Kenan Flagler Application Essays


UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA Essay Topic Analysis 2017-2018

Following up on the release of the Kenan-Flagler MBA essay topics for 2017-2018, we wanted to offer a few pointers to applicants targeting the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for their business school studies next fall.

The UNC MBA essay set is mostly unchanged from last admissions season. The school poses just one required question to applicants, along with three optional 300-word essays of varying open-endedness. Taken together, the content of these prompts reflects a focus on applicant’s career plans and the reasoning behind them, as well as ways that candidates would contribute to the community and preparation to succeed in the classroom.

The retention of last year’s essay prompts and overall format suggests that the adcom was pleased with the information that candidates’ essays yielded last admissions season. Indeed, it seems that candidates’ choices around the three optional responses in particular present an opportunity to evaluate the applicants’ willingness to put “extra” work into their application, as well as their judgment in determining how many of these prompts to respond to and what to share in each. The only minor change this year is in the required essay—the adcom has added a request for a short-term back up plan.

UNC / Kenan-Flagler Essay Topic Analysis 2017-2018

Let’s take a closer look at each of this year’s UNC MBA essays:

Essay 1 (Required)

Please describe your short and long term goals post-MBA. Explain how your professional experience has shaped these goals, why this career option appeals to you, and how you arrived at the decision that now is the time and the MBA is the appropriate degree. Additionally, please briefly address a backup plan should your short-term goal not come to fruition for any reason. (500 words maximum)
Kenan-Flagler’s lone required prompt is a fairly standard career goals essay. Structurally, we recommend that applicants address each element of the essay in the order in which it is presented. Applicants will want to begin by describing their professional aspirations, including both the position they hope to obtain immediately following an MBA, as well as their long-term objective. Candidates will then need to touch on the ways their work experiences to date have informed these goals, as well as the reasons that this career option is appealing. In addition to a match with their existing skills and interests, we suggest that applicants also address the impact their long-term position would enable them to have on an organization, industry, sector, or region. Effective essays will clearly address each of these four points (i.e. short-term goal, long-term goal, how past experience has shaped these, and why this path is appealing) in just 200-250 words in order to leave ample room for a robust why MBA discussion.

On that topic, applicants will then want to explain why they have chosen to pursue graduate business education at this point in their careers, and the ways that an MBA will prepare them for their stated goals. Naturally, in the course of the “why MBA” portion of this response, it would behoove candidates to comment on how exactly the Kenan-Flagler MBA would position them to achieve their career goals (rather than writing generically about the benefits of this credential). Candidates should aim to devote at least 200 words to a discussion of how specific courses and student clubs at UNC would impart the skills and knowledge they need to bridge the gap between their current abilities and what they’ll need to be effective in their chosen career paths. Learning about the details of Kenan-Flagler’s MBA program will therefore be essential in answering this last part of the prompt. Taking the time to learn about the school’s curriculum, special programs, and extracurricular activities — whether through a visit to campus, conversations with students and alumni, or reading the Clear Admit School Guide to Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC — will pay dividends here.

Finally, wrap up the essay with a brief statement about another path that could lead to your aforementioned long-term plan. Ideally, with space permitting, conclude with a statement about understanding that one sometimes needs to be flexible in pursuit of a long-term goal.

Essay 2 (Optional)

What personal qualities or life experiences distinguish you from other applicants? How do these qualities or experiences equip you to contribute to UNC Kenan-Flagler? (300 words maximum)
This question gives applicants the opportunity to share some information about their interests and experiences that set them apart from other candidates, while simultaneously showcasing their knowledge of and fit with Kenan-Flagler. While this essay is technically optional, we strongly recommend that all UNC MBA applicants provide a response to this question. Indeed, applicants would be remiss not to take this opportunity to help the adcom get to know them better — and to continue to demonstrate their interest in attending their MBA program.

Specifically calling for “personal qualities and life experiences,” this essay invites applicants to provide more intimate insight into who they are and what they care about outside of the office. Details matter here, so think about how you can translate your passions and past experiences into involvement on the UNC campus, and indicate specific contributions that you would like to make. Creating a link between your past and your potential future at the program will enable you to present a consistent and clear picture of your candidacy, as well as your professional and personal interests. The more information you can provide about how exactly you would contribute (playing a certain role in organizing a particular annual event, for example), the more reason you’ll give the adcom to admit you.

