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Vanderbilt / Owen MBA Essay Topic Analysis 2023-2024

The following essay topic analysis examines the Owen Graduate School of Business of Vanderbilt University (Owen) MBA admissions essays for the 2023-2024 admissions season. You can also review essay topic analyses for all other leading MBA programs as well as general Essay Tips to further aid you in developing your admissions essays.

Vanderbilt / Owen Essay Topic Analysis 2023-2024

Let’s take a closer look at each prompt. 

Essay 1

Tell us about your post-MBA career goals by describing two concurrent paths you plan to explore while in the Vanderbilt MBA program. What skills have you developed that will help you achieve your career goals? (200 word limit)
Vanderbilt is looking for applicants to present two plausible career plans, and a sense of how they can explore both of them at Owen. We recommend having one priority career plan and a reasonable alternative; this could look like two different short-term goals that serve as plausible stepping stones to the long term, short-term flexibility in industry or functional focus, etc. Applicants will want to begin by describing their professional aspirations, including both the potential positions they hope to obtain immediately following an MBA, as well as their long-term objective. Applicants will then want to explain why they have chosen to pursue graduate business education at Owen. You’ll want to review Vanderbilt’s curricular offerings to determine which concentration best meets your needs. You may also consider the additional specializations and emphases that apply, as well as clubs and activities. After using the first half of the essay to connect to how the offerings would enable your goals, you can then summarize your career to date and highlight the skills you have honed that would transfer to your future career.

Essay 2

Please highlight something about yourself that isn’t already captured in the application. (200 words)
Though there are myriad potential topics to discuss here, applicants should consider the balance of subjects they have covered across their application and choose a topic that provides new insight into their overall candidacy. For example, if the majority of content in your other essay is focused on your professional life and accomplishments, this would be an opportunity to showcase and highlight your extracurricular passions or interests. It also invites something interesting about your background or unusual international experience. You may also consider what matters most to you or what feels like defines you as you decide what may be missing from the other application materials. This is not the place to discuss any liabilities in your candidacy, as Vanderbilt provides the optional essay (below) for such concerns.

Optional Essay 1

You are encouraged to provide an additional statement to clarify and explain any of the following: gaps of more than three months in full-time employment, lack of recommendation from your current or most recent supervisor, limited full-time work experience (ignore if you are a recent undergraduate), poor academic performance, weak test scores, academic misconduct, violations of the law, or anything else you think is important for the Admissions Committee to know about you that is not already addressed elsewhere in your application. (300 word limit, optional)
This is not an extension of Essay 2, but rather an opportunity to address any concerns the adcom may have about your candidacy. If you need to address potential liabilities, per the list in the prompt, such discussions should be direct and to the point. Provide an explanation and point to mitigating factors without being defensive or making excuses. While there are 300 words allotted for this response, applicants using this essay to address an issue in their application will likely use only a fraction of this space. The final option to discuss anything else you think is important for the adcom is know is certainly more inviting; however, you’ll want to consider some questions before launching into a response. Applicants should take a conservative approach to this response, only bringing up information that you believe warrants the extra review time from the reader.

Optional Short Answer

Share an interesting or fun fact about yourself. (400 characters)
While optional, candidates should complete this response—ignoring such a short answer risks sending the adcom a signal that you are not committed to the program. 400 characters is about 55-65 words, so don’t expect to have a lot of room to elaborate. Instead, consider the most interesting or fun thing you’ve done or are passionate about and share it here.

Video Response

The video response is a required component of the online application. Our goal in asking you for a short video response is to glimpse an authentic and unscripted view of your personality, creativity, and communication style. Don’t stress over this portion of the application!  The video response questions are easy to answer. Just be yourself!

Read through the video response instructions below before starting the process. Once you have read the instructions, follow the instructional prompts provided on the screen for the video response recording process.

Video Response Instructions

  1. You will be prompted to start the video response process by first testing your equipment (video and sound). See below for the Red Button that Says “Start Test”.
  2. Proceed through the testing steps. Once you have acknowledged that you have thoroughly tested your equipment, you will be prompted to proceed with the process of actually recording your video response.
  3. The system will display a question for you to answer. You will have 30 seconds to gather your thoughts and prepare your answer. There will be a visual timer countdown on the screen.
  4. You will then have up to 90 seconds to respond with your answer to the video response. You may use the entire 90 seconds or stop the recording when you have sufficiently answered the question. There will be a visual timer countdown on the screen.
  5. When your recording is stopped you may review your recording. If you are satisfied with your video essay recording, you may proceed to the next page of the application. If you would like to record the video essay again, you may. 
  6. The system will allow you 3 opportunities to record your video response. Each time you redo the video response, you will be given a different question.
  7. After 3 attempts at recording you will not be given the opportunity to record again.
  8. You will see a message that reads “We have successfully received your video submission.” after you have recorded your video response.

Important notes to remember as you begin:

  • You will have 3 attempts to do a video response recording – each attempt will present a different question
  • You will have 30 seconds to prepare to answer the question on the screen
  • You will have up to 90 seconds to respond with the video recording

Before pressing the “record” button, it would be worth reviewing our advice on video essays to understand the broader goals of a video prompt. As this is a visual presentation that will be recorded live, ensure you are dressed in appropriate professional attire. In terms of a background, clean and steady may work best—you do not want to make the adcom dizzy by taking them on an unsteady walking tour with your laptop. While many applicants will be tempted to introduce props into their video, such as signs, souvenirs, or any prized possessions, we would like to urge caution in this domain. A focused, 90-second response to the question (while looking your audience in the eye) may be far more effective than a distracting string of props, signs, charts—each requiring valuable time to make transitions—not to mention careful attention to readability/visibility on screen. As the question can change and because the adcom is looking for an “unscripted” view of you, you will not want to be hampered by trying to work in materials that may or may not be relevant to the prompt. Take the 30-second preview period to gather your thoughts and then speak genuinely and clearly. The adcom has noted that there is no pressure to fill the 90-second window, so once you feel you have fully addressed a question, you may wrap up the recording. Finally, as the prompt notes, remember to be yourself!

Clear Admit Resources

Thanks for reading our analysis of this year’s Vanderbilt / Owen MBA essay topics. As you work on your Owen MBA essays and application, we encourage you to consider all of Clear Admit’s Vanderbilt / Owen offerings: