After making no changes to its application essay questions last year from the year before, New York University’s (NYU’s) Stern School of Business has this season made a rather drastic overhaul to its prompts. Some candidates may be pleased to see the school’s longstanding “personal expression” creative essay go away, but they will still need to rely on their imaginative side to give the admissions committee what it wants for its new “Pick 6”prompt. One big application change has also precipitated the addition of a totally new—though not overly intimidating, we hope—essay: applicants may use a single application to apply to multiple MBA programs at the school (Full-time, Tech, Fashion and Luxury, Part-time), so NYU Stern asks candidates to specify their top choice(s) and explain the reasoning behind their selection.
The school’s “professional aspirations” essay was cut from 750 words to 500 and dialed in to ask specifically about short- and long-term goals, rather than addressing the broader “why an MBA” and “why now” topics, and focuses now on just immediate post-MBA plans. The program also removed its previous request to explain “why Stern.” We theorize that this may be because the new “program preferences” essay will give applicants an opportunity to flesh out their reasons for targeting a specific program at the school, which will naturally include some explanation of their broader goals and motivations. As always, successful candidates will use the suite of essays in a complementary way to convey a well-rounded impression of themselves as individuals, professionals, and potential NYU Stern students. In our essay analysis that follows, we discuss possible ways of accomplishing this.
Essay 1: Professional Aspirations (500-word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font)
- What are your short- and long-term career goals?
- How will the MBA help you achieve them?
With this slightly condensed and rather no-nonsense query about your motivation to earn an MBA and expectations as to where you will go with it after graduation, NYU Stern simply wants to hear your answers. The school does not ask specifically about past experiences or what about its program in particular makes it the best one for you, though brief mentions of either would be acceptable if they are central to your main points. The three core components of this essay prompt are typical elements of a traditional personal statement, so we encourage you to download your free copy of the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide. This complimentary guide explains ways of approaching these topics effectively and offers several sample essays as examples.
And for a thorough exploration of NYU Stern’s academic program, unique offerings, social life, and other key characteristics, check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business, which is also available for free.
Essay 2: Program Preferences – NYU Stern offers a portfolio of MBA programs designed to meet the needs of our applicants. Your program preferences are very important as you will be admitted to only one program. You cannot switch your program option after receiving your admissions decision.
A. Primary Program Preference (250-word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font)
- Please indicate the primary MBA program for which you would like to be considered, as indicated in the Primary Program Selection section of the application.
- Explain why the program you have selected is the best program for you
B. Alternative Program Preference(s) (250-word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font)
- Please indicate any alternative program(s) for which you would also like to be considered, as indicated in the Alternative Program Selection section of the application and why you would also like to be considered for this/these program(s).
- An alternate program does not need to be selected. If you have no alternate programs, you do not need to complete this essay, just indicate “N/A.”
As we alluded to earlier, the “why our school?” element of the “professional aspirations” essay question NYU Stern posed last year appears to have been shifted to this new question, where it understandably fits well. For this essay, again, the admissions committee is really just requesting some straightforward information, so do not think that it has some “right” answer in mind that you have to provide (or, in this case, a “right” program to choose). If you are targeting NYU Stern for your MBA, you must have some reason for doing so, and the program must have some specific features that you believe are a particularly good fit for you and your long-term aspirations. So your goal here is to convey that to the school in a clear, thorough, and authentic way. We offer detailed advice on how to consider this subject and write an essay that communicates it effectively in our mbaMission Personal Statement Guide, which is available for free to any interested applicants. Download a copy today for further assistance with this NYU Stern essay prompt.
Essay 3: 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.
We imagine that the initial reaction most candidates have to pretty much any application essay that is not a traditional essay is momentary panic (though, to be fair, that is likely many applicants’ reaction to traditional essays as well). This brand new format and query from one of the country’s most respected business schools is bound to elicit just such a response this season, but let us reassure you a bit before we delve more deeply into how best to approach it. One could argue that in many ways, this essay prompt is merely asking you to do something we assume you are already doing every day and have possibly been doing for years—curate an impression of yourself for others by sharing certain images and other media that resonate with you. Is that not what people do via Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Vine, and any number of other social media venues by posting photos, memes, infographics, cartoons, and the like, typically along with a related comment? When you think of the task NYU Stern has presented you with this framework in mind, do you feel a little more confident about mastering it? We hope so.
In this case, rather than passing along just anything you think is funny or interesting or documenting your latest adventure or meal, you are communicating directly with a very singular audience, within a certain context, and with a very specific goal in mind. So start by carefully considering what you want the admissions committee to know about you—with the goal of sharing as many different aspects of your life and personality as possible—and what it will already be able to learn through your other essays and the rest of your application (resume, recommendations/EQ endorsement, transcript, etc.). You want the admissions “reader” to take away something new from each image he or she sees.
