Essay Examples

The following essays were written by applicants who were admitted to Harvard's MBA program


The client's original language was selectively kept, to maintain authenticity (increases admission chances).

Question: Describe an internal conflict (or difficult decision) that you have faced. How did you resolve the situation ? What did you learn from this ? (500 word limit).

I frequently encountered the need to make decisions of considerable importance during both my managerial and my military work. However, one of the most difficult decisions I ever made was a personal decision that concerned my future. This internal conflict could better reflect who I am.

In the last four years I have progressed, with great effort, in two areas: the business-managerial area and the political area. In both fields I have accomplished, considering my age, significant achievements. In the business area, I served as Vice President in a private company owned by my family. In the political area, I worked in a few positions in my municipality, and as an assistant to the Deputy Minister of Defense. My aim was to acquire diverse experiences and knowledge, and this aim was achieved.

A year ago, I reached the conclusion that it was time to decide if in the near future (in 10-20 years), I wanted to attain a career in business management or a career in politics. I reached a point where without setting a general goal, I could not progress to other decisions (my next job, my masters degree field etc.).

To resolve this conflict, my first step was to decide to make my decision by the deadline I set (June 2000). I realized that my years of experience in both areas were a part of a learning and searching process that granted me the necessary instruments to make this decision. My conflict was very sharp, because I knew that any decision I would make would mean giving up one area of activity and one career aspiration- political or managerial. Moreover, much data concerning the future was naturally missing and my decision had to be rather arbitrary - a very difficult situation for a strictly rational person. Nonetheless, I knew that having numerous options could be a dangerous situation. Not concentrating on one career option, out of fear of missing the others, might leave a person behind in all areas, and this contradicted my ambition.

Eventually, about half a year ago, I decided to steer my future to a business management career. I feel that in this area I will be able to express my talents effectively and to bring a significant contribution to society. I believe that turning to a political career in the far future, after a successful managerial career, is an adequate and natural option.

From the moment I decided, I have not looked back or hesitated. I started to focus on how to implement my decision. Consequently, a few days later I sent a Request For Application Material to Harvard Business School.

I learned a lot about myself in the decision process I went through. I underwent an important and healthy process of developing, focusing, and maturing. I devoted numerous hours to contemplating basic questions - What do I like to do? What am I good at? What role should I play in the community that surrounds me? I solidified my perspectives and came out stable, strengthened, and determined.

Question: What are your career aspirations and why? How will you get there? (300 word limit).

Long Run Objective

My long-run objective is to achieve a senior managerial position in a large multinational corporation that markets, or preferably manufactures, commodities. One of my highest aspirations is to be one of those who establishes, or significantly advances, such a corporation. Therefore, I intend to develop within the scope of one firm. I believe that on my way to achieve my goal I will express my talents and interests and contribute to society’s prosperity.

Short Run Objectives

Looking ten years back, I view my interdisciplinary experience in business management, army service, political and public positions, and traveling as a part of the solid background that can generate a successful senior manager in a multinational commodities corporation. To complete my preparation process, my short-run objectives are:

a. First - to acquire quality general academic education in business administration while also mastering the English language.

b. Second - to develop within the scope of one firm.

HBS - a Measure and a Target In Itself

I wish to say, sincerely, that in my opinion HBS will fulfill my first short-run objective optimally. HBS has the qualities that best fit my expectations, objective, and background. The more I hear and read about HBS - the more I feel I belong there; it is considered the best school in the world for developing general management skills and acquiring management tools in the marketing and consumption areas. Graduates gain excellent placement services and leading positions. HBS has no competitors in academic level and in world-wide fame (I learned that from talking to people in China, Eastern Europe, and Arab countries).

In conclusion, I believe that studying at HBS will be a great experience. Moreover, it will provide the optimal accomplishment for my first short-term objective, as well as a significant advancement towards achieving my long-term goal.

Question: What do you enjoy and what do you dislike about your current job? Why? (300 word limit).

As a project manager in Business and Strategic Development, I very much enjoy the challenge of uncertainty that comes with developing an idea into a business. It requires me to be at my best, in order to anticipate problems and therefore reduce the risk of failure. I had to take an idea and conceptualize it to a cash-flow-producing concept. Every decision that I made regarding this project was driven by assumptions. Inherent in these assumptions was a high degree of uncertainty. My effectiveness was measured by the extent that I was able to eliminate uncertainty, and this challenge made my assignment very exciting and enjoyable. I had to use my creative and analytical intellect to its fullest to successfully eliminate some elements of uncertainty. In specific, I had to challenge myself to find new and inventive ways to acquire information about a young but very competitive industry segment. Every time I was able to eliminate another element of uncertainty, I felt a sense of achievement, which enabled me to pursue the end goal with full dedication and commitment.

