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October 13, 2010

UCLA Anderson MBA Essays for Fall 2011

In what follows, I will analyze the UCLA Anderson School of Management's MBA Essay's for 2010-2011.

As a sponsor of the 2010 Japan Trek, I had a wonderful opportunity to meet with a cross section of Anderson students and I was impressed by their maturity, diversity, and warmth.  Visiting Anderson briefly this May, I could see how such a lovely campus would make for a great community.   

For Fall 2010, I had one client admitted to UCLA.  Actually, I had only two clients apply to UCLA last year, which was a huge change from the previous year. For Fall 2009 admission, I had the opportunity to work with five clients who were admitted to UCLA. You can find testimonials from three of them here.  Each year is different!

Here are the questions and instructions taken from UCLA's website:

We are interested in getting to know applicants on both a professional and personal level. We encourage you to be introspective, genuine, and succinct. Remember that we are more concerned with the content of your essays than their form or style.
All responses to essays must be on double-spaced pages that are uploaded in document form, except for the optional essays for first-time applicants, which may alternatively be submitted as an audio or video file instead. (Please note the word limits indicated in parentheses below.)
Please be introspective and authentic in your responses. Content is more important than style of delivery. We value the opportunity to learn about your life experiences, aspirations, and goals.
1. What event or life experience has had the greatest influence in shaping your character and why?   (750 words)
2. Describe your short-term and long-term career goals. What is your motivation for pursuing an MBA now and how will UCLA Anderson help you to achieve your goals? (750 words)
The following essays are strictly optional. These essays are for individuals who would like to provide additional information. No preference is given in the evaluation process to applicants who submit optional essays.
1. You may respond to the following question via written essay, audio, or video clip: What is something people will find surprising about you?
Please limit your submission: audio response (up to 2 minutes), video response (up to 1 minute), or essay (250 words).
Supported File Types:
Audio:  .avi, .wmv, .wav, .mp3, .midi, .wma, .aiff, .au, .mp4
Video:  .avi, .wmv, .mov, .mpeg
Note: Please do not e-mail audio files to the admissions office.
2. Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? (250 words)

The first thing you should notice about this set of questions is that it begins with a very unique question that emphasizes personality.  It would indeed be possible to write UCLA's entire set of questions without including a standard "leadership" or "greatest work accomplishment" essay. It is worth considering what UCLA says about its admission criteria:The Admissions Committee evaluates applicants' prospects as leaders in management and their projected ability succeed in, benefit from and contribute to the UCLA Anderson MBA Program. Committee members carefully consider personal and academic background information, GMAT scores, TOEFL scores (for most international applicants), achievements, awards and honors, employment history, letters of recommendation, and college and community involvement, especially where candidates have served in leadership capacities. The Admissions Committee seeks to create a community of students who bring unique contributions from their diverse backgrounds and experiences and who will collectively enrich the educational experience.

UCLA is very focused on understanding your ability to make a contribution to their community. This very much at the center of the education they offer and how how they differentiate their program:
Student life at Anderson is exceptional, highlighted by:

I mention all of the above because I think it is quite helpful in understanding what UCLA is looking for: Highly collaborative, community-oriented individuals, who are great at networking. The Anderson School is also very focused on entrepreneurship. If you are at all interested in entrepreneurship, pay special attention to  the Harold and Pauline Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies webpage.

1. What event or life experience has had the greatest influence in shaping your character and why?   (750 words)
This question is new, but certainly is consistent with UCLA's emphasis on personality.  I strongly recommend that you think very carefully about what you write here and don't just try to jam an existing essay you have for another school to try and answer this very special question.

The following topics will probably not work well if treated as the event or life experience that has had the greatest influence on shaping your character:
1. A recent accomplishment.
2. A recent leadership experience.
3.  A recent world event.
The  problem with all of the above is that they are RECENT! Unless your character has just been recently formed such answers will prove to be very unconvincing. The first and second of these topics do have a place in this essay (see below).

The parental default option:  Surely the event of your conception and birth could be said to be the most singular event in determining who you are, but we can assume that this is probably not  an effective topic because it is common to all of us.  

Let us assume that you were not born yesterday.  Let us further posit that somewhere between either birth (in the case of an event) or the age of full consciousness (say about six, but possibly younger in the case of a life experience) and not so recently (Yes, I am being ambiguous), you had a life experience or were subject to an event (possibly a world event) that has had significant impact on making you the person you are today.

Keep in mind that you are engaged in an after the fact rationalization of linkages between some event or life experience in the past and the person you are now.  In other words, you are telling a story about yourself, which may, in fact, be almost completely arbitrary.  Writer's block will develop if you begin worrying too much about all of the events and life experiences that have made you who you are.