Your images do not need to be sequential, nor do they need to always include you. Consider photos of meaningful locations and people (or animals, even) in your life as well as inanimate objects, such as a musical instrument, a pair of running shoes, a home-cooked meal, or a blooming flower. As long as the subject of the image is reflective of who you are as an individual—and remember that you will have the accompanying sentence for each image to clarify this connection as needed—then you will be on the right track. Keep in mind also that not all of your images need to be actual photos, either. They can include drawings, paintings, charts, tables, emojis, and so on. And finally, although getting accepted to your target business school and earning an MBA are serious goals and undertakings, this does not mean that all your images for this essay submission need to be serious in nature, especially if your personality is naturally more lighthearted and humorous. Costumes and comical arrangements, if used judiciously, can be valid options if, again, the resulting final image is truly reflective of your character and/or life.
Your one-sentence captions are clearly an opportunity to enhance the meaning of each image you are submitting. In some cases, you might use the caption to provide a direct explanation of who or what is depicted in the image, chart, artistic expression, etc. You could also use the sentences to create a narrative link between multiple images, perhaps as a way of profoundly illustrating a particularly meaningful aspect of your life or personality. Another option would be to use the caption sentence to explain your state of mind in relation to the image or to express an associated viewpoint, value, or philosophy. As you write your short explanations, keep in mind that these statements must adhere to the school’s one-sentence rule, and be sure to not simply reiterate whatever is already obvious in/from the photo but to use the additional content to enhance the admissions reader’s understanding of you.
This new prompt from NYU Stern offers a lot of license, but take care not to get carried away with overly elaborate or complicated images. This is not an art contest or a battle of wits but an opportunity to express and portray yourself to the admissions committee. Each time you consider an image to include, come back to the central question of Does this truly capture who I am? If so, then proceed, but if not, stop and reconsider your options. An increasingly complex series of images that lacks the proper heart and meaning will not elicit the response you want from the admissions committee!
Essay 3. Additional Information (optional) 250-word maximum, double-spaced, 12 point font
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.
NYU Stern’s optional essay prompt is broader than most in that it does not demand that you discuss only problem areas in your candidacy, though the examples it offers within the prompt seem to imply a preference for these topics. Ultimately, this is your opportunity to address any lingering questions that an admissions officer might have about your profile—if you feel you need to. We caution you against simply trying to fill this space because you fear that not doing so would somehow count against you. And of course, however tempted you might be, this is not the place to reuse a strong essay you wrote for another school or to offer a few anecdotes you were unable to use in your other submissions. But if you are inclined to use this essay to emphasize or explain something that if omitted would render your application incomplete, write a very brief piece on this key aspect of your profile. For more guidance, download our free mbaMission Optional Essays Guide, in which we offer detailed advice on when and how to take advantage of the optional essay, with multiple examples, to help you mitigate any problem areas in your application.
The Next Step—Mastering Your NYU Stern Interview: Many MBA candidates find admissions interviews stressful and intimidating, but mastering this important element of the application process is definitely possible—the key is informed preparation. And, on your way to this high level of preparation, we offer our free Interview Primers to spur you along! Download your free copy of the NYU Stern Interview Primer today.
Liked this post?
Admissionado back once again with fresh, off-the-shelves essay analyses for NYU Sloan's 2017 application! We wanted to jump in and give you a head-start on those essays questions jog that imagination, and give you a few tips and tricks to get started on your Sloan essays to get you started on the best foot this year. Soooooo, without further ado:
NYU Stern School of Business MBA Essay 1
What are your short and long-term career goals? How will the MBA help you achieve them? (500 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font)
If there’s such a thing as a garden variety MBA application essay, this is it.
Start with getting our BUY IN. On what, you ask? On the importance of your idea; on the opportunity itself; on your will to succeed. You’ve got some options here, but for us to engage, we need to buy in.
