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September 12, 2012

London Business School Fall 2013 MBA Application Essay Questions

In this post I analyze the London Business School's MBA admissions essay questions for the Class of 2015. Thinking about London Business School reminds me of the strength of the alumni network, the quality of its academic research, its core competencies in finance and international business, the intensity of its campus community, and the emphasis that LBS puts on active student involvement with that community. The London Business School Santa Pub Crawl also looks quite cool:

I have worked with a number of clients admitted to LBS. I had a total of 10 admitted between 2009 and 2012 as well as prior clients from 2001-2008.  You can find testimonials from some of them here.   I do suggest reviewing the interviews I have conducted with my former clients from the Classes of 2010, 2011,and  2012.  They each provide their own unique perspective on LBS.

The Questions
You get the MBA Essay Template, an MS Word file, here. LBS has been altering its questions almost every year.  

Word Count:  LBS is very strict about this: "You are required to add the word count at the end of each question. Please do not write more than the specified word limit for each essay. Any extra words or essays may be disregarded.“

Learn about London Business School and Figure out how you will contribute: For Questions 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6 you need to know quite a bit about LBS. Even for Question 2 and the Optional Question, you might want to discuss something LBS related, but that is not specifically required.  The more you know the better. Fully explore the LBS website, get in touch with alums, and even contact students. WATCH MBA TV! The LBS Japanese student website is ideal for Japanese applicants. Do whatever it takes to become sufficiently informed about the school. Attend events if you can and even better, go visit if that is possible. The school has strengths beyond finance, entrepreneurship, and international business, so explore them. Figure out specifically what parts of the program will most effectively assist you in succeeding at your post-MBA plan.

When it comes to contribution questions, I think it is important to tell specific stories that highlight specific ways you will add value to your future classmates and the LBS community as a whole. It is critical that you understand the role of the first year study team at LBS as identify specific ways you can become engaged in and contribute to LBS. It is also important that you don’t repeat yourself. The table below is designed to help you plan out your LBS essays in terms of figuring out how to segment out different stories and characteristics about yourself and reasons for why you want to go to LBS. I have omitted Question 2, the optional question, and the question for reapplicants, but it is possible that you would include something LBS specific in one of those questions as well. Though after discussing LBS in some way in 5 essays, you might really have nothing else LBS specific that you want to write about. I will assume that is the case.


QUESTIONQuestion 1Question 3Question 4Question 5Question 6
How will the London Business School MBA Programme contribute to this [immediate post-MBA] goal?
Give a specific example of when you have had to test your leadership and / or team working skills either professionally, or outside of work. What role will you play in your first year study group?What type of student club or campus community events will you be involved with and why? How will you contribute?
Describe any significant experiences outside of your home country or culture. What did you gain and how will your experience contribute to the School?Give an example of a person who, in your opinion, has made a profound impact on the way the world does business. How will this person influence your contribution to your MBA Programme at London Business School?

(There is space provide in this section of the form to actually fill it out).
Multiple reasons why LBS will help you achieve your goals.
Reason 1:

Reason 2:

Reason 3:
1. One specific situation highlighting your teamwork or leadership skills:

2. Specific ways based on the skills you exhibited in that situation which will contribute to your first year study group.
Role 1:

Role 2:
Specific clubs or events you will be involved with and how you will contribute:

1. Club/Event:

2. Club/Event:

3. Club/Event:

(Word count likely available for 2-3 such clubs or events)
Specific international/ diversity experiences:

What you learned from those experiences:

How that will contributed to LBS:
A specific person who has profoundly impacted the way the world does business:

How that person’s profound impact has effected you:

How you will contribute to LBS based on the above:
Why are they asking this question?

Here I have tried to identify the various reasons that each question is being asked.  No doubt I am not getting all possible reasons.
1. Basic fit with program.

2. Clarity in terms of post-MBA objectives.

3.Knowledge of how an LBS MBA will help you achieve your goals.
1. Leadership and/or teamwork skills.

2. Basic understanding of the first year study group.
1. Unique ways you will add value to LBS based on your past experience, skills, values, and personality.

