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NYU Stern Class of 2023 Essay Analysis

July 04, 2020

NYU Stern has released its 2020-21 essay questions, having kept the same prompts from the previous application cycle.


2020/21 essay questions

Essay 1: Professional Aspirations – What are your short and long-term career goals? How will the MBA help you achieve them? (500 words)

Essay 2: Personal Expression (a.k.a. "Pick Six") – Describe yourself to the Admissions Committee and to your future classmates using six images and corresponding captions. Your uploaded PDF should contain all of the following elements:

  • A brief introduction or overview of your "Pick Six" (no more than 3 sentences).
  • Six images that help illustrate who you are.
  • A one-sentence caption for each of the six images that helps explain why they were selected and are significant to you.
  • Note: Your visuals may include photos, infographics, drawings, or any other images that best describe you. Your document must be uploaded as a single PDF. The essay cannot be sent in physical form or be linked to a website.

Optional question: Please provide any additional information that you would like to bring to the attention of the Admissions Committee. This may include current or past gaps in employment, further explanation of your undergraduate record or self-reported academic transcript(s), plans to retake the GMAT, GRE, IELTS or TOEFL, or any other relevant information. (250 words)


2020/21 essay question analysis

Essay 1

The first essay question is quite similar to those you will craft for most MBA applications, so we won’t spend much time repeating advice. Be as specific as possible, use examples, and highlight how your background and past experiences makes you the right person to pursue this goal. That will help differentiate you from other applicants.

Essay 2

When writing this essay, remember that Stern boasts some of the highest average GMATs and pre-MBA GPAs, often edging out many of the so-called “M7” schools in head-to-head rankings. Consequently, Stern is testing how much you really want Stern, vs. treating it as a safety school, as they don’t want to hurt their yield by offering admission to students who are likely to go to elsewhere. Therefore to maximize your chances of admission, express your true self, and use these expressions to bridge your goals with how you will use Stern and the surrounding community to achieve these goals in ways unavailable elsewhere.

A great way to get started is to make a list of passions, hobbies, and important achievements and events in your life. Then, ask close friends and family to do the same, with a focus on what makes you special. Having this outside perspective ensures that your perceptions of yourself are accurate, and that you don’t miss any important qualities that may have slipped your mind. Hint: if you have already written Fuqua’s 25 Things essay, it can serve as a powerful starting point from which you can focus on six specific items.

Remember that almost anything you are passionate about can be framed in a way that is attractive to admissions committees. For example, while a passion for building model trains may not sound immediately like something to include, there are a number of ways to frame it so that it does. A picture of you building a train set, attending a model train conference, or even a picture of you with fellow enthusiasts could be paired with a caption that reads something like “Building model trains has taught me patience and attention to detail, while serving as a way to connect with people from all around the world.” In a few words, this highlights a personal passion, shows that you will be a good student with patience and attention to detail, and demonstrates that you can forge bonds with a diverse group of classmates.

Finally, a few more points to keep in mind:

  1. Paint a well-rounded picture: While you may be good at six different sports, or an expert at cooking six different dishes, limit each passion to a single image each so you can maximize the number of traits and pursuits you showcase to the Admissions Committee.
  2. Keep your captions concise: Instead of “Travel is important to me, as I like to visit new places, sample local food, perform international community service, and dive into history, all while trying out new outdoor activities and picking up new languages,” you could say, “I am a student of the world, sampling new cultures, cuisines, and activities while working with communities on social impact.” This delivers a more focused, illustrative message with ~40% fewer words.

Optional essay

The optional question is available for you to explain any additional information that you may not have had the space to clarify in other parts of your application.


2020/21 deadlines

Deadline time: 11:59pm ET

Round 1: Application deadline: September 15, 2020; Decision date: December 1, 2020

Round 2: Application deadline: November 15, 2020; Decision date: February 1, 2021

Round 3: Application deadline: January 15, 2021; Decision date: March 1, 2021

Round 4: Application deadline: February 15, 2021; Decision date: April 1, 2021


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