Essay 3 (Optional)

If your standardized test scores are low, or if you have not had coursework in core business subjects (calculus, microeconomics, statistics, financial accounting), please tell us how you plan to prepare yourself for the quantitative rigor of the MBA curriculum. (300 words maximum)
This response is directed toward applicants with quantitative liabilities in their applications. Applicants should therefore first consider whether either of the conditions of this question applies to them; if your GMAT score falls below the average of enrolled students in the MBA program or if your academic transcripts don’t demonstrate a track record of success in quantitative work in classroom settings, then you should consider addressing this question. As for the response itself, applicants should focus on ways they’ll prepare before they arrive on campus, whether through additional coursework, group or self-study, or through seeking out more quantitatively-oriented responsibilities at work.

Essay 4 (Optional)

Is there any other information you would like to share that is not presented elsewhere in the application? (300 words maximum)
This response will be an appropriate place to address any elements of one’s application that need further explanation (e.g. recommender choice, expected promotions, etc.). The wording of this essay is fairly open and inviting, and so it may be an appropriate place to share an additional anecdote or highlight an impressive accomplishment. Applicants should aim to demonstrate good judgment in deciding whether to respond to this prompt, and should take care not to introduce information that appears elsewhere in their materials or that could have been covered in response to one of the above essays.

Clear Admit Resources
Thanks for reading our analysis of this year’s UNC MBA essay topics! As you work on your Kenan-Flagler MBA essays and application, we encourage you to consider all of Clear Admit’s UNC / Kenan-Flagler offerings:

Posted in: Application Tips, Essay Tips & Advice, Essay Topic Analysis

Schools: UNC Kenan-Flagler

Related

Calling all Kenan-Flagler 2017 applicants!

Admissionado back once again with fresh, off-the-shelves essay analyses for Kenan-Flagler's 2017 application! We wanted to jump in and give you a head-start on those essays questions jog that imagination, and give you a few tips and tricks to get started on your UNC Kenan-Flagler essays to get you started on the best foot this year. Soooooo, without further ado:


UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School MBA Essay 1


Please describe your short and long term goals post-MBA. Explain how your professional experience has shaped these goals, why this career option appeals to you, and how you arrived at the decision that now is the time and the MBA is the appropriate degree. Additionally, please briefly address a backup plan should your short-term goal not come to fruition for any reason. (500 words maximum)

Mostly a bog standard goals essay, but with two slight twists:

They’ve directly asked for your “contingency plan.”
They phrased the Why MBA and Why Now question in a cool way: “Explain […] how you arrived at the decision that now is the time and the MBA is the appropriate degree.”

We’ll address these specifically when we get there. Let’s step through a decent plan of attack for your generating your first draft.

Establish The Problem/Identify the Opportunity (50 words)

Typically, there’s an opening in an industry, or there’s a system that’s broken, or a status quo begging for a revolution. Whatever it may be, an opportunity in need of SEIZING is there; a problem in need of FIXING. Bring us into “the thing,” whatever it is. Establish it. Set it up. Make US see… what YOU see. Bring us on board, and we will root for you. This “buy-in” is an essential part of any career goals essay setup.

High-Level GLIMPSE of Long-Term Aspirations (50 words)

Without getting into the nitty gritty, reveal what it is you want to DO. Not the job title, not the position, not the company… but rather, the result that COMES FROM all those things. What it is that you want to actually ACHIEVE. What NET RESULT are you hoping for? What will the consequences be? Paint us a picture. No details, just enough for us to get the gist.

Walk us Through The Career Path/Take us on a Journey (100-125 words)

This is NOT just giving us your resume. It’s far from that actually. We want to feel the INEVITABILITY of your next moves (MBA, short term, long term, etc.). This happens ONLY when you take us through a chronology that has a logical direction. Highlight the most meaningful aspects of your work experiences—aspects that:

Connect your past achievements to your future goals.
Prove to us that you’ve been successful in things that therefore promise success in those future goals.

