Many MBA applicants that shortlist UCLA’s Anderson School of Management have it high up on their list of dream colleges. This school doesn’t just provide a wholesome business school community experience but also places students in the centre of a cultural hub, Los Angeles.

With events like Anderson’s Got Talent (hosted by Anderson Creative and Challenge for Charity), celebrating the LGBT week, an Anderson MBA student gets to experience the city of Los Angeles in its full glory.

Often recognized for its technology programs, Anderson also has entrepreneurship programs that provide hands-on experience to the students.

But a high GMAT score, 3-5 years of work experience, a few extra-curricular activities, and a transcript filled with A grades isn’t enough to impress the Anderson admissions committees. Along with your professional skills, how well you could fit into Anderson’s culture will be an important deciding factor for your acceptance to the business school.

The way an applicant can showcase their fit for the school is through the MBA essay section of the Anderson MBA application.

This feat might have just gotten much harder with UCLA cutting down the number of essays and the word limit. With just a single mandatory essay prompt and an optional essay, both with a 250 word-limit, applicants have a much smaller space to express themselves and share their story with the admissions committee.

At first glance, many of you might consider it a blessing especially if you’ve attempted some of the longer MBA essay sections like INSEAD, or HEC Paris. However, the limited space means your essay needs to be much more strategic and the story you share more impactful.

To do so, let’s understand the Anderson Essay prompts to answer them in the most impactful way.

UCLA Anderson School of Management MBA Application Essays

A) Essay: How have events of the past year influenced the impact you would like to make in your community, career, or both? (250 words maximum)

For the 2020-2021 application year, we have one essay question that is required for first-time applicants and optional for re-applicants:

We welcome reflection on any events that influenced you in your personal or professional lives, or in society in general and look forward to learning about specific ways you want to leave your mark.

As you can guess, this question pertains to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 2020 has been a tremendously challenging year in all aspects and to everyone around the globe.

Hardly anyone has been privileged enough to not feel the grunt of the year that was 2020. So what did the year bring to you?

To answer this question, you need to recognize the huge changes you went through. Take a moment and look at what happened to you and around you. Were you laid off? Did you get more politically opinionated, socially active, or had tremendous personal growth?

These are the things that Anderson expects you to discuss through this essay prompt.

But it’s not just about the change you went through. UCLA Anderson is creating future leaders every year. And this year, the focus will be on applicants who don’t simply survive a change but thrive in it. Which is why you would also need to share the impact you wish to create.

You could have been the kid who always wanted to make sustainable business practices mainstream. But how did the past year influence you to take active measures to do the same? Or you could also discuss how the past year made you see a gap in the current market. How do you plan on filling this gap?

These are the aspects of the past year you need to focus on to answer this Anderson essay prompt.

B) Optional Essay: Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? (250 words maximum)

No preference is given in the evaluation process to those who choose to respond to this optional essay, so please use your best judgment.

Don’t feel obliged to answer this optional essay question.

If you have a certain aspect of your profile that you feel doesn’t match up to Anderson’s standards, this essay prompt is the right place to discuss it. If your MBA profile falls short on academic or professional grounds, this optional statement can be used to share strenuous events that might have caused that.

However, refrain from blaming the shortcomings of your profile on anyone or anything. Instead, take responsibility and share details of the steps you have taken to rectify the same. Maybe you took a Math course on Coursera to make up for a low GMAT score. Or you had responsibilities that kept you out of the workplace for a few months.

This optional essay is your chance to explain your situation to the admissions committee before you get to elaborate on it during your interviews.

The most important thing while writing an MBA application essay answers is to maintain an authentic expression. No matter how much time you spend on your MBA essays, figuring out the right words, the most impressive quotes, and the prettiest sentence structures, if your expression isn’t genuine, the admissions committee will catch up to it instantly and it might hamper your chances at getting accepted to Anderson.

Reapplicants: Reapplicants may answer one or both of the essay questions above as options, and they must provide additional updates within text boxes given in the application for any new test scores, career developments, or other changes since their last application.

Reapplicants are those who applied to the MBA program within the last two application years, so those who applied three or more years ago are considered new applicants.

If you applied to Anderson in the previous intake and were waitlisted and rejected or simply rejected at any stage of your MBA application, this is your second shot at your Anderson dream. The question is straightforward. Since you got rejected by Anderson, what did you do to improve your profile?

Did you retake the GMAT? Did you take active steps towards the goals you mentioned in your Anderson essay? Has your perspective about something changed significantly since your last attempt at Anderson? Are there any significant professional achievements that you would like Anderson to know about? Maybe you got a promotion at work or switched to a more senior role in another organization.

Whatever you did in the last year, Anderson wants to know about it. Clearly, you can’t walk them through a day-to-day account of the past year. Making a list of all the significant changes in your profile is a great start.

Once you have done that, ask yourself how each change adds value to your MBA profile and Anderson’s community. Also, ask yourself why this change is significant to you. This is exactly what the admissions committee will be asking while reading your MBA essay.

Once you have this answer, you can shortlist the most significant changes your profile has gone through in the past year and give a vulnerable and memorable answer to the Anderson admissions committee.