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How to Approach the UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA Essays

While there is much innovation in the Kenan-Flagler MBA program, the essay prompts have remained fairly constant and very approachable. They are straightforward and to the point – your answers should be too.

UNC Kenan-Flagler is guided by a set of core values which includes Excellence, Leadership, Integrity, Community and Teamwork. UNC’s website gives great examples of how the school lives these core values in striving always for “the Bottom Line and the Greater Good.” Wise applicants will keep these core values in mind and look for ways to describe their own connections to these core values as they approach Kenan-Flagler’s essays.

Essay 1 (Required): Please describe your short and long term goals post-MBA. Explain how your professional experience has shaped these goals, why this career option appeals to you, and how you arrived at the decision that now is the time and the MBA is the appropriate degree. (500 words maximum)

Just as UNC Kenan-Flagler’s core values have remained constant, there have been very few changes made to the essay questions themselves over the past decade. The good news for applicants is that UNC Kenan-Flagler is truly very straightforward in their approach. There is no hidden agenda or need to overthink this question. Consider the following four points when responding to this prompt:

1) Explain your short-term goal (first job Post MBA) and then take a broader view of where you hope to be professionally after 5-10 years. A compelling essay will give some insight into the origin of why you seek a particular path post MBA. And while you won’t be held to this goal when you interview in two years, mentioning some specific target employers helps to demonstrate that you have realistic goals and will approach your MBA with focus.
2) Connect your professional experience to these goals. After defining your goals, showcase how your professional work experience has prepared you to be successful in this next chapter of your career.
3) Address why now and why MBA. Demonstrate that you’ve done the due diligence to know what you need to excel in the next chapter of your career and be as specific as you can about how an MBA will help you achieve these goals. An MBA is not always required for advancement so the admissions committee wants to know that you have done the research needed to understand the kind of value an MBA will bring to your career at this time.
4) Connect the dots back to UNC Kenan-Flagler. While the question itself does not directly ask for this, wise applicants will use examples from the courses, experiential learning and club activities to demonstrate how an MBA from UNC Kenan-Flagler is the best place for them to achieve their post MBA professional goals.

Essay 2 (Optional): What personal qualities or life experiences distinguish you from other applicants? How do these qualities or experiences equip you to contribute to UNC Kenan-Flagler? (300 words maximum).

While this is an optional essay, it does provide an opportunity to let the admissions committee see your personal side and how you would add value to the UNC Kenan-Flagler community. Keep these three points in mind as you approach this essay.

1) Use this as an opportunity to reinforce your key themes: If, for example, you have lived in many different countries and you’d like to emphasize your cross-cultural exposure, this essay can reinforce that theme when you provide specific examples of your travel experience. It may not always make sense, but if you can tie those themes back to a professional goal- such as how having this international experience will add understanding in working on cross-border M&A transactions, for example, you might be able to further solidify the cohesiveness of your total presentation.
2) Express how you will make contributions to UNC Kenan-Flagler: This provides another way to demonstrate to the admissions committee that you have researched their program because you have given specific examples about how your experiences will benefit your classmates and the entire UNC Kenan-Flagler community. Admissions committee members want to know that every student in the class brings something special that will be part of the wonderful tapestry that is a diverse MBA class and you can make your case directly by showing the admissions committee that you’ve thought about what you uniquely have to offer
3) Resist the temptation to offer up too many examples. You only have 300 words so it makes more sense to concentrate on core themes as opposed to offering too many random facts about yourself. Of course every candidate will have many interesting stories to tell but if you try to tell too many of them, you won’t be able to provide the substantiation and specific details that will make for a memorable snapshot.

Essay 3 (Optional): If your standardized test scores are low, or if you have not had coursework in core business subjects (calculus, microeconomics, statistics, financial accounting), please tell us how you plan to prepare yourself for the quantitative rigor of the MBA curriculum. (300 words maximum)

This essay truly is optional depending on whether any of the above situations apply to you. There is no extra value in answering this question unless you have something specific to address. Here are two tips to keep in mind in approaching this essay.

1) Do not make any excuses: This is not the place to blame anyone or any situation for a low GMAT score or GPA. If your GMAT score or GPA is not in the target range, simply address your quantitative strengths from work experience or from additional coursework. If there is any context that would be helpful for the admissions committee to have as background, you can provide it here as well but again be careful not to make any excuses.
2) Address specific plans for covering core business subjects: If you have not taken calculus, microeconomics, statistics or financial accounting, mention your plans to familiarize yourself with this subject material. It is most compelling if you plan to take those courses at a university however there are more ways than ever to get familiar with these subjects and the admissions committee will appreciate knowing specifically how you plan to address this deficit. UNC Kenan-Flagler also offers an analytical skills workshop in the summer to help students become more familiar with the quantitative expectations of the program so mention if your plans include enrolling in this summer workshop.

Essay 4 (Optional): Is there any other information you would like to share that is not presented elsewhere in the application? (300 words maximum)

This essay is also truly optional. If you have a situation that deserves extra explanation, such as your choice of recommender or perhaps a health issue or situation needing further clarification, this is the place to provide that information. Here are two tips if you choose to answer this essay.

1) Be direct in addressing issues that need attention. If you do need to explain your recommender choice, be as concise and clear as possible.
2) No need to hit the 300-word limit if your situation does not require it. This essay is here to be a catch-all for any other information that applicants feel need to be addressed. There’s no reason to stretch it to the full limit if you can address the issue more concisely. Most candidates should be able to present themselves within the first two essays but the program leaves it to the discretion and judgement of the applicant to use this optional essay if there is other information that would add more context or insight to the overall application.

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