On the other hand, I don't particularly enjoy conflicts between team-members fought on a personal level and the resulting need for arbitration. When working in a team, there are very often differing views on the direction of the project. These conflicts are very healthy for the team, but can be destructive when fought on a personal rather than on a professional level. As project manager, I had to mediate between team members fighting such a conflict. The challenge lay in the fact that this conflict was fought on a personal level. Consequently, I could not take sides with anyone, in terms of project direction, without causing one of the team-members to feel personally attacked. Moreover, I would create a sense of favoritism, and therefore risk losing one team-member, which I could not afford.

Question: What could you do to be an even more effective member of your organization? (200 word limit).

In every company there are two kinds of customers; the internal customers who are the employees, and the external customers, who are the consumers and the business partners. In the past, I focused too much on the internal customers and neglected my relationships with the external customers. I strongly believe that if you take good care of your employees, they will take good care of your external customers. I understand, however, that I have to find a balance when dealing with these constituents.

During my time as a project manager, I realized that my constant interaction and communication with team-members took away from building good relationships with prospective business partners. Consequently, I did not have a solid relationship with business partners which I could build on in times of conflict. In addition, the lack of familiarity with some business partners had a negative impact on my managerial abilities. Occasionally, my information on the progress of a business partner's assignment was not up-to-date, which led me to provide my team members with outdated information. Consequently, some decisions had to be reverted since they were based on wrong facts and assumptions. A more balanced approach will enable me to avoid these mistakes in the future.

The following essay was written by a Wharton MBA admit

Question: Describe a personal characteristic or something in your background that will help the Admissions Committee to know you better.

Soccer has been my passion since the age of 12. I played for my school and I still lead pickup soccer games on the weekends. In my overseas travels, I have also found that soccer can be the common language of the world. One example of this was during the time I spent at Kyung Hee University in Seoul, Korea. As soon as I got there, I of course went looking for someplace to play soccer. I discovered a foreign student team that plays against other departments. I decided to try out, even though I was very nervous of playing in a strange land.

In the first practice, I led my team for a straight win, scoring two of the goals. After the practice, the senior players in the team approached me, explaining that lately the team hadn’t done well, and they needed a coach and leader. It was incredibly flattering. I like experiencing new things and coaching soccer in Korea definitely fell under the category “new”. There was one big problem though: most of the players spoke Japanese or Chinese, so our mutual language was only Korean. Since I had just gotten to Korea, my Korean was not yet fluent.

I began my role as a coach, but at first the language barrier put a great distance between me and the players. I couldn’t explain what I wanted. But I didn’t give up. I could see the potential of the team, and I knew the experience would help me a lot. To overcome language and attitude barriers, I prepared very challenging and fun practices. I wanted everyone to feel a part of a serious team. I also arranged for a new team outfit and we started to look like one unit. Using physical examples, I taught them offense/defense moves. After a couple of practices, the players began to show commitment and excitement, and my confidence was building.

I especially remember the semi-final game. It was the second half, we were behind, and the team was starting to not believe in itself anymore. I took my last time out and with my poor Korean, gave them the motivational performance of my life. I showed them how wet my shirt was and all my bruises. I was a leader at the head of his team who was about to lead his group to the final struggle, I loved it. In a click of a second, I saw in their eyes that we were going to make it.

We came back from the time-out and they fought like lions. I remember a certain player that missed all his kicks in the game. He had an open shot. He hesitated but I believed in him, I shouted in Korean, “Kick the ball!” He tied the score. It was our game from then onwards, and the final score was a two point win.

Using creativity and the language of soccer, I had the experience of overcoming linguistic and cultural barriers. I will probably encounter difficulties during my MBA studies at Wharton but I’m ready for the challenge and I’m sure I’ll find a way to overcome them.

The following essay was written by a Kellogg MBA admit

Question: Describe a situation where your values, ethics, or morals were challenged. How did you handle the situation? (500 word limit).

Following my army service I started to work in an Internet Service Provider, as a Technical Supporter. After two months I had been promoted to Technical Support Supervisor. One day my supervisor came and told me I had been selected for Managers training. This is a six-day mandatory course that teaches the basics of management and leadership at my company. The course was to take place out of town and included accommodation arrangements. I enthusiastically accepted the offer. Following the training, I would be promoted to head of a team of eight supporters. This would be an excellent opportunity to merge my technical knowledge with the leadership skills I had developed in the army.. I was also excited about the new position’s incentives, including a 20% increase in salary, which I desperately needed for a trip to Europe. I had been looking forward to this trip since my army service.

