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June 09, 2013

New York University Stern MBA Essays for Fall 2014 Admission

In this post I analyze NYU Stern MBA program’s essay questions for fall 2014 Admission. Those applying for the Class of 2016 will find that they only have to write two essays this year. NYU has cut the essay down from 3 to 2 essays, but the essays themselves are unchanged from last year.

New York University Stern School of Business MBA essay questions’ web page also includes great tips which you can find here. As has been the trend at other schools, the number of required essays has been reduced to two this year. I have taken the essay topics from the website, as the online application is not ready yet.  

Essay 1. Professional Aspirations (750 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font)
(a) Why pursue an MBA (or dual degree) at this point in your life?
(b) What actions have you taken to determine that Stern is the best fit for your MBA experience?
(c) What do you see yourself doing professionally upon graduation?
What I really like about this essay is that Stern is doing all the organizational work for you. Let’s examine how you to answer each of these components.

(a) Why pursue an MBA (or dual degree) at this point in your life?
Clearly you need to show why given your present position and future goals, now is the right time to get an MBA.   For more about goals, see my analysis of other schools goals statements, such as Stanford’s.
(b) What actions have you taken to determine that Stern is the best fit for your MBA experience?
Here you need to clearly indicate how you have become informed about the program, but beyond explaining the specific actions you have taken to be informed about Stern, I suggest you also indicate how you expect to specifically use Stern to reach your objectives. Therefore I think there are two main issues to consider answering this question.

BECOME INFORMED ABOUT STERN: Stern admissions does a very good job of explaining their application. If you can attend a presentation at Stern or at least attend an admissions event, that is most helpful because getting into Stern is all about fit. Visiting is obviously best, attending their admissions event is also good, and so is making an effort to communicate with students and alumni. Obviously reading their website is important, but that is not enough. Make sure you listened to their podcasts. Making a connection to alumni is always a good idea. Be specific about the steps you have taken. Feel free to use names of admissions officers, alumni, and students that you met.

ESTABLISH YOUR OWN CRITERIA FOR WHAT YOU WANT FROM AN MBA. Based on your post-MBA goals (professional for sure, personal if applicable as well), identify what it is you want from an MBA. Once you have identified what you want from an MBA, something you will discuss in Part A of this essay, in Part B you should write specifically about how you think Stern will help you meet your MBA objectives.  If you are not sure what you want from an MBA,  please refer to the GAP/SWOT/ROI analysis found in my analysis of Stanford Essay 1.

(c) What do you see yourself doing professionally upon graduation?
Explain your post-MBA career goal in-depth. The goal you discuss should connect very directly with why you need an MBA now (a), what you intend to gain from Stern (b). If you write Essay 2 Option A, make sure your goal intuitively connects to the two possible paths your career may take in the longer term. If you are not clear on what your post-MBA is or how to about formulating it, please see my analysis of Stanford Essay 1.

Essay 2: Choose Option A or Option B
The big change this year is that instead of answering both of the following questions last year, you will need to answer only one of them. Your choice is essentially between writing an essay about your long term goals and your personality. I would recommend that anyone with a particularly strong long-term vision consider writing Option A. On the other hand, if you really want to make an appeal based on your personality and do so creatively, choose Option B. I don’t think there is a right option here overall because both of these questions are totally unique to NYU Stern and both require significant effort to execute effectively.

Option A: Your Two Paths
(500 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font)
The mission of the Stern School of Business is to develop people and ideas that transform the challenges of the 21st century into opportunities to create value for business and society. Given today's ever-changing global landscape, Stern seeks and develops leaders who thrive in ambiguity, embrace a broad perspective and think creatively about the range of ways they can have impact.
(a) Describe two different and distinct paths you could see your career taking long term. How do you see your two paths unfolding?
(b) How do your paths tie to the mission of NYU Stern?
(c) What factors will most determine which path you will take?
This essay gives you chance to consider different long-term goals. As long as both goals align with what you wrote in Essay 1, the two paths might be quite different. This is an opportunity to imagine different futures for yourself.

(a) Describe two different and distinct paths you could see your career taking long term. How do you see your two paths unfolding?
Regarding the formulation of goals, if you are having trouble doing it, I suggest reading  my analysis of other schools goals statements, such as Stanford’s. As I mentioned above, the two paths can be quite different.
(b) How do your paths tie to the mission of NYU Stern?
Explain how your  two paths align with Stern’s values.  Going beyond the mission statement itself, you might want to consider how your goals align with other aspects of Stern.
(c) What factors will most determine which path you will take?
This is the critical thinking part of the question. I suggest you think about what externalities might impact your selection of career paths. For example, economic or technological changes. Even, the role of luck is important to consider. Also think about what personal choices you make might effect your career path. Think about life events (marriage, kids), geography (Where you do want to live?), personal motivation (What really makes you happy?), and values (Where can you have the biggest positive impact?). While this essay is not necessarily focused on personality, it is surely possible, through the discussion of such factors to give NYU insight into your personality.

