UCLA Question" should help admissions understand who you are and what you can bring to their community. They have slightly simplified the wording this year by eliminating wording related to "youth." Now the question does not require you to focus on your childhood, but it certainly requires that you emphasize the past.
Use this essay as way to help admissions understand who you are and where you come from. This might take the form of personality traits connected to your parents, values connected to the community you were raised in, and/or core skills that you can trace to your early development.
Given the length, I suggest providing two to four "stories" that will help admissions understand who you are. The stories may be about you, your family, or other aspects of your background that will demonstrate who you are.
It is not necessary to be explicit about how you might make a contribution at Anderson, but it is important that you tell stories and analyze them so that the adcom will really understand what you could contribute. Therefore, it is critical that you just don't tell stories, but you provide a very clear interpretation of them in order to highlight what makes you a unique individual.
You need to think carefully about what will work here. Always ask yourself whether what you are telling admissions will really help them understand why you should be a part of their community.
2. Describe the biggest risk you have ever taken, the outcome, and what you learned in the process. (500 words)
This question is new for 2010. Depending on how you handle it, it may take the form of a leadership story (See my analysis of HBS and Stanford for how to handle such leadership questions), a failure (See my analysis of Wharton), or an accomplishment (See HBS). The structure for your essay should essentially consist of the three parts mentioned in the question:
1. Describe the risk you took.
2. State what the outcome was.
3. State what you learned.
Given that this is the only essay that can be easily used for discussing a professional situation in detail, most applicants will certainly consider doing so. Generally, that might be a good idea, but just make sure that a real risk was involved. Your essay will fail if your reader cannot accept that you were taking a risk. Clearly state what the risk was.
The outcome might be very simple or complex. It might involve a change within you or a change to an organization/group or both. Whatever it is, make sure that you are identifying the outcome as clearly as possible.
As always with questions that ask about learning, it is really important that you provide clear lesson or lessons learned, and, where applicable provide a concrete application of the lesson to a new situation. If you write on a failure, make sure that the learning takes the form of an application of the lesson learned to a new successful situation.
3. 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)
As I mentioned above, this question is focused on the future. Rather than repeat much of what I have previously written about other versions of this question, I would suggest that you look at my analysis of Columbia 1 as it can be applied here.
A great Essay 3 will clearly answer the "Why now" aspect of the question without focusing too much on past experience. One core focus of this essay should be on how being a part of Anderson's Class of 2012, will contribute to your intended professional future. Make sure that your motivations for pursuing that future are clearly stated in this essay and perhaps explained further elsewhere in your essay set.
UCLA puts great emphasis on applicants demonstrating that they have become informed about The Anderson School, so I strongly suggest that you visit if you can, but at least attend one of their admissions events. Getting in contact with UCLA alums would also be helpful. At a minimum, learn as much as you can from their web page. You really need to convince adcom that you know what you need from UCLA for your future goals. If you have the word count do so, you may also want to address what you can contribute.
Japanese applicants should most certainly take a look at The Japan America Business Association (JABA) page. In addition, please see LA State of Mind ～UCLA MBA留学記 2009-2011～.
4. Select and respond to one of the two following questions.
a. Entrepreneurship is a mindset that creates new opportunities in established and new organizations. Describe an instance in which you exhibited this mindset.
b. What is something people will find surprising about you?We would like you to respond to the question by recording an audio response (up to 2 minutes) or video response (up to 1 minute). If you are unable to submit your response via audio, then please upload a written response instead (250 words).
Supported File Types:
Audio: .avi, .wmv, .wav, .mp3, .midi, .wma, .aiff, .au, .mp4
Video: .avi, .wmv, .mov, .mpeg
For its Fall 2009 application, the UCLA Anderson School of Business did something completely unique in the annals of MBA application history. For Fall 2010, they now request that applicants provide a audio or video response to one of two questions. While it is possible to opt out of this audio or video option, only someone wanting to commit "application suicide" would do that. WHATEVER YOU DO, MAKE A RECORDING. If your TOEFL iBT Speaking score is weak, this is your best shot at showing you can say something meaningful in one minute. Get a decent recording device, prep your answer intensively, and get this one right if you want to be part of the Class of 2010. If you are technologically challenged, get someone's help. Unless you lack vocal cords, I am not sure what excuse you could have. If you are shy on camera, just use audio. After all, no other school asks this question, so UCLA admissions will be able to judge how much time and effort you put into their application. I have more to say about this question below.
Basically they are asking you to deliver a one minute speech. Structure your answer so that you are clearly answering one of the three options and that you make a clear point. If you think about it, this is a great way to test an applicant's ability to say something meaningful in the amount of time that one might typically make a comment in a class. My suggestion is that you practice enough so that it does not sound or look like you are simply reading a piece of paper. Record yourself until you are happy with the result. HINT: This may involve many recordings and alterations of your script.a. Entrepreneurship is a mindset that embraces innovation and risk-taking within both established and new organizations. Describe an instance in which you exhibited this mindset.
As I mentioned above, UCLA has a strong entrepreneurial focus, so if your goals are specifically entrepreneurial, this is a great question to answer. Obviously in one minute you cannot provide a long story. Think about a situation where you showed innovation and/or risk-taking. Obviously don't duplicate the content of Essay 2. One possible structure:
1. State the situation, 15 seconds.
2. Describe what you did, 30 seconds.
3. State the outcome, 15 seconds.
c. What is something people will find surprising about you?
This question is a great opportunity to balance out the rest of your application. Is there something really important about you that would not be clear from your application form, essays, resume, and recommendations? Is there something you really want to emphasize about yourself? Here is the chance to do that. Unless a professional topic would reveal something surprising about you, I don't necessarily think this question lends itself well to most work-related topics. Otherwise, the options here are wide open. Just make sure that adcom understands why this issue is so important to you that you are using one of your precious essay questions for it. Finally, make it surprising! If it is obvious from your application, it will bore them.
5. OPTIONAL: Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? (250 words)
This is a nice open-ended version of the standard "anything negative" optional essay. If everything is good, you don't need to write this one. If it is not, I suggest doing so. See my comments regarding the Wharton optional essay as they apply here.
Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 my recent post on "Why I don't analyze profiles without consulting with the applicant." If you are interested in my graduate admission consulting services, please click here.
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