Then, two weeks before the course date, I learned that my girlfriend of two years had to have surgery, and it was to be performed during the week of the course. Recovery from this procedure would be extremely painful. I knew that her family would be by her side, but I felt strong instincts to support her by being there myself. On the other hand, the course was a big opportunity for my career development, and I had waited long time for it. In order to resolve the dilemma, I took several steps before reaching a decision. First, I verified that the surgery date was unchangeable. Then, I approached my supervisor and explained the situation. He told me that the next Managers training would take place only the next year. He checked the possibility of making an exception and allowing me to become a manager without having gone through the training, but it was not approved. He also emphasized that the company had made large efforts to enable the expensive training, so they expected me to do my utmost in order to participate. I also consulted with close friends and family, including my girlfriend’s. They all insisted that I should take the course. A week before, after wrestling with this dilemma, I made my decision

I informed my supervisor that due to the circumstances, I would not be able to participate in the Managers training. I stood by my girlfriend's side during the hospitalization and the two-week recovery. Fortunately, the procedure went well, and I'm sure that my presence contributed to her comfort and relief. My supervisor got over my decision, and promised to see what he could do about getting me into the next year’s training. During my army service I rejected several offers to participate in an officers training, so it wasn't my first time to turn down promotion. However, in this case I felt very comfortable and confident about it. I am proud of my decision, and to have put the needs of my loved one before my own personal gain. After all, that's the spirit of being a true "Supporter"...

The following essay was written by a Chicago MBA admit

Question: If the admissions committee were to interview one of your closest colleagues, what aspect of your personal development would this person say is especially important for the admissions committee to know? (500 word maximum).

After years of colleague feedback and employee evaluations, here is what I believe a close colleague at my company would have to say:
During his work here, Dan had the opportunity to work on three different teams, each with its own characteristics to which he had to adjust. Beyond his technological growth, Dan’s greatest development was in interpersonal skills.

Dan’s first position here was as a part-time verification designer. The only student on his team, he was stationed on a different floor than his teammates. His job was operating a verification tool that most of his team was not familiar with. As a result he had few interactions with his teammates.

Dan felt at a loss as to how to connect to the other people he was meant to be working with. He decided to look for a way to become part of the team. Dan soon identified that people found it difficult to handle certain verification tools. He then developed an automatic computer program to address the problem. People discovered the ease of using his program and began coming to his cubicle for training. In this way he got to know the entire department. This lesson taught him how to create connections in a big organization.

Dan’s next job was on the QA Team. For the first time here, he faced bureaucracy and the fact that different groups and people have interests and commitments. As a young employee with great responsibility, Dan started taking things too personally and finding it difficult to come to agreement with his coworkers.

Seeking a solution, he first consulted with his direct manager, who coached him on effective methods to achieve targets. Next, Dan decided to take an internal course: “Effective Negotiation” which taught him how to communicate with coworkers during interpersonal crisis situations. Dan developed abilities to achieve his goals through positive actions and he built outstanding work relationships and even friendships with his coworkers.

Ten months ago, Dan was promoted to the Core Design group. Here his challenge was even more complicated because his teammates are all at least three times more experienced. Dan’s role is to bring the creative ideas written by architects to blueprints which product designers can implement. It was difficult at first: Dan was leading task groups of people who didn’t know him and were concerned because he was younger and far less experienced.

To remedy the situation, Dan contacted each member personally and requested personal coaching in that person’s specialty, to show that while he is less experienced, he is eager to fill these gaps. Next, he volunteered to take on less-desirable projects which came with little reward. Finally, he organized the team’s first group event in 2 years to cause better closeness.

Today, the architects trust Dan and together they reach their common goals. Dan reaches out to them to learn what he still needs to know, and they rely on Dan’s leadership and expertise in his area.

I’m convinced that the journey Dan passed in growing these interpersonal skills has made him both a better team-player and a better leader. His experience will be very beneficial when working in a learning team during his MBA as well as later on, when he pursues a career as a leader in Consulting.

The following essay was written an INSEAD MBA admit

Question: Describe a situation taken from school, business, civil or military life, where you did not meet your personal objectives, and discuss briefly the effect. (250 words approx.)

As Marketing Director at my company, I co-initiated a $350 million project with a South American government to build an airport. I conducted background research and presented it to my bosses. Convinced it was a great opportunity, my bosses gave the green light.

For three months I led the effort to find potential parties to finance and operate the project. I spoke with world aid organizations and arranged meetings with operating air support companies.

Problems began to surface. First, cutting through bureaucracy was time-consuming, and my bosses wanted fast results. Second, as a mid-size aerial project, most operating air support companies were either too small (lacking means) or too big (lacking interest) to handle the task. In addition, two months into the process, the country’s government began re-negotiating the contract’s terms, which would cost my company extra personnel time and delay project execution.

Finally, my boss called me into his office. He said that the company was unhappy with the project. As I had not shown satisfactory results, closing the financial, operational and governmental terms on my own, he felt it called for another person to step in, yet the company lacked the extra manpower. I argued that if given the time to focus all my efforts on this project, I could make it happen. Nevertheless, he made the strategic decision to drop it.

I felt disappointed, but I realized that I had taken on too big a task before I was ready for the front line. It taught me the need to better strategize first, and to be ready to ask for assistance when needed.



If you plan to apply in two years or less, please fill out the Information Request Form, so that Vocaz can make a decision on supporting your candidacy.