Don’t Play the Fool! Avoid These Embarrassing MBA Essay Mistakes and Bad MBA Essay Examples

It’s April’s Fools Day! If you've been tempted to follow MBA essay examples, please don't!

We’re an MBA Admissions Consulting firm, but different. And we’re here to save you from looking like a darn fool on your business school application essay.

There are a lot of folks out there peddling what they think are the “best sample MBA essays” or “MBA essay examples” that will get you in based on application trends. But our advice at Career Protocol is not to model your admission essays on a template, and definitely not someone else’s essay! 

Everyone’s story is different. Each story unfolds in its own unique way. Don’t worry about doing it right. Your most compelling essay is authentic. BE YOURSELF!

And definitely, DO NOT USE THESE TEMPLATES.

LOL! We wrote these fake business school essays (3 big types of MBA essay examples in here!) to be intentionally sucky for educational (and entertainment) purposes. They will get you a sure ding at Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Columbia business school, and any other program you might want to apply to!

Read on and let the April Fool’s fun begin! 

Bad MBA Essay Example 1 – The Personal Essay Plug’n’play Template:

What matters most to me is [insert noble world cause]. As a child, I always knew that I would [insert impressive world-saving action]. Everyone always told me that my passion for this [repeat noble cause] would inspire change and positively impact [insert name of minority group or disadvantaged global community]. I am confident that the MBA is the next step in my career and will equip me with the necessary skills to make a difference in the world.

Let me tell you when I first knew that I would create a career around [repeat impressive world-saving action]. Back in college, I had the opportunity to [insert impressive opportunity here][Insert 1-2 sentences telling the admissions directors about this impressive experience. Try not to sound too smug.]

This really opened my eyes to [insert pressing global issue]. [Discuss other ways you have observed this pressing issue in the world at large through a news article, your friends’ experiences or just through hearsay.]

Ever since then, I have dedicated my life and career to fighting [repeat noble world cause]. [Rehash a few resume bullets here. Stick to achievements as outlined on the resume to ensure you have corroborating evidence].

Naturally, the next step to my goal now is obtaining an MBA. [Insert school name]’s rigorous MBA program with its extensive network and values of [Copy and paste school values from website, but be sure to change the font to match the rest of the essay] perfectly align with my own. I am confident that teaming up together will lead to a better world and future.

TERRIBLE PERSONAL MBA ESSAY EXAMPLE ANALYSIS:

Ooof! This template features two common mistakes applicants make when writing their MBA application essays.

Common MBA Essay Mistake #1

One of the most common MBA essay mistakes applicants make is failing to reflect deeply on their lives and what drives them. Watch this video from our very own Angela Guido on how we do discovery with our clients as a starting point to see what I mean:

When you try to tackle a short essay question (or even the epic one Harvard Business School poses) without having done deep reflection to determine your unique values and response to the business schools’ specific essay prompt, your answer will end up sounding like boilerplate. To an admission reader who processes thousands of essays, yours will quickly sink to the bottom of the pile. You’ll reduce yourself to a few slick sentences that reveal nothing about you.

School admission officials are trying to get to know your character, intrinsic values, and passions in the admission process. The best way to be YOURSELF in the MBA essay is to show what drives you to make a positive impact in the world, what experiences or setbacks shaped you as a person, what were some of the major decisions in your life that either affirmed or challenged your character, values, and passions? Most importantly, how did you grow from the experiences? Showing your GROWTH is key to making your story yours and nobody else’s.

This essay makes a corollary of the low self-awareness mistake: covering in the essay what is meant to go in the resume. The MBA resume is where you want to brag about your achievements. The essay is for the intangibles, your spirit, your passions, your character. The things that could never be reduced to a resume bullet. Don’t repeat yourself in your application. Add new information with each piece.

(For more deep dive advice on how to structure a meaningful narrative from your life experiences for your applications based on self-reflection, check out “A Screenwriter’s Guide to Epic Narratives For Your MBA Essays” and “How to Write a Great MBA Essay.” Got writer’s block? Get unblocked with “Top 10 Tools for Your Creative MBA Essays”).

Common MBA Essay Mistake #2

The second most common mistake MBA applicants make when writing their entrance essays is that they think they have to be a superhero to gain business school admission. Double ooooof!

Think about your MBA essay as a demonstration of your communication skills and your ability to build and maintain relationships. When you meet someone for the first time, you don’t recite a list of accomplishments as proof for why they should like you and be your friend. Right? You’d come off like a total douche!

