[INFOGRAPHIC] 10 easy steps to writing your MBA application essay, stress-free!

I can’t even tell you how many times I THREW AWAY my MBA application essay drafts and started over.

For weeks, I went in circles…getting to a certain point with one essay, then realizing that I had left something important out, or that I didn’t quite know what to say for that one tricky question… It was stressful. And frustrating.   After volunteering for the Admissions Office at HBS and doing admissions consulting for over a decade, I’ve developed a system of ten sequential steps that helps eliminate confusion and the feeling of being “lost”. 

Here’s a summary of the 10 steps you need (and how much time to spend on each one)

(click on this thumbnail image to see it full-size, then click again on the image to zoom in):

Ten steps to write an MBA application essay that will get you accepted
It might seem overwhelming now, but break your MBA essay-writing into these ten steps to stay on track! (click to view full-sized image)

(Want a more detailed explanation of the steps in the infographic? I added some explanation in this post here)



I’ve spent the past few years developing ApplicantLab, an interactive software system that walks you through a personalized version of these steps.  It tells you EXACTLY what to do, step-by-step, giving you advice, tips, and hints every step of the way.  It truly is like having me sitting next you, guiding you.


*Note: To the timeline above, add 4 extra hours if you’re applying to Stanford GSB, since “What matters most to you, and why?” is a tricky one (rightfully so).  Add ~2 extra hours for HBS’s “What else do we need to know about you?” essay (note: this will fluctuate depending upon whether or not Harvard is the *first* school you are prepping an application for, or if you’ve already got a few applications under your belt. If possible, try to make HBS *not* the first school you apply to – I explain why in the ApplicantLab). For something like the MIT “optional essay” — which HEY, I think you should spend the time and  make a video vs. slides — add 6 hours if you’re a video-creation beginner. 

2 thoughts on “[INFOGRAPHIC] 10 easy steps to writing your MBA application essay, stress-free!

  1. Hi Maria. This is Iziane here. I just started my MBA application and yes I’m facing a lot of difficulties. For your information I am currently working as a project engineer and to be honest I am not that happy with my current position because I think it’s time for me to try a different industry. Sometimes I do feel like I want to change my career. So I’m thinking that MBA is one of the possible way because I have interest in project management, marketing and consulting. But I don’t know how to start with my essay. I have read through all articles in this applicantlab website however stil not enough to guide me. I am also not sure weather MBA is the best investment for me to help change my career and do whai I love to do.

    1. Hi there! Thanks for reaching out. It’s great that you’re questioning the necessity of the MBA — for many people, the MBA may be one of the biggest investments they ever make, so you’re right to be questioning whether you need one or not.

      My advice to you is to start doing a LOT of “informational interviews”. Try to find people who have the sorts of post-MBA jobs you might be interested in (and who had the sorts of pre-MBA jobs you have now). Ask them questions about their job to see if it’s something you’d actually like to do (or is the “grass looking greener on the other side of the fence”?). Ask them if they think someone with your background could get that job, and if you’d need an MBA to make that switch.

      Some job changes might not require an MBA at all; others may be completely impossible, even with an MBA.

      Then, if you do decide that the degree is the next right move for you, the advice in the ApplicantLab platform can help you take the next steps in crafting your application. Thank you!

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