The following essay topic analysis examines Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business (McDonough) 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.
Georgetown / McDonough Essay Topic Analysis 2018-2019
Let’s take a closer look at each prompt:
Describe a defining moment when you were challenged and exceeded expectations. (The moment can be a professional or personal one. If personal, then please also include how it had an impact on your professional development) (500 words or fewer)
Georgetown / McDonough considers their program to be preparation for the global stage, and applicants would be wise to consider the response to this prompt as a reflection of how your strengths and potential would translate to the rigorous MBA program in D.C. The adcom will want to see not only how you overcame challenges, but thrived in spite of them and, ultimately, developed personally and professionally.
Whether you pick a personal or professional moment, you’ll want to spend the first part of the essay detailing that experience. Explain when and where it happened, who was involved, and what the larger context was before discussing what transpired and why it rates as a “defining” moment or event for you. In terms of topics, it’s understandable that meeting one’s spouse or having a child might be top-of-mind as potential defining moments; however, it’s important to note the second part of the prompt “…were you were challenged and exceeded expectations.” and to remember that essay content should ideally be relevant to your case for admission to business school. Therefore, evidence of leadership, management, teamwork or other business skills should ideally be present in the essay. Another word of caution: we do not recommend using ‘the decision to pursue an MBA’ as your defining moment. Given that everyone in the applicant pool is going through the same process, choosing such a topic would make it hard to stand out. With that said, it could work to conclude your essay with a few words about how the experience you selected has put you at the tipping point of pursuing an MBA (at McDonough in particular).
For applicants who choose to discuss a non-work experience, this discussion should likely be limited to roughly 350 words in order to make room for a full discussion of its implications on your professional development. Meanwhile, candidates who select a defining professional moment might spend 400 words recounting the experience, as the career implications will likely be a bit more self-evident. Keep in mind that a truly defining moment will likely have a broad impact. Effective essays will therefore introduce at least two ways this defining moment has influenced how the writer behaves, approaches decision-making or problem-solving, or has since approached his or her professional and/or personal life.
The required video essay is an opportunity for you to bring life to your application. Please introduce yourself to your future Georgetown MBA cohort in a one minute video.
Before pressing the “record” button, it would be worth reviewing our advice on video essays to understand the broader goals of a video prompt. Getting to the specifics of McDonough’s video essay, keep in mind your target audience: one’s fellow students. While a brief mention of your professional background and career goals may be appropriate, we encourage applicants to use this opportunity to showcase elements of their personalities and candidacies that they will not have the chance to address in their other application materials. Perhaps you have a particularly interesting work or extra-curricular experience to share, or a personal accomplishment or aspect of your heritage of which you’re especially proud. By focusing on a range of qualities and characteristics, this video will allow applicants to demonstrate the well-rounded nature of their candidacies even within the minute limit. Speaking of length, do not hesitate to practice your response to ensure that it will be within the time limit. You should also record your response on your own and watch it so you can improve before the final recording. The key caveat here is to not allow the practicing to lead to a robotic/overly rehearsed final video.
As this is a visual presentation, ensure you are dressed in appropriate professional attire and, per McDonough’s Video Essay Guide, that the scene is well lit and you can be heard clearly. 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 or phone. While many applicants will be tempted to introduce props into their video, such as signs, souvenirs, or any prized possessions that might quickly convey who you are, we would like to urge some degree of caution in this domain. A focused, one-minute, heartfelt introduction (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. This isn’t to say that displaying a prized souvenir from traveling along the Silk Road in Asia can’t work, it’s just that we want you to think carefully about how to best convey your message on video.
Optional Essay 1
If you are not currently employed full-time, use this essay to provide information about your current activities. (250 words or fewer)
This is a straightforward request for information from a sub-set of applicants, and should only be answered by applicants who aren’t working full-time. Unemployed, part-time employed or student applicants will do well to demonstrate that they are actively developing skills, forging connections, and making progress toward their career goals. This essay is a great place to discuss increased involvement in volunteer work, attendance at conferences and professional development workshops, efforts to secure short-term pre-MBA employment, and other plans for making the most of one’s time between applying and beginning the program at McDonough.
Optional Essay 2
Please provide any information you would like to add to your application that you have not otherwise included. (500 words or fewer)
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. Given the word limit, 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.
How have you strengthened your candidacy since your last application? We are particularly interested in hearing about how you have grown professionally and personally. (500 words or fewer)
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 prompt is focused on proactive improvement in one’s candidacy since the time one last applied. This response should therefore be fairly action-oriented, with a focus on describing the steps that one has taken to become a stronger applicant to McDonough since being denied, as well as the results of these efforts in terms of new knowledge and strengthened skills. The request for professional growth should involve accounting for an increase in one’s responsibilities at work—perhaps more direct management experience—or a concluding project that has met with success since your last application. On the personal side, this could entail extended community involvement. There should also be room to account for how one has refined career goals and an interest in McDonough’s program itself. 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.
Clear Admit Resources
Thanks for reading our analysis of this year’s McDonough MBA essay topics. As you work on your McDonough MBA essays and application, we encourage you to consider all of Clear Admit’s McDonough offerings:
- Georgetown / McDonough Profile on the Clear Admit website: up-to-date advice and admissions information
- Clear Admit Georgetown / McDonough School Snapshot: overview of key curricular details and application information
- Georgetown / McDonough School Guide: in-depth program and campus information and side-by-side school comparisons; everything you need to know for a successful application!
- Clear Admit LiveWire: admissions updates submitted in real time by applicants to McDonough
- Clear Admit DecisionWire: school selections in real-time by admits to McDonough