UCLA Anderson Essay Strategy for 2022-2023

August 22, 2022 | by Jessica Chung

Over the last few years, UCLA Anderson has amended its required essays with ever-slimmer word counts, challenging applicants to be as direct and incisive as possible.

Two years ago, it made the bold move by wiping the slate clean and replacing its slate of essays with a singular question, with a mere 250 words to respond. This year, Anderson revised the focus of the essay question, honing specifically on an applicant’s recent accomplishments, rather than the impact of broader current events.

Required Essay: Tell us about a recent personal or professional achievement and how it connects to your MBA goals. (250 words max)

As a Fortuna Admissions coach and former Anderson Associate Director of Admissions, I know how challenging it is to deliver a response that’s concise, meaningful, and distinctive. In years past, Anderson explicitly solicited your short- and long-term career goals within the context of Why Anderson, followed by a prompt asking you to articulate a time you’ve displayed a valued Anderson trait in your personal life. This singular prompt more subtly combines both. (Note that there is the opportunity to address career goals and why Anderson elsewhere in the application.)

How to tackle the new UCLA Anderson MBA admissions essay

Before you sit down to write, take a step back to process the recent achievements in your life. In particular, think deeply about the ones that you are particularly proud of, and how they shaped your growth and life trajectory, leading you to the MBA as your next step. As you sift through the possibilities, the single most important action you can take is to spend significant time on self-reflection. As you narrow down your list of potential stories to share, keep in mind that being sincere and true to yourself goes a long way in keeping the reader invested in you.

Given you have very limited real estate to answer the question, it’s important to stay on topic, being clear but succinct, staying mindful of removing unnecessary granular details as you tell your story. Be careful not to spend too much space discussing the nuts and bolts of your achievement, as the instructions clue the applicant in on what the adcoms are really looking for – “strong essays describe the impact of your achievement and clarify its connection to your future MBA plans in the short- and long-term.” How did you leave your mark through this experience? And how did it influence your thought process, mindset, next steps, and aspirations? You must be able to convincingly connect the dots between where you’ve been and where you’re going, both immediately and in the long run.

One caution is to keep your audience in mind. This is a business school admissions essay after all, and your words are directed to Anderson’s admissions committee. Know that UCLA Anderson defines its community by three core qualities: share success, think fearlessly, and drive change. There is a lot of opportunity to exemplify one or more of those qualities as you consider your response. Anderson’s motto, “Think in the Next,” speaks to a penchant for bold thinkers who are unafraid to chart new pathways and effect change. Show some humility in thinking about your impact; Anderson’s is a student-driven community where the notion of ‘ambitious yet humble’ is highly prized.

As you reflect on initial drafts, consider: What meaning can be discerned from your story and what does it say about you? Have a trusted friend, coach or colleague read your essay. If they can’t see you in the story or feel an emotional resonance, then try again until it comes through.

Speaking of emotional resonance, don’t let the need for brevity rob your responses of feeling. Remember to SHOW them the impact vs. simply telling them. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen is showing a lack of enthusiasm. If your tone doesn’t convey excitement or energy, it won’t stand out from the throngs of ambitious, excellence-driven wunderkinds. Same if you haven’t taken the time to do substantive introspection and your essays lack meaningful insight or self-awareness. Remember, you want to leave the reviewer with a desire to meet you in person to learn more.

Want more advice? 

View our MBA Admissions Masterclass featuring application strategy for UCLA Anderson, Berkeley Haas, & Yale SOM.

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Updated August 23, 2022 

Fortuna’s Jessica Chung is an expert MBA admissions coach and former Associate Director of Admissions at UCLA Anderson. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation.

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