A dean of MBA admissions at a top-ranked school shares his best advice to write a great application essay

Isser GalloglyIsser GalloglyThink of your essay as an executive summary.

Grades aren’t enough.

To get into top business school programs, you must not only prove yourself academically capable, but also demonstrate you have certain personality traits that signal to schools you will be an exemplary business professional.

Many of those softer skills come through clearest in the admissions essay, which means people often try and get creative so that their essay stands out among the rest.

“We often get the question how creative should you be when you’re writing your essays to business school,” Isser Gallogly, associate dean of MBA Admissions New York University’s Stern School of Business, told Business Insider.

“Should your first sentence be, ‘Call me Ishmael,’ or, ‘It was a dark and stormy night,’ or, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times?’ You don’t necessarily have to have a headline or a grabber.”

Instead, Gallogly, who has 15 years experience in MBA admissions at Stern, said that it’s most important ensure you stay on message for the prompt.

“I always say ‘AQA:’ Answer the question asked,” Isser said. “Respond to the prompts, do it completely. “That said, make sure you get across who you are in this essay.”

And of course, convey yourself and your goals clearly. “I would treat this a little bit more like if you are presenting a business case on yourself and you are providing almost an executive summary as to who you are, what you’re about, and why you’re going to business school,” he said.

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