If I were counseling a client on this topic,  I would start by asking, "What do you really want UCLA to know about you?"  After that has been established, the key issue is finding a way to connect that to this question.   Knowing where you end up, that is to say reverse engineering the topic, is likely to yield an effective answer in a fairly efficient manner.

The structure for this essay might look as follows:
1.  Discussion of the event or life experience.
2.  An explanation of the event or life experience's impact on your character.
3.  Results, that is to say more recent manifestations of the impact.  It is here where you could discuss a recent accomplishment, leadership experience, or some other important tangible demonstration of the manner in which the event or life experience continues to impact you.  It is also quite possible that this event or life experience relates to your goals.

Note:  It is entirely possible that if you are applying to Stanford, your answer to UCLA ‘s question and Stanford Essay 1 will be quite similar.

2. Describe your short-term and long-term career goals. What is your motivation for pursuing an MBA now and how will UCLA Anderson help you to achieve your goals? (750 words)
Rather than repeat much of what I have previously written about other versions of this question, I would suggest that you look at my analysis of Columbia 1 as it can be applied here.

A great Essay 2 will clearly answer the "Why now" aspect of the question without focusing too much on past experience. One core focus of this essay should be on how being a part of Anderson's Class of 2013, will contribute to your intended professional future. Make sure that your motivations for pursuing that future are clearly stated in this essay and perhaps explained further elsewhere in your essay set.

UCLA puts great emphasis on applicants demonstrating that they have become informed about The Anderson School, so I strongly suggest that you visit if you can, but at least attend one of their admissions events. Getting in contact with UCLA alums would also be helpful. At a minimum, learn as much as you can from their web page. You really need to convince adcom that you know what you need from UCLA for your future goals. If you have the word count do so, you may also want to address what you can contribute.

Japanese applicants should most certainly take a look at The Japan America Business Association (JABA) page. In addition, please see LA State of Mind ~UCLA MBA留学記 2009-2011~.

1. You may respond to the following question via written essay, audio, or video clip: What is something people will find surprising about you?
Please limit your submission: audio response (up to 2 minutes), video response (up to 1 minute), or essay (250 words).
For its Fall 2009 application, the UCLA Anderson School of Business did something completely unique in the annals of MBA application history by introducing a recorded presentation. For Fall 2011, they now give applicants the option of providing an  audio or video response. While it is possible to opt out of this audio or video option, I can see no benefit for doing that.  At least write the essay!  Still my advice to own clients would be:  “WHATEVER YOU DO, MAKE An AUDIO OR VIDEO RECORDING!”

For  non-native English speakers, this is your best shot at showing you can say something meaningful in one or two minutes. Get a decent recording device, prep your answer intensively, and get this one right if you want to be part of the Class of 2011. If you are technologically challenged, get someone's help. Unless you lack vocal cords, I am not sure what excuse you could have. If you are shy on camera, just use audio. After all, no other school asks this question, so UCLA admissions will be able to judge how much time and effort you put into their application.

Basically they are asking you to deliver a one or two minute speech. Structure your answer so that you are clearly answering the question and that you make a clear point. If you think about it, this is a great way to test an applicant's ability to say something meaningful in the amount of time that one might typically make a comment in a class. My suggestion is that you practice enough so that it does not sound or look like you are simply reading a piece of paper. Record yourself until you are happy with the result. HINT: This may involve many recordings and alterations of your script.

What is something people will find surprising about you?
This question is a great opportunity to balance out the rest of your application. Is there something really important about you that would not be clear from your application form, essays, resume, and recommendations? Is there something you really want to emphasize about yourself? Here is the chance to do that. Unless a professional topic would reveal something surprising about you, I don't necessarily think this question lends itself well to most work-related topics. Otherwise, the options here are wide open. Just make sure that admissions understands why this issue is so important to you that you are using one of your precious essay questions for it. Finally, make it surprising! If it is obvious from your application, it will bore them.

2. Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? (250 words)
This is a nice open-ended version of the standard "anything negative" optional essay. If everything is good, you don't need to write this one. If it is not, I suggest doing so.
As with other school's optional questions, do not put an obvious essay for another school here, but you can certainly write on something positive here if you think its omission will be negative for you, but before you do, ask yourself these questions:
1. If they did not ask it, do they really need to know it?
2. Will the topic I want to discuss significantly improve my overall essay set?
3. Is the topic one that would not be covered from looking at other parts of my application?
4. Is the essay likely to be read as being a specific answer for UCLA and not an obvious essay for another school?
If you can answer "Yes!" to all four questions, it might be a good topic to write about.

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com.
Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to. Before emailing me questions about your chances for admission or personal profile, please see my recent post on "Why I don't analyze profiles without consulting with the applicant." If you are interested in my graduate admission consulting services, please click here.-Adam Markus
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