Your background, experiences, and values will enhance and diversify Kellogg. How? (1-2 double-spaced pages)
The Darden School seeks a diverse and unique entering class of future managers. How will your distinctiveness enrich our learning environment and enhance your prospects for success as a manager?
Every essay question on the admissions application is geared toward the same thing. Committee members want to find out who you are, what makes you different from everyone else, and how you will contribute to the school if accepted. This question asks these things outright. Because it asks so directly what the admissions committee wants to know, this one of the most common questions you will find. The question has a structure similar to the Why MBA? question. It asks both Why us? and Why you? However, the nature of this question lends itself to a more personal response. Whereas the Why MBA? question asks what you have done, what you want to do, and how that relates to the school, this question asks about who you are and how it relates to the school. The Why MBA? question asks about your experiences, and this question asks about your qualities.
Just as you brainstormed about your experiences, actions, and goals for the first question, brainstorm about your qualities and characteristics for this one. What sets you apart from everyone else? What words do friends and family use to describe you? For some people, the focus of this question will come easily. A minority can choose to focus on their racial or ethnic differences. A person with an unusual professional background may use this question to turn this potential weakness into a strength. Anyone with a particular talent or calling, such as an athlete or a musician, can use that as a topic. Less obvious characteristics can work just as well. Are you one of those people who are forever getting tagged with an identity? Do people say, “You know Chuck, the funny one,” or “There’s Jane, the history buff.”
If you consider yourself to be a fairly typical candidate with a broad range of interests, you may feel nervous about not being able to identify yourself with any one particular activity or defining trait. You should not be worried. Listing the combination of qualities that make you unique is perfectly acceptable. None of your qualities has to be particularly unique by itself-whatever is real and true will work perfectly. What words do people use to describe you? Are you a risk taker? An academic? A leader? Unusually goal oriented? Dedicated? Ethical? A good team player?
The qualities you choose to describe are not nearly as important as how well you back them up. Because this answer tends to contain many adjectives, you absolutely must provide solid examples demonstrating each quality you have listed. You can take examples from either your work or your personal life. You can even be creative and take an example from your childhood, if you wish, as long as whatever you choose effectively proves that you are what you say you are.
Because this question asks “How will you contribute to our school?” it provides you with a perfect opportunity to prove that you have researched and targeted yourself to the particular school. Match your distinctiveness in whatever way is natural to the distinctiveness of the program. Show the admissions committee that you are not just perfect for business school in general, you are perfect for their business school.
Your background, experiences, and values will enhance the diversity of Kellogg’s student body. How?
During my senior year in college, my father was diagnosed with terminal skin cancer. Like most cancer patients, he spent the majority of his time in the hospital; he often spoke of how nice the staff was, and how much his stay was enriched by the services offered by the volunteers. I felt a great debt to those people who helped my father and mother during that difficult time, and I wanted to do the same for other people in similar situations.
When I moved to New York after graduation, I decided to volunteer at the Sloan-Kettering Memorial Hospital until I found a job. Over the next few months, I worked thirty hours a week helping patients and their families. One of the most rewarding experiences at the hospital was organizing patient voting for the 1992 Presidential election. I was responsible for coordinating the procurement and distribution of absentee ballots with nurses, patients, hospital staff, and the various voting administrations within the five boroughs of New York City.
The response was overwhelming. The patients were overjoyed to be included in the voting process. I knew from my father that the most demoralizing circumstance of a prolonged hospital stay was the feeling that the world was passing you by. On that November day, however, I was able to help those patients feel like part of society again. I will always be grateful for that.
Once I found a job, I had to curtail my hours at the hospital, but I did not stop my volunteer work. And although my job prohibits me from volunteering as much as I’d like, I still try to find the time. My volunteer work has allowed me to help others cope with the terrible pain of illness, which I have experienced first-hand and through my family. The satisfaction that I gain when I help patients and their families is unlike any other feeling I have ever had in my life.
I’ve found that my work also helps me to deal with and accept the loss of my own father. If it were not for him, I never would have started volunteering. The good work I do is a constant tribute to his memory.
As an individual, I have learned the benefits of altruism, and I firmly believe that companies should also take an active role in philanthropy. I was pleased to see in the admissions brochure that other Kellogg students feel the same, as demonstrated by their Business with a Heart program. I know that my unique perspective and experiences would contribute to this group, and enable me to enrich the lives of the community as well as those of my fellow students.
This essayist is a good example of someone who chose to focus on one trait rather than several. By choosing only one quality, her essay is concise, to the point, and easy to read. She also leaves a strong impression by introducing only one theme. This essay is particularly strong because the writer does not simply label herself as a volunteer and leave it at that. She makes the topic personal. First, she walks us through her motivation, then through the experience itself, and finally through how it has affected her and made her different. She gives details to bring each of these steps alive but manages to do so in a very short amount of space. She even specifically details how this experience will help her contribute by listing the name of the program she has targeted.
