The Questions Asked Of EMBA Applicants


Why the vast difference between these schools’ full-time and EMBA essays? Yes, mid-career applicants simply have more experience to potentially write about than someone four to five years out of college. But the more likely explanation is numbers: EMBA programs attract fewer applicants, hence their admissions staffs have more time to devote to vetting each applicant (for now, anyway: expect to see more EMBA essay topics emulate their full-time counterparts). More time for vetting–quaint concept.

More and longer essay topics means more writing and therefore potentially bigger headaches for many EMBA applicants. Some topics are tougher than others:

  • NYU Stern is committed to helping students develop  a deeper set of professional skills, and a broader perspective of the role of business in the world. (500-750 words, double-spaced)

a) What is a significant contemporary issue on which you, as a business leader, would like to have an impact?

b) Why is it important to you?

c) How could you leverage your skills and resources to address the issue?


I  personally love this: a vanishingly rare example of a business school actually forcing applicants to demonstrate their awareness of and ability to analytically address one of the world’s many problems. (You’d think this kind of ‘case’-like question would be much more common in business school essay sets.) Don’t try to figure out whether Stern has some “favorite” issue–focus on an issue that you have actually addressed on some level in your life (don’t assume that only social impact issues matter here; Dodd-Frank regulations might make a killer essay).

Also don’t assume that each of the three sections here must be addressed at equal length. A few sentences are sufficient for subquestions (a) and (b). The real nut here is subquestion (c). Think creatively about how your existing skills and “resources” (e.g., network) could be deployed to tackle this issue and propose as concrete a solution as you can (can you tie it to things you’ve already done to solve this issue?). This essay is tough (and good) because a good response will make you think.

And if you’d rather not expend the mental energy, consider waiting a year for business school. The odds are excellent that essay topics like this won’t be around much longer.

Paul Bodine is the author of “Great Applications for Business School“ and an MBA admissions consultant based in San Diego. He has written several stories for Poets&Quants: “MBA Essays: 10 Crucial Things You Should Never Do,” “MBA Essays: Making a Lasting Impression,”  “MBA Essays: Data Mining Your Life”, and “MBA Essays: Why The Goals Essay Is Critical” and “The ABCs of Executive MBA Programs.” 

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