The following essay topic analysis examines Washington University’s Olin Business School (WashU / Olin) MBA admissions essays for the 2018-2019 admissions season. You can also review essay topic analyses for all other the leading MBA programs as well as general Essay Tips to further aid you in developing your admissions essays.
We never said it would be easy. Describe a time that you had made a challenging decision that changed your path or the path of another. (500-word maximum)
There are several elements to cover in this essay, including how you were challenged, your actual decision, what changed for whom and how that change yielded positive results. You will want this to be an example of success, as you should not put forth a mistake or weakness in your application unless directly asked to do so.
Applicants may consider using the following structure for their story:
- Set the stage for the situation about which you needed to make a challenging decision.
- Identify your decision and the inherent challenges of it. Was this a risky decision? If so, what were you risking? Were you venturing into new territory or challenging your own skill set? What was difficult about this or what did you stand to lose?
- Explain how you actively addressed these challenges. How did you ultimately make your decision? What happened once you made the decision?
- Summarize the (hopefully positive) results. What impact did this on your direction or another person’s? What did you learn in the process?
In concluding the essay, it would behoove you to explain how your lessons from the situation enable you to contribute to the Olin community. Whether in particular courses or club activities, Olin will also want to see how this process supports your fit with the program.
A note on what to avoid: Deciding to pursue an MBA. Every other applicant made the same decision, so it will not help you stand out in the admissions process. Further, the goal for this essay should be to shed light on your candidacy and strengths.
Tell us about your top five most influential social media posts. (500-word maximum)
For a private person, this could be a doozy to answer. Or if you’re on several platforms, you may face the challenge of narrowing down your response. It may help to first think about what you actually share online. For instance, your morning coffee on Instagram won’t hold much weight here, but an article you shared on LinkedIn could reveal a lot about your interests. That said, while your family photo album from your latest vacation to the Grand Canyon may have garnered the most “likes,” steer clear of the personal content—you are, after all, applying to business school. Instead, focus on posts that shared an article which helped perhaps educate your followers or inspired constructive debate of some kind. You may also consider how you’ve influenced your community online. Perhaps you’ve passed on articles about trade sanctions and how these are influencing the global economy, or you ran the social media campaign for a local fundraiser and donation results tripled. Perhaps you’ve documented your journey to a healthier lifestyle and can bring up several people you are now mentoring on the same path. It could be as simple as getting a few friends to sign up for a charity 5k because of your social media posts. Whatever the case, be sure you can point to tangible (ideally offline) results.
In terms of how to allocate the word count, it would be understandable that your more influential post would garner more space; however, do not get stuck with 400 words on one or two stellar posts and then leave room for only a sentence about the others. Ensure that each post has enough context and tangible results.
Is there anything else you’d like to share? If so, please provide any additional information not previously addressed in the application that would help the Admissions Committee assess your candidacy.
This will be an appropriate place for applicants to address potential concerns with or liabilities in their candidacies, to explain unusual recommenders or gaps in employment, or to comment on extenuating circumstances that affected past performance. Despite the lack of a word limit and even though the other essays are 500 words, it is best to keep this essay short and to the point, if addressed at all. Also, if you have an issue to cover, do not worry about expanding it to 500 words as you would with a normal essay prompt.
Please describe your immediate career plans after graduation from Olin. (250-word maximum)
Establishing where you are headed from the start would help create context for your short-term goals; hence, we’d recommend that applicants open briefly with their five- to ten-year target position. Then, you can identify the position you hope to obtain immediately after school — down to the job title and 2-3 dream employers. Next, summarizing your skills/strengths based on your background—and connecting to how they would enable or have inspired your career plans—sets up the gap in your skill set that an MBA would fill. Be sure to include a few sentences about why the Olin MBA program and student community are a particularly strong fit with your objectives and priorities.
Clear Admit Resources
Before you start writing your responses to the Washington University / Olin essay topics, check out some of our Olin resources: