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McDonough School of Business MBA Application Essay Questions and Tips

As the pandemic hit and slowed down economies across the globe, Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business noted a delay in publishing its Employment reports too. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing though.

The delay in publishing employment reports by McDonough didn’t bother prospective MBA applicants as the school reported a 3.2% hike in average starting compensation as compared to it’s graduating class of 2019.

The school provides a full-time MBA, part-time MBA for professionals, as well as EMBA options to applicants. Our focus today is on the MBA application essays for the full-time MBA at McDonough School of Business.

McDonough School of Business MBA Application Essays

Before we jump into the essay prompts provided by McDonough, here’s what the school mentions before revealing the required essay prompt options to applicants.

Required Essays

The selection between these three essay prompts is the first struggle for MBA applicants answering the McDonough MBA essays. The best way for an applicant to select which prompt to answer is by deciding the instances they want to share in all three essays and selecting the one that provides the most insight and value to their candidature.

We want to hear your story. When responding to our required essays, be authentic and take time to reflect on your goals and past experiences. Craft a response that explains how these experiences led you to pursue an MBA.

Our goal at Georgetown McDonough is to craft a diverse class with people who have had varying personal and professional life experiences. As such, we want to give our applicants the opportunity to select one essay (from a list of three) that allows them the ability to best highlight their experiences, characteristics, and values that showcase the value proposition that they can bring to the McDonough community. Please select one of the following three essays to complete in 500 words or less and include the essay prompt and your first/last name at the top of your submission.

Essay Option One

Georgetown McDonough places a strong emphasis on principled leadership, providing both curricular and co-curricular opportunities to strengthen your leadership skills. Describe a time when you’ve led a team in a professional environment to implement a new idea or process. What leadership characteristics did you utilize? What could you have done to be more effective? And most importantly, what skills will you be able to bring to the teams you lead at McDonough?

Writing about the instance where you showcased amazing leadership skills might not be an issue. You’ll be proud of this experience and can easily create an authentic and expressive essay.

The issue arises in the second part of this question. Applicants try their hardest to not showcase any weaknesses through their MBA profile. When business schools ask questions that require an applicant to talk about anything that even remotely resembles a flaw, they try to guise a strength in its place.

But if you pay close attention to this question, you’ll notice that the McDonough admissions committee wants to see how you have grown since you had this experience. They don’t want you to discuss how you took the wrong decision. Rather, they are interested in knowing how your leadership skills have evolved. Only in such a scenario would you be able to identify better ways to achieve the results you have in the past.

Essay Option Two

Hoyas Helping Hoyas. Georgetown McDonough embodies the ethos that people and organizations can and should contribute to the greater good. The admissions committee would like to better understand how you’ve demonstrated these values during uniquely challenging times. Describe a time where you’ve put the needs of others ahead of your own, or ahead of the bottom line. We look forward to learning more about the challenge you faced, what unique characteristics you brought to that scenario, and what you learned from it.

The “greater good” according to McDonough refers to principled leadership again.

This essay prompt requires you to share an experience where the objective behind your actions wasn’t personal benefit. The school wants to know if you are motivated by ethics enough to undertake a task or deal with a challenge which benefits a larger group even if it doesn’t benefit you.

This essay is not necessarily about how selfless you are as a person instead, it is about how strongly you would back up your own set of values and if you’d take a risk for them.

Essay Option Three

Think of the business leader or role model you admire or aspire to be. What are the defining characteristics of his or her personal brand that you see in yourself? Give an example of how you have been able to emulate these characteristics in your professional career and how your personal brand will enrich the McDonough community.

From the previous two prompts, McDonough has made itself very clear. A leader, to the school, is someone who creates cumulative growth for their community.

When you choose a leader to use in this McDonough essay prompt, list down their qualities and ideals you admire. Now, which of these qualities and ideals do you resonate with?
Before you start selecting the qualities and ideals for your answer, stop and ask yourself for proof. When was the last time you showcased these qualities?

Having anecdotes to support your answer in this essay is as important as the leader and the qualities you choose to highlight.