2. Your understanding of the importance of such activities in general to LBS and your specific interest in  two  or more such activities.
1. Your internationality  as measured by your self-awareness about the value of your international experience(s).

2.  Your ability to make contributions based on your international experience.

3. Your understanding of the role of internationality/diversity at LBS.
1. Your ability to look at the world of business beyond your own personal perspective/ interests.

2. Your ability to relate major impacts on the world of business to yourself.

3. Your ability to think creatively and thoughtfully about a hard question.

4.Your ability to contribute in some other way to LBS.

5.  Your intensity of commitment to LBS based on your willingness to provide a thoughtful and interesting
(You can simply cut and past the above chart into a MS Word or Google Doc)

Question 1 (500 words)
In what role or sector do you see yourself working immediately after graduation?  Why?  How will your past and present experiences help you achieve this?  How will the London Business School MBA Programme contribute to this goal?
Question 2 (200 words)
Where do you see your career progressing five years after graduation and what is your longer term career vision?
I think it is helpful to look at these two questions together. Most MBA programs would put these two questions together, but LBS does not. If you need to do initial brainstorming on your goals, please see my analysis of Stanford Essay 2 as it will help you on conceptual level with these two questions. Assuming your goals are clear and you know why you need an MBA, you can proceed to writing Questions 1 and 2.
Why Does LBS Separate the Short And 5-Year/ Longer Term Goals?
I don't think this is just an administrative decision, but rather an indication that they are looking for applicants who can put together a very clear post-MBA plan. They want applicants who are focused on their immediate post-MBA career from the outset. By clearly separating the immediate post-MBA plan from the rest of your goals, LBS requires you to be specific. Make them believe in the reality of what you want to do. Make it real, not a "dream." The LBS approach seems to have little room for the medium(5-year)/longer term, specifically 200 words.

Question 1: As stated above, give them a plan. Show how specific parts of your past experience support that plan. State clearly what parts of the LBS program will make that plan possible. Explain very clearly why now is the right to time to execute this plan. You should not be writing about abstract goals, only about your post-MBA plan, that first job once you graduated from LBS.

The order you answer this question in is really up to you, but I think it is very important that your answer not become overburdened by discussing your past experience at the expense of discussing your plans and why LBS is right for you. Keep in mind that you should be using your past experience as evidence to support your plan. Therefore, make sure that anything you say about your past experience is included for the sole purpose of showing its value to your plan and to the necessity for obtaining an MBA now.

Assume that LBS is very concerned that your post-MBA plan be realistic. Do the necessary research to make them believe you know what you are writing about.

Question 2: Have a very clear five-year post-MBA goal. While it might be the case that you will change jobs within that initial five years, I suggest for this purpose that is best that you don't, but rather show how you will grow and develop in your career. Assume continuous realistic growth over those five years. As to the longer term career vision, give them a full indication that your goals are consistent with the idea that you have leadership potential. That longer term career vision need not be a plan, but rather simply an idea of what you would do. I highly recommend that it be stated clearly or intuitively obvious how Essay 1 and Essay 2 connect together. Your reader should feel that there is continuity or at least logic connecting your post-MBA plan and longer term vision.

Question 3 (300 words)
Give a specific example of when you have had to test your leadership and / or team working skills either professionally, or outside of work. What role will you play in your first year study group?
For extensive general discussions about how to tell leadership/teamwork stories, see my analysis of Stanford Essay 3. You may also want to look at my analysis of HBS Essay 1.  The components of an effective answer here involve the following:
1. A specific situation (time, place, location should be clear) where you demonstrated leadership or teamwork skills.
2. A clear identification of what leadership and/or teamwork skills you demonstrated.
3. A positive result that would indicate that your skills are actually effective. Therefore I don’t recommend writing about a failure.
4. Since it is a test, whatever you did should not have been easy. It actually really makes it easier to highlight your skills if the situation was hard.  Hint: Make sure whatever did was not routine and dull but actually was challenging.
5.  A statement about how you contribute to your first year study group based on the teamwork/leadership skills you demonstrated.

