How to Nail the “How Will You Contribute” MBA Essay
It’s no secret that the MBA application process is highly competitive. Applicants need to demonstrate leadership potential, critical business skills, grades and test scores. But, profile aside, schools also evaluate whether each particular applicant is a good ‘fit’ for them.
So, what exactly makes an applicant a good fit? MBA programs look for candidates that give back just as much as they learn from the program. They want candidates who will contribute to the overall quality of the program for their peers.
So when you write your MBA essays, one of the questions that several schools ask is some version of: “How will you contribute to the MBA program?”
More implicitly, this question asks how you can differentiate yourself from other applicants. How will your unique background, past experiences, and core values add value to the class?
Watch our video explainer here:
Here are some examples of how several top business schools ask this question:
UPenn Wharton: Essay 2
Taking into consideration your background—personal, professional, and/or academic—how do you plan to make specific, meaningful contributions to the Wharton community? (400 words; Required)
Duke Fuqua Essay 2: The Fuqua Community and You
Fuqua prides itself on cultivating a culture of engagement. Our students enjoy a wide range of student-led organizations that provide opportunities for leadership development and personal fulfillment, as well as an outlet for contributing to society. Our student-led government, clubs, centers, and events are an integral part of the student culture and to the development of leaders. Based on your understanding of the Fuqua culture, what are 3 ways you expect to contribute at Fuqua?
Your response will be limited to 1 page (500 words maximum).
Northwestern Kellogg: Essay 2
At Kellogg, our values are based on research that concludes organizations comprised of leaders with varied backgrounds and perspectives outperform homogeneous ones. How do you believe your personal and professional experiences to date will help to enrich the Kellogg community? (450 words)
Cornell Johnson Essay 1: Impact Essay
At Cornell, our students and alumni share a desire to positively impact the organizations and communities they serve. Taking into consideration your background, how do you intend to make a meaningful impact on an elite MBA community? (350 words maximum)
Dartmouth Tuck: Essay 2
Tell us who you are. How have your values and experiences shaped your identity and character? How will your background contribute to the diverse Tuck culture and community? (300 words)
Yale SOM: Essay Option 2
Describe the community that has been most meaningful to you.
What is the most valuable thing you have gained from being a part of this community and what is the most important thing you have contributed to this community? (500 words)
UToronto Rotman: Essay 1
Our admitted students stand out by doing interesting things with their personal and professional lives — something we describe as the ‘spike factor’; what are the things that you have done in your life that demonstrate Passion / Grit / Resilience / Innovation / Drive / Ambition and more? This can cross all or any aspects of life outside of work – hobbies, volunteerism, awards, entrepreneurial ventures, sports and the arts. We believe that exposure to a rich diversity of viewpoints makes for a superior learning experience, and pride ourselves on building a diverse class of exceptional individuals who will go on to make the School proud as professionals and alumni.
Explain your spike factor (something unique about yourself) that you believe will contribute to the Rotman community and is aligned with Rotman values. (up to 500 words)*
Chicago Booth MBA Essay 2
An MBA is as much about personal growth as it is about professional development. In addition to sharing your experience and goals in terms of career, we’d like to learn more about you outside of the office. Use this opportunity to tell us something about who you are… (250-word minimum)
NOTE: These schools are direct in asking about your ‘contribution’, but many other schools are not. For many other MBA applications, this will come up in other ways. For example, in some applications you are expected to weave this into your career goals essay. Other schools ask this question as part of the video interviews (Kira Talent). Finally, you can fully expect your contributions to the school to come up in your interview.
What’s unique about you?
When you approach the ‘contributions’ essay, a good place to start is by listing the ways in which you can differentiate yourself from other applicants. Find 4-5 impactful stories across the following categories:
Professional and personal achievements/awards
Targeted skills and areas of expertise
Diverse background or life experiences
Entrepreneurial or creative initiatives
Passions and interests
Significant community engagement
These are your differentiating factors. Now that you’ve mapped how you stand out from other applicants, research the school to find where you can add value.
What’s unique about the MBA program?
To write a strong ‘contributions’ essay, you’ll need a thorough understanding of the school’s culture and the opportunities it provides in the classroom, extracurricular spaces, and through school clubs.
Don’t limit your research to the school website and employment reports. Everyone has access to that information. Differentiate yourself by having conversations with the students, alumni, and staff at your target school. You can do this by registering for information sessions, 1:1 virtual chats, school visits, student tours and by sending cold reach-outs on LinkedIn. Some schools even have student ambassadors whose contact information is publicly available. This will give you insider information on different opportunities that your skills and experiences align with. Including this research in your ‘contributions’ essay shows that you are a serious, engaged applicant who can go the extra mile.
Not sure where to start your school research? The FREE “Which Schools?” course on MBAConsultant.com contains everything you need to know.
Now that you’ve done your school research, here are 3 ways you can contribute to the MBA program at your target business school.
How will you contribute to the MBA program?
As a student, what can you bring to the class and case team discussions? Are you an effective participant who can teach your classmates about your job function, industry, or expertise beyond what they’ll learn in class? How receptive are you to others’ experiences and feedback?
Business schools are looking for curious, vocal students who can enrich the overall learning experience and be a good career resource for their peers. Research the school’s curriculum to find electives and team projects you are interested in and discuss how you will contribute to these classes using your industry knowledge and skills. Also specify what you hope to learn in the classroom and how this aligns with your goals.
Remember: show, don’t tell. It’s not enough to say that you’ll be a good team player while working on a capstone project. Give evidence of your teamwork or collaboration skills, quantifying where possible. Which role will you take during the project? To learn how to write an effective team story, get the free Essay Strategy course on MBAConsultant.com.
Most candidates plan to pivot to different roles, industries, geographies, or business verticals after their MBA. Your peers may share your professional background or may work in your target post-MBA sector. Similarly, one of the ways you can contribute is by offering insights into your pre-MBA industry and role, either in the classroom or as part of professional clubs.
Second, you can participate in non-profit consulting opportunities. For example, at Duke Fuqua, students can closely collaborate with a non-profit in Durham as a Fuqua On Board Fellow to apply their classroom learning in a real-world business scenario.
Third, if you’re someone with friends in high places, think about how you can use your professional network to bring in industry leaders for club talks or career development sessions, and even for recruitment.
Next, if you’re a budding entrepreneur, discuss how you’ll use the school’s entrepreneur resources (like UC Berkeley’s SkyDeck or Harvard’s Incubation Program) to find a co-founder for your venture, build a stronger network, and prepare for your launch. You might even be able to offer employment opportunities to your peers!
Finally, show clarity in your career goals by discussing how you’ll add value to the program as an alum. You may step in as an alumni mentor, key point of contact for your company in the school’s recruitment fairs, participating in the school’s career development events, or even by helping market the MBA program in your home country.
Business schools evaluate MBA applications holistically. That’s because they want to build an interesting, diverse class that plays to different strengths and areas of expertise. One of the ways you can enrich their student community is by joining a school club or association.
Clubs are based on diversity groups, shared interests, professional networks, and sports or community engagements. Based on your background, goals, and interests, find the clubs you plan to join during your MBA. Be specific about the impact you hope to create, whether it is to shape school policy, mentor students, improve the school’s career resources and networks, lead a campus initiative, work within the community, or organize something new.
For school-specific ‘Contributions’ example essays based on real applicants, head over to MBAconsultant.com.
Struggling to think of ways to contribute to your dream business school? Book a free chat with one of our expert consultants.