So why would you do that in your MBA essay? The essay portion of your MBA application is an opportunity for you to build an emotional connection with the adcom reader, just like you would with a real person in a face-to-face situation. So please stop trying to convince people you are good.

Think about any fun dinner or party that you’ve enjoyed. Who were the people you remember and stood out from the crowd? Likely, it was the person who told the most interesting stories. Was that person a Nobel Laureate, Batman, or Mother Teresa? They could have been a Nobel Laureate, depending on your social circle. Most likely, they were not Batman because he’s not real. And they probably weren’t even close to being like Mother Teresa.

Likely, that most interesting person at the party was just your regular Jo(e), who had a unique spin on an experience they had. Plus, they were able to communicate their perspective in an engaging way that emotionally drew you in.

Now let’s bump it up a notch. Take any of your favorite stand-up comedy specials. Comedians are master storytellers. And the best comedians are the authentic and honest ones. If you reflect back on the set that you enjoyed most, you’ll probably notice that they didn’t try to pander to you or seek your approval. It was what they thought about the experience or the creative or flawed rationale for their choices that made you laugh out of shock or made you go “oh yeah, I’ve been there. I totally get it!”

So when writing you MBA essay, don’t focus so much on impressing your favorite business schools (again, that’s what the resume is for!) by trying to appear like a superhero or saint. Tell an interesting story from your point of view. As long as you show growth and self-awareness, your story will be interesting and unique.

Most importantly, trust that you are interesting enough, accomplished enough, and ENOUGH.

If you want to learn more about how we help our students share their greatness through stories and stay true to their values even in seemingly competitive professional situations, sign up for a free consultation with one of our incredible Senior Instructors and Storytellers and get to know more about our service.

The Career Goals Essay

In addition to the personal experiences essay, many schools require an additional essay about your professional experience, planned career path, and career goals. This type of admission essay may not allow space for great storytelling, but you will need to lay out a strong step-by-step plan for your short-term, mid-term, and long-term professional goals. Further, you will need to make a compelling case demonstrating how an MBA from that specific school will help you achieve those goals.

So having an air-tight career plan is critical to your MBA application. To master your future, you must be a long-term visionary and a short-term pragmatist with a career game plan that includes the following 4 components:

  • Long-term vision – an inspiring dream for the future and where you see yourself in 10-15 years

  • Post-MBA Goal – a clear post-MBA target role for which you are a viable candidate and which the school can help facilitate

  • MBA Program Strategy – detailed, robust, and well-researched plans to take advantage of THIS school’s offerings to prepare for your goal

  • Pre-MBA tactics – concrete actions you have already taken at application time to earn the post-MBA job

The following essay example does none of these things:

Bad MBA Essay Example 2 – Career Goals Essay:

From pollution to famine to climate change, the capitalist mindset focusing on profits over human dignity is responsible for most of society’s ills throughout history. This needs to stop. We need to hold corporations accountable.

Unfortunately, since our elected officials are unable to or simply refuse to do their jobs, I feel that it’s my responsibility as a concerned world citizen to take necessary action. That is why I’m applying for my MBA: to change corporations from within, one company at a time.

Immediately post-MBA, I hope to land a role as an investment banker. I will use the leadership and teamwork skills I developed during my MBA to inspire my teams and clients to invest in clean energy, accessible clean water, and equitable technology.

After 3-5 years, I hope to advance to the CEO position of my bank to revolutionize banking practices from the top down, and hopefully inspire similar changes in the wider financial services industry.

Long-term, I aspire to leverage my education and experience in finance to run for political office in our federal government. Ultimately, private corporations are both bound and incentivized by the laws on our books. In order to help other industries and corporations focus on making business decisions that make society more equitable and sustainable, I need to shape laws that encourage them to do so from a regulatory and tax benefit perspective.

I am certain that the leadership skills I will gain through an MBA program will enable me to be an inspiring and effective leader on the political stage where I can influence global business from a position of ultimate power.

[Insert school name]’s rigorous MBA program with its values of [insert stated school values] perfectly align with my own. I am confident that teaming up together will lead to a better future.

TERRIBLE CAREER GOALS MBA EXAMPLE ESSAY ANALYSIS:

One detrimental mistake MBA applicants can make on the career goals essay is being unrealistic.

In the terrible mba essay example above, this fake applicant’s long-term goal of dismantling American capitalism from within, first as an infiltrator, then as a powerful politician is delusional. Its negative tone rooted in everything wrong about the world also makes it an uninspiring dream. The applicant’s credibility is further undermined by overly broad generalizations without substance to back it up. Overall, this essay reads more like an abstract political manifesto rather than a well-thought-out career plan in business. Sort of an all-around essay writing fail.

