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Vanderbilt / Owen Essay Topic Analysis

Vanderbilt / Owen mba

The following essay topic analysis examines the Owen Graduate School of Business of Vanderbilt University (Owen) MBA admissions essays for the 2020-2021 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 2020-2021

Let’s take a closer look at each prompt. 

Essay 1

What are your short-term career goals after obtaining your MBA and what functional area do you plan to study while in the MBA program? (75 word limit)
This question asks applicants to speak directly about the job they wish to have upon graduating from business school. Given a short limit of 75 words, you’ll want to clearly and concisely describe your short-term goal, identifying the function you wish to pursue and industry to enter. You may have room to explain the reasoning behind this choice, such as the impact you wish to have or how it is a stepping stone to your long-term goal.  In order to answer the second part of the prompt, you’ll want to review Vanderbilt’s curricular offerings to determine which functional area best meets your needs.

Essay 2

What are some specific skills that you want to develop during your time in business school? (75 word limit)
This boils down to a “why MBA” question. Here, you’ll want to identify the specific hard and soft skills you wish to acquire during the program.  You may also integrate how these skills would prepare you to succeed in your future career.

Essay 3

The role of the Vanderbilt MBA Career Management Center is to partner with students to discover and define their career goals; to educate and coach students in developing and refining skills and experiences to achieve their career goals; to facilitate partnerships among students, the business community and the Vanderbilt community.  How do you plan to collaborate with the Career Management Center to work toward your career goals? (75 word limit)
Before you draft this essay, review the specific offerings from the Career Management Center, such as Career Treks, info sessions and more.  Highlighting the specific offerings will show that you have done your research.  Connecting these offerings to your needs will then show the adcom that you truly belong at Owen.

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. Applicants reactivating a previous application submitted within the last two years should provide their additional statement here. (300 word limit, optional)
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.

For re-applicants using this space, it would help to review your last application to reflect on any potential weaknesses—did you have enough leadership experience? Were your goals clearly defined? Did you improve your GMAT score or take quantitative courses to balance your weak undergraduate record? This response should be fairly action-oriented, with a focus on describing the steps that one has taken to become a stronger applicant to Owen since being denied, as well as the results of these efforts in terms of new knowledge and strengthened skills. It’s also important not to repeat material verbatim from your prior application; the adcom wants to see that you have approached the application process freshly and with new information.

Optional Short Answer

Share an interesting fact about yourself. (400 characters, optional)
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. Though there are myriad potential topics to discuss here, applicants should consider the balance of subjects they have covered across their other essays and choose a topic that provides new insight into their overall candidacy. For example, if the majority of content in the previous essays is focused on your professional life and accomplishments, this would be an opportunity to showcase and highlight your extracurricular passions or interests.

Video Essay

The video essay is a required component of the online application.  Our goal in asking you for a short video essay 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 essay questions are easy to answer. Just be yourself!

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

  1. You will be prompted to start the video essay 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 essay.
  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 essay. 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 essay. Each time you redo the video essay, 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 essay.

Important notes to remember as you begin:

  • You will have 3 attempts to do a video essay 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
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