- Why Do You Want an MBA Questions
- Contribution and Diversity Questions
- Accomplishment Questions
- Leadership Ability Questions
- Hobby and Extracurricular Questions
- Role Model Questions
- Failure Questions
- Very Personal Questions
- Need help writing your essays?
Veritas MBA Admissions Consulting has former admissions officers from most of the top 20 business schools to help you with your application.
Business schools look for candidates who not only have something to gain from an MBA program, but also something to contribute. Think about that. What can you contribute to an MBA class? We invite you to explore the different types of contributions you can demonstrate through your application and then to meet two students who have already answered this question. You might also want to take a look at our guide to crafting your best MBA application.
We also know that if you aren't yet sure you see yourself as an MBA candidate, you may not feel ready to even approach the "What can you contribute" question, and that's okay—you’ll soon discover that self-reflection is a big part of the MBA application process.
Demonstrating your work experience, academic potential, and passion to an MBA program
The application review process for the Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA, Full-time MBA, and Berkeley MBA for Executives programs is quite holistic, meaning that your whole application is examined to determine the value of your experience and expertise.
"We look at every aspect of someone's candidacy to evaluate program contributions and make that final decision," says Eileen Jacob, senior assistant director of admissions of MBA Programs for Working Professionals. "This includes looking at applicants' job responsibilities, investments they’ve made in their team and department, impacts they've made at their companies, formal and informal leadership experience, and opportunities they've taken advantage of with professional organizations or events and clubs at work. We also look at contributions outside of work, including community involvement, active membership or leadership in organizations, and interest in various hobbies or causes.”
Tip: Look at other areas of your life in which you're already making a contribution, and think about how what you bring could translate to business school.
“When considering academic potential, we examine undergraduate and any graduate transcripts and overall academic progress in chosen areas of study. We also notice when applicants take an active role in making themselves as competitive as possible. For example, some Berkeley MBA applicants show initiative by bolstering their quantitative abilities with math courses like the UC Berkeley Extension Math for Management course.”
“Aside from professional and academic experience, we want to see students who have drive and who are getting their MBA because they have passion for their career plans and for creating new opportunities for the future. If you're showing those areas of excitement early on, you will get us more interested in learning how you can contribute to the Berkeley MBA community."
One applicant's approach: underscoring design thinking experience
Shivam Goyal, senior product manager at Adobe Systems and a second year student in the Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA Program, evaluated his potential contributions by examining his past, and he recommends that other applicants do the same.
"It is important not to discount the uniqueness of your own journey," says Shivam. "Admissions committees care less about big achievements or awards and more about personal anecdotes that will help them assess you as human being. When you dig deep and think about what triggered the events in your life to get you where you are today, it helps you understand and demonstrate who you are.”
Tip: Focus less on big achievements and awards and more on personal anecdotes that let admissions committees get to know you as a human being.
“Self-reflection helped me think about what I am bringing to the program, why that makes me unique, and what past events shaped my work and education experiences. For example, I started off as a design thinker. When I saw problems in the area where I was growing up, such as people not having universal access to information because of the digital divide between rural and urban populations and the lack of technology penetration in all strata of the society, it instilled a sense of humility and keenness to solve difficult social problems and made me think about the benefits of a design education."
"I started off as a user experience designer and was really close to the customer in terms of building the product. I started thinking about how I could contribute more by influencing product strategy at its inception and moved into a product management role. In that role, I realized the need for gaining business acumen to compliment my design and technology background. That's what led me to an MBA program.”
“The design experience I acquired in undergraduate school and at work was unique to me and I thought it might be something valuable that I could bring to the program. I knew I could talk about customer empathy and solving real-world cases for a particular user problem to get the right outcome when introducing a product into the market. When I started writing my essays, I pushed myself to think and write about those experiences so that I could really tell a story about me as a person."
Sharing thoughts on how you'd add value both inside and outside the classroom
Sera Lee, bank examiner at the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco and a first year student in the Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA Program, did a lot of research prior to applying to the program and realized that her work experience was one of her most valuable assets.
"Looking at the statistics, I knew that fewer Evening & Weekend MBA students were on the banking side," says Sera. "When considering what I could contribute to the program, I thought about how I could provide the value of my work experience in classes like ethics, finance, or macroeconomics. I figured I could be the voice of the banking industry and share some of the experiences that I have gone through in my work. And by being around people in different industries, I have been able to learn what's going on in their worlds.”
Tip: Check out the class profile to see if you bring experience that is under-represented
“I also have a passion for community volunteering. In my admissions essay, I wrote about the possibility of creating a program or student club committed to volunteering as an example of how I could contribute to the program outside of class."
Sera recommends that applicants do a lot of research in order to figure out which MBA program is the best fit for their contributions, but she also encourages them to be open to exploring.
"I sometimes tell my friends that they should get an MBA, and they tell me they don't see themselves as a 'business person' or a 'leader type.' I'm sure all of us have thought that at one time during the pre-application or application process. It's important to be open to exploration and change. Don't let the voice inside your head prevent you from taking that step forward. If you're open to learning, being adventurous, and meeting new people, you're ready to contribute to an MBA class."