Question 4 (300 words)
Student involvement is an extremely important part of the London MBA experience and this is reflected in the character of students on campus. What type of student club or campus community events will you be involved with and why? How will you contribute?
This is also a contribution question, but quite different in both theme and structure from Q3. This question is certainly not like the more standard contribution questions above because it is completely future focused, whereas the typical contribution question is about showing how the past will be utilized for the future. Here you should certainly explain why you would want to lead a particular club or event and while this may relate to the past, you should really use this essay to show what you want to gain from LBS. In fact, this question is both about what you will contribute and what you will learn/experience at LBS. Effective answers to this question require solid knowledge about LBS, so that you can think really practically about your answer to this question. Keep in mind that this question is not really very hypothetical because students are expected to get leadership experience through clubs and events. While you should certainly writing about fun clubs and events, you should also consider using this as a way of discussing something that can provide you with valuable opportunities for enhancing your ability to reach your professional objectives. It is reasonable to write on 2-3 different topics here.

Question 5 (150 words)
London Business School offers a truly global and diverse experience. Describe any significant experiences outside of your home country or culture. What did you gain and how will your experience contribute to the School?
The usual problem my clients encounter is how to even minimally account for their international experience in 150 words. My advice is to focus on 1-3 key experiences which had a significant impact on you. You need to actually say something meaningful about 1 such experience and show how relates to what you will contribute at LBS. Clearly some people with large amounts of international experience will find themselves providing a pretty macro-level answer, but even so, try to be specific about what you gained. If you have no or limited experiences outside of your home country, focus on a situation where you engaged with others who came from a different culture.

Question 6 (300 words)
Give an example of a person who, in your opinion, has made a profound impact on the way the world does business. How will this person influence your contribution to your MBA Programme at London Business School?
This question is new for this year.
I think the London Business School Admissions Committee must be very passionate about their question because they will likely get tired of reading about some of the same people over and over again. After all, who would want to read dull essays where uncreative morons mention Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett?  Now if you work for Microsoft, maybe mentioning Bill Gates is acceptable, but for the rest of you, please...
LBS gets my award for asking the hardest question of 2013 because the second part of this question is clearly designed to make anyone’s brain hurt.  Identifying someone who has had a profound impact on the way the world does business is not inherently hard, but explaining how this person has influenced you and in turn will allow you to contribute to LBS is hard.
The way I would recommend answering this question is to deal with the real hard part of it first, which is the second part of the question: How will this person influence your contribution to your MBA Programme at London Business School? In other words, focus on specific contribution you want to make at LBS that you have not communicated in Questions 3-5.  Then think about how that contribution can relate to someone who has profoundly impacted the way the world does business.
Some suggestions for selecting someone cool to write about:
1. Unless you have been specifically impacted in an interesting way by one of the super obvious people (Jobs, Gates, Buffett, etc), pick someone a bit less obvious, but who you can clearly demonstrate to have had a significant impact.
2. If you can’t identify the impact the person had, they are bad choice.
3. Don’t feel limited to suggest someone who is a 20th century or 21st century figure.  The question does not limit the selection in respect to when the person lived. In other words, it would be perfectly fine to select someone from any point in human history as long as you can demonstrate that they had a profound impact on the way the world does business and a specific impact on how you will contribute to LBS.

Question 7 (300 words)
(This question is for re-applicants only)
How has your candidacy for the London Business School MBA changed since your last application?
An effective answer here will do the following:
1. Showcase what has changed since your last application that now makes you a better candidate.
2. Refine your goals. I think it is reasonable that they may have altered since your last application, but if the change is extreme, you had better explain why.
3. Make a better case for why LBS is right for you.
For more about reapplication, please see "A guide to my resources for reapplicants."

Additional Information
(This question is optional)
This is not a compulsory essay but please complete if you would like the opportunity to clarify or expand upon any information submitted in your application.
This question is completely open-ended. I highly recommend using it discuss something positive as well as any concerns you may have that cannot be addressed in the application form. What is that one additional story that LBS really needs to know about you? Use this answer to provide admissions with another reason to invite you to an LBS interview. Make sure your answer does not look like it was written for another school, but feel free to use this in any way that you need to. 

-Adam Markus

I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.
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