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

December 16, 2013

London Business School Fall 2014 MBA Application Essay Questions

In this post I analyze the London Business School’s MBA admissions essay questions for the Class of 2016. 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 within that community.

For my suggestions on how to prepare for LBS interviews, please see here. 

I have worked with a number of clients admitted to LBS. I had a total of 16 admitted since 2008 as well as prior clients from 2001-2007.  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  20102011 2012 and 2014.  They each provide their own unique perspective on LBS.

The Essay Questions
You get the MBA Essays here. LBS has been altering its questions almost every year.
1. What do you want LBS 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 going to tell admissions 1-3 things about you that would not be obvious from rest of the application, what would they be? Why should LBS care?
4.  What could you discuss about yourself that you think would really help admissions understand you and want to admit you?

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: The more you know the better, especially when it comes to contribution questions such as LBS Essay Questions 2 and 3, 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.  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.

Question 1
What will your future look like after completing your MBA (500 words)?

This question is focused specifically on your career post-MBA.  You should certainly explain why you need MBA  in order to show how LBS will help achieve your post-MBA goal, but the real focus is on discussing that post-MBA future.  In Questions 2 and 3 you have the opportunity to discuss LBS, so don’t feel like you need to do too much of that here.

A good answer to Essay 1 will:
Provide a specific post-MBA short-term plan. What industry, function, and even company do want to work for?  Why? (What motivates you?).  LBS values clarity in terms of career objectives.  Assume the realism of your post-MBA plans will be seriously scrutinized by the admissions office.  While being ambitious is important, it surely needs to be the case that admissions should feel that you are someone they should take a bet on admitting because your post-MBA prospects are well-thought out. They know you may change your plans, but at least show you can put together a viable plan for your post-MBA future. 

Provide a clear longer-term vision. This might be stated in terms of a specific job, but also could be stated in terms of an overall mission. You can be a more vague here than what you discuss in the short-term. Make sure you explain what motivates you.  Since LBS’ question is focused on the future, some applicants may very well find themselves writing in great detail about what they hope their long-term future will look like. 

If you are having difficulty formulating goals. please see see http://www.adammarkus.com/class-of-2016-stanford-gsb-essay-2-what-do-you-want-to-do-really-and-why-stanford/. There I provide detailed advice on to think about and brainstorm post-MBA goals.

Given that LBS is asking you to consider your future, you could write the essay from that future perspective. Here are two examples of what I mean by that:
Practical Future:  In 2016, after finished my MBA, I imagine joining…. There I hope to… LBS helped prepare me for this role by…
Far Future Looking back on career since graduating from LBS thirty years ago…
Comparative (Now versus post-MBA): Another option would be to write this essay in terms of a comparison between your present self and what you hope to become after you obtain your MBA.  

There are other ways of effectively answering this question, just remember to keep your answer focused on the future. Your past experience can be used to help understand what you want to become, but if you find you are writing more about the past than the future, you most likely have a problem.

Why LBS? Why MBA?
While this question does not specifically require to explain why you need an MBA,  I think most applicants will find it helpful to include such an explanation in the essay.  Just keep in mind that the focus of this question is not on the MBA, but on your future.  Whether you are a career changer or a career enhancer or some combination of the two, I think explaining how an MBA from LBS will make your post-MBA future possible is surely worth including.

Especially for those who choose to structure their essay in terms of  the comparative approach (mentioned above) or who are career changers (Now versus post-MBA), you will find it necessary to include a clear explanation of how an MBA from LBS made your post-MBA future possible.  For those seeking to enhance their current career path, I think explaining what sort of impact you expect from LBS can happen here in Question 1 as well as in Question 3.

Question 2
What value will you add to London Business School (300 words)?

I suggest  writing  about 1-3 specific contributions you will make at LBS.
When it comes to contribution questions, I think it is important to tell specific stories that highlight specific ways you will add value to LBS. You might think of the contributions in terms of  specific clubs or activities, your role in class, your relationship to classmates. and/or the LBS community as a whole.  Focus 1-3 specific stories. For each story highlight how it will be value to LBS.

There are many possible ways to contribute.  Here you should focus on a few ways that really highlight what makes you distinct. In Q3 you might also be discussing what you can contribute but it will be in terms of your responsibility and not just in terms of where you can add the most value (Q2).

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.

Some Questions to get you brainstorming:
As you can see, these questions would lead to very different kinds of responses. There is no one way to answer this question, but I believe there are right ways for every applicant to do so. The most important thing is that the reader should have a clear understanding of how you will make a distinct positive impact at LBS. 

Question 3
What is the School's responsibility to you and what is your responsibility to the School (400 words)?

Unlike the previous question, which is focused on what you add to LBS, this question is focused on the mutual obligations that will be established between you and LBS.  Consider that you are entering into what will become a lifetime relationship and that LBS is a school that expects both its students and alumni to be actively engaged.   At the same time, it is very reasonable for you to express what you consider to be the school's obligations to you as someone joining this community for your lifetime.

Some possible responsibilities the school has to you include career services, maintaining the brand value and status of the institution over time, effectively selecting your classmates so that you can have the best possible experience (academic, interpersonal, etc), having faculty worth learning from.

Some possible responsibilities you have to the school include being an honest and ethical member of the community as a student or alumnus, contributing back to the community as a student or alumnus, taking leadership in clubs or other activities, active class participation, and contributing to the positive learning experience of your classmates.

I mention these examples above because I think they are really obvious, so the point is to come up with a unique response to this question based on your own experience/goals.  BOTTOM LINE: YOUR OBJECTIVE IS NOT TO JUST MENTION THESE RESPONSIBILITIES IN THE ABSTRACT, BUT TO PERSONALIZE THEM.

The effective answers that I have seen so far for this question have involved the applicant identifying specific responsibilities both for the school and for themselves that become a basis to explain the applicant’s reasons for wanting to attend LBS.

Best of luck with your LBS application.


-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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