Writing an MBA personal statement can seem daunting—within a relatively limited space of about three pages, you are asked to effectively communicate your professional goals and experiences, a touch of your personality, and a sense of your work ethic and drive. And with the expectation that you be both concise and substantive, it can be difficult to know where to start.
At California State University, Monterey Bay, we provide applicants to our Online MBA program with a template of five focused questions designed to guide their writing efforts. By following this guide and adhering to the best practices laid out below, you can avoid MBA personal statement anxiety and put your best foot forward when applying to graduate school.
Read the Instructions Carefully
Your first chance to demonstrate the conscientiousness and attention to detail you’ll need to succeed in graduate school comes with your personal statement. Not all personal statements are the same, so read all provided instructions carefully, and be sure you understand what’s being asked of you. At CSUMB, you’ll be asked to write in a question-and-answer format, which means you should type each question into your statement and then provide your response beneath it. Treat it as an interview with yourself.
The beauty of the question-and-answer format is that you already have a sense of what shape your personal statement should take. When writing your Online MBA personal statement for CSUMB, you’ll have five questions to answer, so start by brainstorming as much information as you can for each question. While it’s unlikely that you will use all of these ideas in your final draft, this is an ideal approach to get as much written as you can in the beginning. From this rough draft, which is likely to run a little long, you can see what you’re working with and cut down as needed.
As an example of the above point, consider this: The first question CSUMB will ask is why you’re interested in pursuing an Online MBA. Chances are, you have many reasons for pursuing this course of study. Write them all out. Maybe you want to make more money or earn a promotion at your current job. Perhaps you have entrepreneurial ambitions and want to launch the business you’ve been conceptualizing for years. Or perhaps you’re part of a family business and you want to take the lead in growing the organization. Maybe it’s all of these, and maybe it’s none of them. Regardless, write it all out, and then look for common themes within your answers that lend themselves to a specific and clear summary.
Visualize the Future
The second, third, and fourth questions in your Online MBA personal statement deal with future projections:
- How might your Online MBA experience assist your future organization?
- How might you assist your fellow Online MBA classmates?
- How might you visualize the Online MBA program assisting you in solving real-world problems at your place of business?
For these questions, start by revisiting your earlier brainstorm for the first question. Why? Because the reasons you want to succeed are the grounds from which you can imagine your future. But don’t just dream it: Take a second and try to imagine this future as tangibly and in as much detail as you can. From there, you can begin the next part of your narrative.
Tell a Story
In an MBA personal statement like this, it can be easy to lean too heavily on generalities. To avoid this, focus on telling stories from your professional life thus far and from your envisioned business future, and tie each answer back to an actionable goal. One of the best ways to give specific answers and stay interesting for your readers is to think about each answer as a short story in which you are the hero.
To this point, question five of the CSUMB Online MBA application asks you to explore your previous business experiences. Since you’ll also be submitting your resume, this last question is your opportunity to not just give a bare-bones outline of your work history, but to tell a story about who you are, what you’ve accomplished, and how your experiences have prepared you for success in the CSUMB Online MBA and beyond.
Your professional experiences are specific to you, so be specific when you’re sharing those experiences with others. Good stories include strong details and sincere feeling. You are the only person who can tell your professional story properly, so don’t worry about how you think these statements should sound or what you think anyone is “looking for.” Instead, tell your story clearly and honestly.
Your style, grammar, and punctuation all contribute to your overall appearance of seriousness to the admissions review committee. Before submitting your Online MBA personal statement, check and double-check your work for spelling and punctuation errors as well as any missteps in the narrative’s flow of logic. Want to go the extra mile? Share your personal statement with a friend or colleague and invite them to provide overall feedback and an extra proofreading pass.
Take the time to get organized, but don’t put off writing your MBA personal statement for too long. The only way to execute a solid final draft is to start with what may be a messy first draft, so don’t be afraid to put your ideas onto paper. In fact, identifying and organizing on paper your reasons for pursuing an Online MBA with CSUMB may prove to be a great reminder for why you started this journey in the first place. If you’re ready, don’t hesitate to start your application today!