As part of their MBA applications, most business schools require candidates to complete short answers – these can be questions that ask an applicant to elaborate on areas such as his/her professional background, extracurricular involvement, and awards/recognitions received.
The short answer sections are just as important as the rest of the application. However, too many times, I see candidates hastily completing these sections, which is a mistake. Below are my thoughts on how to approach the short answers.
Devote enough time to answering the questions
Don’t wait until the last minute or right before you are ready to submit your applications to fill out the short answer sections. Some schools, such as Harvard Business School and Stanford, have very in-depth short answers with specified character counts. Completing these questions in a rush when you’ve spent a significant amount of time on the other parts of the application will just undermine the work that you’ve already done. Treat the short answers as another opportunity to provide additional and new information about your candidacy.
The application is comprised of multiple pieces, that when combined, create a holistic picture of who you are. Therefore, it is to your advantage to be thoughtful with respect to the responses that you provide to every single question, including the short answers. For example, if a bullet on your resume highlights a particular achievement and it’s an accomplishment that you would still like to write about in the short answers for that respective role (which Harvard and Stanford typically ask you to do), then point to a different aspect of the achievement that you may not have written about already.
As a result, with respect to the timeline, I suggest addressing the short answers once you have solid drafts of your resume and essays in place so that you can determine how to most effectively utilize that space.
Proofread your responses
Once you have written your answers, make sure to take some time to proofread what you have written; it’s easy to make typos at this stage of the process when you are so close to the finish line. For instance, make sure that the dates of your employment are consistent with what is on your resume and that you have clearly answered what each question is asking in compelling ways that help to paint a complete picture of your candidacy.
In summary, approaching the short answers with plenty of time at your disposal and in a thoughtful fashion can help to distinguish you from other candidates – therefore, I encourage you put in as much effort in these sections as the rest of the application!
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Ivy Groupe is a boutique MBA admissions consulting company founded by Shaifali Aggarwal, who received her MBA from Harvard Business School and undergraduate degree from Princeton University. Shaifali’s philosophy focuses on authenticity and storytelling to help clients craft compelling and differentiated applications that stand out. With this approach, Shaifali’s clients have gained admission to top-tier MBA programs such as Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg, MIT, Columbia, Booth, Tuck, and Yale, among others.