The Short-Term Plan, into the Long-Term Plan (100-125 words)

Details details details. Show us that you’ve considered it from every angle. Show us why this short-term goal makes perfect sense as a bridge, and why each step is necessary. Show us a progression. End this section with a reason why you can’t just… get going already. There’s a reason you can’t—you’re missing some stuff, you need an MBA.

Why Get an MBA? Why School X? (100-125 words)

Prove to us the NEED for an MBA. Not in the abstract, but why YOU need an MBA at this particularly ripe moment. For Kenan-Flagler in particular, walk us through the “realization” moment. It’s cooler if it wasn’t a foregone conclusion, but something that came from consideration. Bring us into the “considerings!” You could probably succeed just fine without an MBA, but make our mouths water at the notion that you could succeed in a SPECIAL way with that degree.

There are a lot of options out there: Master of Finance, Master of Financial Engineering, Law School, no masters at all… Why an MBA specifically? Do you really know what this degree is all about? For you, is it the stuff you expect to learn inside the classroom? Outside the classroom? Make an argument here, convince us that you’ve considered all the possibilities and landed on the path that travels THROUGH the MBA degree.

A big part of this argument will be timing. Show us how if you were to wait a couple years, something gets lost. Show us how if you had pursued it a few years ago, it wouldn’t have been as good because of the stuff you’ve picked up along the way. Prove to us that you are RIPE, and that it’s harvest time.

Plan B (75 words)

What happens if your short-term goals don’t quite work out exactly as you envision they will? Here’s the key… it shouldn’t affect your long-term goals because you’re committed to those, right? Cool, so, at the very worst, it’ll just require a different route. A less efficient route, perhaps. Less ideal, even. But it’ll still get you to where you need to go.

We need to feel inevitability DRIPPING off the page here. We need to feel that we could TRY to foil you ten different ways, but that you’d then find an eleventh way to get what you want. Give us a glimpse of that here. “If this doesn’t work out this way, no problem, the next best move will be to do X, in order to achieve Y.” In fact, that’s an AWESOME way to think about this, that is, in terms of DESIRED OUTCOMES.

Identify your desired outcome in terms of SKILLS earned, KNOWLEDGE BASE needed, EXPERIENCE-TYPE required, etc. And then suggest that if PATHWAY 1 doesn’t work out, that’s okay, PATHWAY 2 will deliver a version of those same outcomes.

We love the driving-route analogy. Say you’re headed to an 8pm concert, and while en route, there’s an accident on the highway that stops traffic dead. Do you give up? No, you take an exit and look for a different route. Lightning strikes a tree and it falls right in front of your car. Do you give up? No, you either turn around and find a different route again, or, if you’re determined to get to that concert, perhaps you DITCH your car (an interesting sacrifice), climb over the tree, and jog the rest of the way. Maybe you show up at 8:25pm, in sweat-stained clothes, and now you no longer possess your car because by now it’s been stolen. Still… you made it. Yes, the original plan of arriving 10 minutes early in your car, with your hair in perfect shape would have been preferable, but, if you’re so stuck on the PATH needing to look a certain way, you may be the kind of person who GIVES UP WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH. You need to show us – here – that you’re going to show up to that concert one way or another, willing to make sacrifices in “path” along the way, for the sake of getting the “outcome.”


UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School MBA Essay 2


What personal qualities or life experiences distinguish you from other applicants? How do these qualities or experiences equip you to contribute to UNC Kenan-Flagler? (300 words maximum)

Analysis


This is a fun one. An opportunity for you to let your personality bleed through a bit. Don’t be afraid of taking some risks here and cutting loose. In doing so, you’ll be proving THAT you have qualities that distinguish you from others. What does taking risks mean exactly? Well, it could be in the CHOICE of the qualities you talk about, or in the way you DELIVER it. Perhaps you take on a more conversational tone. Perhaps you tell us an incredible story (as opposed to a more dry explanation OF the thing). Whatever it is, your personality should shine through here. Someone who doesn’t know you should be able to read this essay and get a sense of what you must be like in person.