Part 1 – Generally, it’s best to establish the opportunity at hand or the thing that needs to be fixed or improved. There are two sides of the same basic coin. In your opening, explain the status quo (how things are today). Then sell us on why there’s a cooler version of this. Either a solution to a problem or a game-changing result that comes from exploiting a ripe opportunity. Once you’ve done that, give us a big picture taste of your long-term vision, the peering-into-the-horizon-one-liner version. This sets the stage, gets us excited, provides a frame, and compels us to lean forward a bit and root for your success. (75-100 words)
Part 2 – Take us through the battle plan now. This should read like a recipe with several steps or a military combat strategy. It should be utterly logical and it should seem achievable. We should develop a sense along the way that each step builds on the prior one, or at the very least, is progressing toward something. And it should be evident that you know what you’re talking about and that you’ve researched it. You’ve got to show that you’ve done enough homework to have a sense of what’s required for success, before claiming your ability to succeed. That’s the crucial point. Being realistic and sober here will count far more than issuing lofty-SOUNDING goals. We want success to feel inevitable based on the “calculations” you’ve laid bare here. (100-125 words)
Part 3 – Move from the short-term into the longer-term aspects of your aspirations. Try to avoid naming the job or the job title in your dream vision. Instead, focus on what the RESULTS will be. If and when you succeed at the thing you’re hoping to succeed at, what changes? Who is affected? What does that “After” picture look like? And why does that inspire you? This will help you cut to the “what’s powering you” aspect of your long-term goals. Again, don’t try to impress us with the idea itself. Instead, impress us by convincing us that it’s meaningful to YOU. Sell us on THAT. (There’s a difference.) (75-100 words)
Part 4 – Briefly establish what’s required in order for you to start achieving success toward your short-term goals. Then (also briefly) convince us that you have MOST of that stuff, but not all of it (because if you had all of it, why waste time with an MBA?). Clearly, something is missing. There’s a gap somewhere. There are skills that need sharpening. You’re LACKING something. Make us HUNGRY for you to fill those gaps because you’ve done such a good job here laying out that you’re oh-so-close for success but not-quite-there-yet. (50-75 words)
Part 5 – Now that we’ve laid THAT groundwork, walk us through specifically how aspects of a certain kind of MBA training will meet YOUR needs specifically. Be smart here. Talk about how not just ANY MBA will be helpful toward your goals (that isn’t true is it?), but that only an MBA that has A, B, and C specific traits will help your specific X, Y, and Z needs. Then, for bonus points, cite very specific ways in which NYU meets those needs in particular. But don’t dwell on them because they haven’t asked for that here. They want to know – instead – that you “get” what an MBA is, and why it’s important for YOUR success given YOUR goals. The person who “gets that idea” is the one who is likely to succeed over the person who can write the best love letter to NYU.
NYU Stern School Of Business MBA Essay 2
NYU Stern offers a portfolio of MBA programs designed to meet the needs of our applicants. Your program preferences are very important as you will be admitted to only one program. You cannot switch your program option after receiving your admissions decision.
A. Primary Program Preference (250 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font)
Please indicate the primary MBA program for which you would like to be considered, as indicated in the Primary Program Selection section of the application.
Explain why the program you have selected is the best program for you.
B. Alternative Program Preference(s) (250 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font)
Please indicate any alternative program(s) for which you would also like to be considered, as indicated in the Alternative Program Selection section of the application and why you would also like to be considered for this/these program(s).
An alternate program does not need to be selected. If you have no alternate programs you do not need to complete this essay, just indicate “N/A”.
Alright folks, as for Part A., surely you’ve visited this page on Stern’s website. In 250 words, make a clear, matter-of-fact case for why the program you’re choosing meets your needs best. Avoid selling YOU here (you have the rest of your application to pull that off). Here, it’s simply a matter of drawing a simple connection between the size and shape of a particular NYU MBA program and you and your needs specifically. Don’t overthink it. 250 words isn’t a lot, and honestly, you may not even need all of them.
As for Part B., the only way to screw this up is to make your ambitions in life seem flimsy. If there’s an alternative that makes perfect sense for you as a logical Plan B, make that case here. But make sure the logic is bulletproof and doesn’t weaken the rest of your arguments elsewhere in your app.
NYU Stern School Of Business MBA Essay 3
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.
It’s three sentences to tee the whole thing up and then a single sentence for each picture to help explain and bring them to life. Let’s figure out what they’re looking for here.
“Describe yourself.” To succeed at this exercise, one should be able to GLANCE at your six images (without ANY accompanying words) and be able to make some accurate predictions about who you are as a person. The closer that viewer’s “guess” is to what you’re actually like in real life, the better the execution. In fact, imagine that’s the challenge in itself. An adcom member reviews your six pictures and then says, “Okay, when I meet this person they’re going come across THIS way; they’ll be the kind of person who in THIS situation or would make THAT choice; it’s the kind of person who probably has THIS kind of story; if he were among the Game of Thrones cast, he’d be the ABC character” … Then when you meet, the Adcom member says “Wow, s/he’s exactly as I imagined.” All that means is that whatever you communicated in those six picks was unbelievably efficient and effective in conveying something about who you are, and what you’re all about.
What stuff are we conveying then? It includes hints of your:
Everything else BEYOND that? Is gravy. If you give us other stuff but neglect those things, then you’ve probably shanked it. This is not your resume. This is not a 6-page PowerPoint of your “Billion-Dollar Idea.” It’s six images that allow us to CAST you in the perfect movie role “because we understand who you are so well from the pictures.”