Video Essay

What makes you unique? In a 1-minute video, describe the most compelling aspects of yourself that you believe makes you unique from other MBA candidates. (Hint: 1 minute goes fast! We already have your resume and goals – share something new!)
  • You may use your phone, computer, or other means to record the video, but please ensure all audio and visual components are clear. We recommend a well-lit room and minimal noise distraction.
  • Upload your video to an accessible website (such as YouTube, Vimeo, Youku, or Tudou), and submit the direct video URL into your online application.
  • Please note that all videos must remain active and accessible to the admissions committee online for a minimum of five years for record retention purposes.
  • For your privacy: Do not include your name in the title of your video. You may submit “unlisted” videos via YouTube or password protected videos through Vimeo. If using a password, please include immediately after your link in the text box below (e.g.:, password: Hoyas).

This is a very common MBA application question. But it’s also a very significant one. as the essay prompt says, do not repeat your MBA application in this question.

This is your introduction to the McDonough admissions committee and your future classmates. What is something that you wish they would know? This is your chance to show the admissions committee the person they will be welcoming to their community if they accepted you.

Do not write down a script for this video essay. It is good to be prepared, and you should be practising for this one-minute video essay, but having a script would beat the purpose.

List down things you want to share with the admissions committee and your future classmates, but let them be pointers rather than paragraphs.

Have a friend or family member help you get comfortable with the camera before you record your video essay.

Optional Essay

Please provide any information you would like to add to your application that you have not otherwise included. (500 words or fewer)

This Essay question is the perfect opportunity for you to explain any shortcomings in your MBA profile.

McDonough receives applications that look perfect on paper. They aren’t looking for applicants who only look perfect on paper, rather have a wholesome profile. But, meeting all the other stats such as the average GMAT score, average GPA, average work experience helps.

So this additional essay can be used in case you don’t meet any of these criteria.

Here are the things you can address in the optional LBS essay.

  1. Low GMAT Score
  2. Low GPA
  3. Low Work Experience
  4. Gaps in Work Experience
  5. Your choice of recommenders

Remember that this essay is not for you to blame any person or event in your life for your shortcomings. Instead, it is for you to convey how despite those shortcomings you will be a great addition to the McDonough MBA class.

Reapplicant Essay

Required for re-applicants. How have you strengthened your candidacy since your last application? We are particularly interested in hearing about how you have grown professionally and personally. (500 words or fewer)

Re-applicants need to write an additional essay for the McDonough MBA application. This essay is an amazing opportunity for the re-applicants to list their accomplishments and share their growth, since their last application, with the admissions committee.

All the essay questions before this one focused on the personality and the goals of the MBA applicant. This one is focused on the quantifiable and the personal growth of the applicant since the last time they applied.

Whether it’s a promotion, a new job, a new venture, or anything else in your profile that saw significant growth since your last application attempt at McDonough. Also, add you any new skills you picked up or significant changes in beliefs or personality you had since your last application to McDonough.

Did you take the admissions committees to advise and improve your GMAT score? Or take more initiative at work? Took a major step towards your long-term goal? Got more involved in your community?

Mention it all here.

Read Also:

MBA in 2021: MBA World in the Post Covid-19 Reality

From 2 Rejections to Top 10 US Admits with USD 1,90,000 Scholarships and a post MBA career in McKinsey Consulting US Location | MBA Success Story


For over 15+ years as an Entrepreneur, and India’s Top Educationist, Jatin has led a range of initiatives in the Education Industry. In this role, he has created many successful educational services and products geared towards generating success for professionals aspiring to join IVY League and global Top Tier Universities for MBA Programs, Masters Programs, and undergraduate courses. He is the Founder and CEO of PythaGURUS Education, and has been recognized as a thought leader in the Higher education sector. Economic Times, Hindustan Times, Times of India, India Today, Business Today, Tribune, and many other national newspapers have recognized his work, and have given him numerous opportunities to be a regular columnist. He has also served as a panelist for NDTV, and other national news channels.

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