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Washington University / Olin Business School Essay Topic Analysis

Washington U Olin interview questions

The following essay topic analysis examines Washington University’s Olin Business School (WashU / Olin) MBA admissions essays for the 2020-2021 admissions season. You can also review essay topic analyses for other leading MBA programs as well as general Essay Tips to further aid you in developing your admissions essays.

Washington University / Olin Business School Essay Topic Analysis 2020-2021

Essay 1

To move past the impossibilities and create the next breakthrough we must first understand where we started. Reflect on your story and experiences. Help us understand who you are. What is important to you and what drives you to do more? (350-word maximum)
This is a fairly open-ended question that essentially asks the applicant to introduce him or herself to the admissions reader, delving past the facts of one’s job and hobbies into a deeper discussion of the candidate’s values and ambition. That said, there is still an opening to provide illustrative examples that show how these qualities manifest in one’s day–to-day life.

You might lead off with two or three priorities or values (what’s important to you), sharing brief examples of what these have enabled you to accomplish or how they’ve positioned you to overcome challenges (aka impossibilities). It will then be ideal to back up every priority with a brief example to really “prove” that you prioritize it. By doing so, you’re effectively “showing” rather than “telling” the reader how your priorities and values inform your behavior (and potential contribution to the Olin MBA program).

Essay 2

In the space that lies between statistical evidence and carefully honed ethics—in a place where numbers and people intersect—we find incredible opportunity and untapped potential. Share with us your untapped potential and help us understand how Olin can help you achieve your post-MBA goals. (500-word maximum)
A variation of the typical career goals essay, this question asks applicants to consider their untapped potential and connect their professional goals to the Olin MBA.  Along with describing their immediate post-MBA career goals, applicants should explain their long-term career goals and the broad impact they hope to have on their industry, community, country or region.  A brief career summary can naturally lead to the gaps in one’s professional skill set that the Olin MBA would fill.

Of course, to craft a truly compelling essay, applicants must also display a strong and specific understanding of how Olin’s program would enable them to accomplish their goals.  Taking the time to learn about the school’s curriculum, special programs and extracurricular activities—whether by seeking out alumni or current students to engage, or connecting with resources through the Olin website—will pay dividends here.

Essay 3

At Olin we build conscientious leaders who take extreme care to create a community of inclusion, respect and collaboration so that each person’s value can be fully recognized and realized. Please share your passions, hobbies, interests, greatest accomplishments and/or achievements. (100-word maximum)
This essay requests an inventory of the applicant’s significant past and present involvements and hobbies. Schools are generally looking for well-rounded candidates, and candidates that are good citizens. These activities can highlight one or both characteristics.

Given the vast scope of this question, it’s probably helpful to think through some parameters for the activities one might include — particularly for applicants who have a number of hobbies, interests, and involvements. In this context, 3+ hours per week for at least three months is probably a reasonable gauge for a “significant” involvement. While the prompt doesn’t specify a time limit, it’s likely that one’s activities since beginning college will be of interest to the admissions committee, though current involvements should likely take precedence over older ones if the word count becomes an issue.

There’s one other strategic considerations to bear in mind when selecting what to highlight here: social or community-based involvements are generally better suited to this essay than solo involvements (e.g. reading, working out, watching movies). Business school requires a high degree of collaboration and engagement, so admissions committees seek applicants who are naturally inclined to engage others in their leisure time. For this reason, training for races with a running club will go over better than saying you spend several hours alone at the gym each week.

Once you’ve selected which activities to highlight, the most effective response to this essay will likely be a straightforward one, describing the nature and extent of one’s involvements outside of work and what kind of enjoyment or enrichment the applicant derives from each.

Optional Essay

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. (250 words maximum)
Consider these five questions before providing additional information (and extra reading) to the adcom.  If you need to address glaring weaknesses or liabilities (as opposed to offering “bonus information” about one’s candidacy), keep responses brief and to-the-point. Offer explanations without making excuses and humbly bring mitigating factors to the reader’s attention. That said, it’s possible that there are other elements of one’s background that would be appropriate and not covered elsewhere, for example an anticipated promotion or an element of one’s identity not covered in the program’s data forms. While applicants should make an effort to fully represent their candidacies within the required elements of the application, this leaves a bit of room for short exceptions.

Clear Admit Resources
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