One quick word about drawings and infographics: don’t pack so much stuff INTO a single image that it defeats the point of the exercise. The whole point is to try to reduce you to your essence through an ECONOMY of expression. Otherwise, you could write an essay in really small font, take a picture of that essay, and include it here. See how that’s missing the point? It would be like watching a movie where it was just a continuous scroll of the screenplay, rather than a picturization OF the screenplay. Embrace the medium here folks. Understand the intention behind limiting it to (A) images, and (B) only six of them, total. It’s about high yield. That’s where the creativity comes into play.
What series of six images SUM to complete the most complete (and compelling) HINT about who you are? They don’t all need to interconnect on an individual level. Meaning, if Picture #1 is a photograph you once took of a SCENE IN NATURE that you really love, it doesn’t mean that Pictures #2–6 all need to conform to that general rule. The key is that they need to “sum” to something coherent. Even if the conclusion is that you’re a completely chaotic and random person, it’s possible for your six pictures to tell THAT story. Whatever it is, it needs to “work” though. If multiple people walk away with multiple impressions, chances are, it is weak. There are no points for the “everyone’s opinion is equally valid” nature of admiring abstract art. If anything, it’s the exact opposite challenge here. Your task is to make it so that multiple people are forced toward a very similar conclusion about who and what you are. Now, it’s possible that some may LIKE what that is, and others may not… the key is that they can at least all agree on what it IS.
Lots of ways to approach this so we’re just going to give you a taste of a few, but truly, there are many many many solid ways to go about it:
 A narrative. If you want to tell us about an evolution of sorts that shows us who/what you are TODAY compared to who/what you were “six iterations” ago, that could be cool. Six shades of YOU, where Slide 1 is You.0, then Slide 2 is You.1, etc. The idea here is that we learn something about you through the CHANGES over time. And the images don’t have to be of YOU, per se. It’s possible we can learn something about you through the evolution of your hobbies, or some other means. Lots of room for creativity here.
 Or, it can be a recipe for how to create “you.” Slide 1 is ingredient #1. (Imagine the possibilities, they are endless for what could go here.)
 You are what you eat. Six slides of foods that somehow represent every aspect of who you are: Slide 1 – Thai Green Chile Peppers (fresh, hot, unafraid to be scalding when need be). Slide 2 – XXXXX ?
The possibilities really are endless. It could be a hand-drawn comic strip that stitches together a simple story that tells us everything we need to know about who you are through a comical tale. It could be six things you’d spend money to acquire if you won the lottery. See how it’s endless? The trick is, with ANY of these ideas, it needs to convey something very clear about who you are, such that we could make some predictions about you based on those six images (and the accompanying theme/captions).
There’s not really a “wrong” way to approach this, other than the one which looks like a glorified resume, or an attempt to impress us somehow. It says more about your self-confidence, in fact, if there’s a conspicuous LACK of that instinct…
NYU Stern School Of Business MBA Optional Essay
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 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font)
Lots of room here to spill something VITAL that hasn’t been captured anywhere else. Bring the lumber! What assets of yours are needle-movers in your candidacy, those that you feel haven’t had a chance to LEAP off the page anywhere else in your application? Whatever the biggest item is, drop it here. Maybe it’s a case you need to make about how COMPETENT your quant skills are despite what your test scores (or background) suggest. Maybe it’s a leadership story that is best served here, so as to allow your creative side to come alive in the “pick six” essay. Maybe it’s a walk-through of a compelling
Whatever the biggest item is, drop it here. Maybe it’s a case you need to make about how COMPETENT your quant skills are despite what your test scores (or background) suggest. Maybe it’s a leadership story that is best served here, so as to allow your creative side to come alive in the “pick six” essay. Maybe it’s a walk-through of a compelling
Maybe it’s a case you need to make about how COMPETENT your quant skills are despite what your test scores (or background) suggest. Maybe it’s a leadership story that is best served here so as to allow your creative side to come alive in the “pick six” essay. Maybe it’s a walk-through of a compelling backup plan you’ve formulated in case your main plan hits a snag. Depending on the quality of any of these, it may deserve some airtime here. Not all will, by the way. Just because this space is open, doesn’t mean you absolutely MUST fill it, in case the thing you fill it with doesn’t actually advance your case somehow. Just be mindful of that.
Depending on the quality of any of these, it may deserve some airtime here. Not all will, by the way. Just because this space is open, doesn’t mean you absolutely MUST fill it, especially in the case that the thing you fill it with doesn’t actually advance your case somehow. Just be mindful of that.
Read our team’s complete take on the idea of optional essay, including a brief (recent) history of b-schools’ relationship with it, and how our recommendations have evolved over the years, right here.
And that's that. Helpful, eh? If you have any questions on it or NYU or anything, just reply here or shoot us a PM. And if you want more Essay Analysis Goodness, check out more schools here. We're updating 'em daily as new prompts are released, so keep checking back.
Admissionado | Packages | Success Stories | Team
If you like the post, give it a KUDOS!