But okay, let’s talk about the actual STUFF now (in the abstract). What kind of thing distinguishes you from other applicants? Well, this is where you’re gonna have to be super hard on yourself. Or, extremely self-aware. Recognize that many of the things you THINK are unique to you are in fact quite common. Oh no.

Recognize further that some of the things you think you own…. others not only have, but have cooler versions of! Double oh no.

Start with that as your challenge. Don’t just pick stuff to talk about. Sell us on why these are cool. Because chances are, we’ve seen it a thousand times before. If you can “sell” it well, then the sky’s the limit. Then you can make even the most COMMON thing seem uncommon. And that—by itself—is a cool skill.

What could possibly distinguish you from other applicants? Couple tricks here to get the juices flowing. Think about cool oxymorons and surprising aspects of yourself. Let’s say you’re a mid-20s Indian male IT guy from India. Well, rather than talk about how you play cricket, what if your thing is lacrosse? Or, hell, BALLET? Or something else that makes us go… “what just happened.” Think about the predictable, and then try to make it go upside-down. You’re an IT guy, but you were a contestant on American Idol. You’re a corporate, Wall Street type, but you write children’s books in your spare time. You’re a Chinese guy who hates numbers. Find things that surprise WITHIN YOUR OWN REPERTOIRE. Don’t just look for ways in which you think you might be cool. Those juxtapositions are there already. Find ‘em. This should get you 2/3 or 3/4 the way there.

But once again, don’t ignore that second question about how you APPLY these. The “what’s in it for us” aspect. What’s the VALUE in that trait? Be careful here, there doesn’t need to be a 1:1 relationship between your cool traits and the way you apply it.

Let’s say you’re a potter, and that you have a ridiculously cool life history in clay pot making. Well, that doesn’t mean you need to “start a clay pot making club” at Kenan-Flagler. There must be some other WAY in which you can apply this cool thing. Maybe your passion for art can be channeled toward something neat and productive while at school.

Maybe it is starting a club, but maybe that club is focused on helping raise money to provide opportunities for students studying art at a local elementary school. Or maybe it’s even simpler than that. Maybe clay pot making is a pure distraction for you from work. Maybe there’s value in that, and in you bringing that out in other students. Maybe it ends up making for a healthier campus life, and more productive, happier students. There are all sorts of possibilities. But you’ve got to argue it, and convince us that there are. And it can’t seem canned. We’ll know in an instant whether you’re just saying it to impress, or whether you’ve actually thought it through. (Never try to impress; it won’t work!)

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School MBA Essay 3


If your standardized test scores are low, or if you have not had coursework in core business subjects (calculus, microeconomics, statistics, financial accounting), please tell us how you plan to prepare yourself for the quantitative rigor of the MBA curriculum. (300 words maximum)

Analysis


A slight twist on the usual Optional Essay prompt, in that it’s a tad more specific. This one focuses purely on “can you handle the math at b-school?” Let’s suppose that on paper, your test scores and grades (or lack of experience with higher level math) raise some doubts as to whether you can handle the “quantitative rigor.” Okay, no big deal. Prove to us some other way that you can hang.

What are you prepared to do between now and when you start school? What have you already done? Where else is there evidence elsewhere (in the workplace, for example) of your aptitude here that may act as a counterweight to a lackluster GMAT?

No matter what, do not make excuses. Be confident, straightforward, and simply reassure the adcom that you’re on it. My grades/GMAT is low, but I will be able to hang with the best of them. Here’s the evidence. Zip in, zip out. The shorter and more to-the-point, the better.

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School MBA Essay 4


Is there any other information you would like to share that is not presented elsewhere in the application? (300 words maximum)

Analysis


Read our team’s complete take on the idea of optional essay, including a brief (recent) history of b-schools’ relationship with it, and how our recommendations have evolved over the years, right here.

And that's that. Helpful, eh? If you have any questions on it or Kenan-Flagler or anything, just reply here or shoot us a PM. And if you want more Essay Analysis Goodness, check out more schools here. We're updating 'em daily as new prompts are released, so keep checking back.
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Founder, Admissionado

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