Option B: 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.
If you submit a non-written piece for Essay 3 (i.e., artwork or multimedia) or if you submit Essay 3 via mail, please upload a brief description of your submission with your online application.Please note the following guidelines and restrictions:
Your submission becomes the property of NYU Stern and cannot be returned for any reason.
If you submit a written essay, it should be 500 words maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font. If you submit a video or audio file, it should be five minutes maximum.
If you prepare a multimedia submission, you may mail a CD, DVD or USB flash drive to the Admissions Office. These are the only acceptable methods of submission. Please do not submit an internet link to any websites or to a video hosting service such as YouTube.
The Admissions Committee reserves the right to request an alternate Essay 3 if we are unable to view your submission.
Do not submit anything perishable (e.g. food), or any item that has been worn (e.g. clothing).
Mailed materials must be postmarked by the application deadline date. Please follow our mail and labeling instructions.
Please note that mailed Essay 3 packages are subject to size restrictions. Submissions that exceed the stated size restrictions will not be accepted for review by the Admissions Committee. Please see the table below for the maximum package size guidelines:Packaging Type Dimensions: Metric Dimensions: Non-metric
Box 36cm x 31cm x 8cm 14" x 12" x 3"
Cylindrical tube 8cm x 91cm 3" x 36"
Triangular tube 97cm x 16cm x 16 cm x 16 cm 38" x 6" x 6" x 6"
Option B is the classic NYU question which they have been asking for years. It is the one that seems to stop many applicants from applying to Stern, but now with Option A available, I think those who answer Option B will be doing so because they really want it. In my experience, I have found that strong applicants who are willing to put the time into this question are often well rewarded (invited for interviews, admitted), but those who slap something together are often rejected.

To be honest, I have found a creative essay to be as effective as an “arts and crafts project.” If you think you can answer the question most effectively by writing an essay, just do that. I have had clients admitted to NYU who have done both and all can say is that the key factor to their success was providing a response that really answered the question. A creative essay means one that does not appear to be an answer to another school’s question, but is uniquely made for NYU.

In past years, I have had clients who have done slide presentations for NYU, but given that Chicago Booth uses one (Their questions are not out for the Class of 2016 yet, but I would be surprised if they eliminated the slide presentation), if you are applying to Chicago and Stern and state that on your NYU application, don’t do a PowerPoint for Stern because the NYU admissions people will assume you are trying to cut corners. After all, one reason NYU asks this question is because they want you to show your commitment to NYU by putting time into it. In general, anytime a school has a non-standard question, you should really keep in mind that they are looking for answers that demonstrate an applicant’s willingness to put time into it.

Regarding time, try to give yourself significant time before the deadline if you are going to make anything from scratch. In my experience, most successful versions of this question take more time and drafts. Of course, some applicants can do it right quickly (or might have to do it quickly), but since you are trying to be creative and also to effectively introduce yourself to your classmates, you may need more time.

One very common initial error with this question is to focus on being creative at the exclusion of thinking about the purpose: to introduce yourself to your classmates. Keep in mind that your objective is to create a positive image of yourself that would make an excellent first impression on your classmates. It may be creative, but make sure that it also leaves admissions with a clear understanding of what positive impression of yourself you are communicating. It is your job to provide a sufficiently clear message regardless of the way you creatively present yourself.

Some Questions to get you brainstorming:
1. What do you want Stern Admissions to know about you that would positively impact your chances for admission?
2. What major positive aspects of your life have not been effectively INTERPRETED to the admissions committee in other parts of the application?
3. If you were meeting people that would you be working closely with for two years and that you might want as a part of your lifetime professional network, what would you tell them about yourself to create a strong first impression?
4. Why do people like you?
5. If there was one story about yourself that you think would really help admissions understand you and want to admit you, what is it?
6. Do you have a personal interest (painting and poetry for example) that would work effectively?
Finally, keep in mind that what you write here should not duplicate the content of your answers to Essay 1 or anything else in the application, instead it should really provide admissions with a new perspective on why you belong at Stern.

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.
If you are a re-applicant from last year, please explain how your candidacy has improved since your last application.

Regarding reapplication, please see my analysis of Columbia Business School’s reapplication essay question.

Under no circumstances include an essay clearly written for another school. NYU did not ask you write a whole essay about an important leadership experience you had, and since they did not ask for it, we can assume that is not what they need.
Unless you are perfect there is a reasonable likelihood that you will have something to write about here. If you don’t think you have anything, just ask yourself the following questions:
1. What is the weakest thing about my application content? Do I have anything that I should say about that? Would it be obvious to a reader or something only I could know? If you can identify something that you think would likely be obvious to a reader, write about it.
2. What is the weakest thing about me as an applicant? Do I have anything that I should say about that? Would it be obvious to a reader or something only I could know? If you can identify something that you think would likely be obvious to a reader, write about it.
3. Is there anything at all that I did not have space in my essays to clarify? If so, write about it.
4. What else do I really want to highlight about myself? There has to be something. Actually even if you write about something negative, you might also want to answer this question. Anyone should be able to answer this question.

Best of luck with your application to join the Class of 2016!

-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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