Secondly, it’s highly unlikely that someone from even the crème-a-la-crème of b-schools will advance from investment banker at a major bank to CEO of that bank in 3-5 years. The path to CEO may indeed be attainable in that time, however, at a much smaller company or your own startup. Showing knowledge about your target post-MBA industry’s career trajectory will ground your goals in reality and show the admission board that you’ve done your research. 

Third, this fake applicant provides no rationale for choosing investment banking as their post-MBA career goal. They have not shown any real understanding of what an investment banker actually does. Further they haven’t demonstrated any concrete actions pre-MBA (i.e. informational interviewing and networking) or set out an MBA strategy (i.e. classes, clubs, experiential learning opportunities, networking opportunities) to set themselves up for their desired post-MBA role and industry and simultaneously demonstrate intimate knowledge of their MBA program.

Generally, if you’re pursuing an MBA in order to make a career switch, your immediate post-MBA goal should either be a switch in industry or switch in function, not both.

For more in-depth analysis and tips for devising your career game plan, be sure to check out Angela’s advice on our YouTube channel!

Need more personalized help strategizing your career goals and game plan? Aziz Lalljee is our Chief Career Strategist at Career Protocol. Schedule a FREE strategy call with Aziz to turn your career dreams into a concrete action plan. Figuring out your future is one of the funnest parts of applying to business school! Don’t shortchange yourself by punting like this fake MBA applicant did!

Bad MBA Essay Example 3 – The Tragically Irrelevant Opening Paragraph

I screamed like a hyena and jumped up and down in a manic frenzy with my nine other teammates in the greenroom backstage as we to hype ourselves up for the big kill. Taking a brief respite from the pre-show craziness, I snuck a peek from behind the stage curtains at the crowded theater full of drunk out-of-towners expecting to be awed, wowed, and impressed by our Chicago comedy chops. The house lights dimmed. The music amped up. At the drop of the beat, we burst forth onto stage to a hearty round of applause. The show had begun and there was no script. It was time to improvise!

TERRIBLE MBA EXAMPLE ESSAY OPENING ANALYSIS:

We call this the Irrelevant Vivid Moment Opening

You may have heard it said that good writing opens with a hook. While that’s theoretically valid essay advice, we see this concept misapplied so often that we have a whole section dedicated to it in our April Fools Essay Tips Special.

This opener is 109 words of lengthy exposition focusing on a small, irrelevant detail – the mental hype before an improv comedy show. We learn nothing about the applicant’s character or values. and the only factoid we can deduce is that they are on an improv team. There are also no guideposts set for the reader regarding what they can expect for the rest of the essay. You’re not writing a novel, so best to get to the point.

Your introduction doesn’t have to be long exposition.  It shouldn’t be!! You just need enough detail for a set up to give the reader the general gist of what your actual essay is about in a way that makes them want to keep reading. Improvements to this opening paragraph on the next draft could look like this:

Nothing prepared me more for the many challenges of running my own educational start-up than performing long-form improv in Chicago for seven years. In both pursuits, I had no script and failed many times before I landed with a smile and a few laughs.

 That is 44 words and we learn that the applicant not only performed improv for seven years, but is also an entrepreneur in the education space. The applicant clearly links their improv experience with their career and sets expectations for the rest of the essay that the reader will learn how the applicant used their improv training in creating their start-up.

But you can make it even tighter. An even shorter opening version that could come around by the final draft could look like:

Nothing prepared me more for the many challenges of running my own educational start-up than performing long-form improv in Chicago for seven years. For me, there is no script for joy and success.

Or how about:

The best moments happen off script. I was pitching my education startup for the 247th time when I decided to throw the deck away and wing it.

Here they’re setting us up for an action-packed story while alluding to improv, which can then be expounded on later in the story.

The bottom line when starting your MBA essays is to get right to the narrative. Don’t bury the lede, don’t’ make your reader work for it, and don’t shower her with well-constructed prose that burns wordcount and patience without giving a distinctive and vivid window into you, your experiences, and your awesomeness.

You got this. The MBA application process can be fun and challenging and teach you new things about yourself and your story with the right frame of mind and the best tools. If you want a story partner, I’m here for ya. I love helping people ditch the MBA essay example templates and dissect, reflect on, and tell amazing stories about who they are instead!! Let’s talk!

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