Business School Essays: Contribution and Diversity Questions


Your background, experiences, and values will enhance and diversify Kellogg. How? (1-2 double-spaced pages)


The Darden School seeks a diverse and unique entering class of future managers. How will your distinctiveness enrich our learning environment and enhance your prospects for success as a manager?


Every essay question on the admissions application is geared toward the same thing. Committee members want to find out who you are, what makes you different from everyone else, and how you will contribute to the school if accepted. This question asks these things outright. Because it asks so directly what the admissions committee wants to know, this one of the most common questions you will find. The question has a structure similar to the Why MBA? question. It asks both Why us? and Why you? However, the nature of this question lends itself to a more personal response. Whereas the Why MBA? question asks what you have done, what you want to do, and how that relates to the school, this question asks about who you are and how it relates to the school. The Why MBA? question asks about your experiences, and this question asks about your qualities.


Just as you brainstormed about your experiences, actions, and goals for the first question, brainstorm about your qualities and characteristics for this one. What sets you apart from everyone else? What words do friends and family use to describe you? For some people, the focus of this question will come easily. A minority can choose to focus on their racial or ethnic differences. A person with an unusual professional background may use this question to turn this potential weakness into a strength. Anyone with a particular talent or calling, such as an athlete or a musician, can use that as a topic. Less obvious characteristics can work just as well. Are you one of those people who are forever getting tagged with an identity? Do people say, “You know Chuck, the funny one,” or “There’s Jane, the history buff.”


If you consider yourself to be a fairly typical candidate with a broad range of interests, you may feel nervous about not being able to identify yourself with any one particular activity or defining trait. You should not be worried. Listing the combination of qualities that make you unique is perfectly acceptable. None of your qualities has to be particularly unique by itself-whatever is real and true will work perfectly. What words do people use to describe you? Are you a risk taker? An academic? A leader? Unusually goal oriented? Dedicated? Ethical? A good team player?


The qualities you choose to describe are not nearly as important as how well you back them up. Because this answer tends to contain many adjectives, you absolutely must provide solid examples demonstrating each quality you have listed. You can take examples from either your work or your personal life. You can even be creative and take an example from your childhood, if you wish, as long as whatever you choose effectively proves that you are what you say you are.


Because this question asks “How will you contribute to our school?” it provides you with a perfect opportunity to prove that you have researched and targeted yourself to the particular school. Match your distinctiveness in whatever way is natural to the distinctiveness of the program. Show the admissions committee that you are not just perfect for business school in general, you are perfect for their business school.


SAMPLE ESSAY:


Your background, experiences, and values will enhance the diversity of Kellogg’s student body. How?


During my senior year in college, my father was diagnosed with terminal skin cancer. Like most cancer patients, he spent the majority of his time in the hospital; he often spoke of how nice the staff was, and how much his stay was enriched by the services offered by the volunteers. I felt a great debt to those people who helped my father and mother during that difficult time, and I wanted to do the same for other people in similar situations.


When I moved to New York after graduation, I decided to volunteer at the Sloan-Kettering Memorial Hospital until I found a job. Over the next few months, I worked thirty hours a week helping patients and their families. One of the most rewarding experiences at the hospital was organizing patient voting for the 1992 Presidential election. I was responsible for coordinating the procurement and distribution of absentee ballots with nurses, patients, hospital staff, and the various voting administrations within the five boroughs of New York City.


The response was overwhelming. The patients were overjoyed to be included in the voting process. I knew from my father that the most demoralizing circumstance of a prolonged hospital stay was the feeling that the world was passing you by. On that November day, however, I was able to help those patients feel like part of society again. I will always be grateful for that.


Once I found a job, I had to curtail my hours at the hospital, but I did not stop my volunteer work. And although my job prohibits me from volunteering as much as I’d like, I still try to find the time. My volunteer work has allowed me to help others cope with the terrible pain of illness, which I have experienced first-hand and through my family. The satisfaction that I gain when I help patients and their families is unlike any other feeling I have ever had in my life.

I’ve found that my work also helps me to deal with and accept the loss of my own father. If it were not for him, I never would have started volunteering. The good work I do is a constant tribute to his memory.


As an individual, I have learned the benefits of altruism, and I firmly believe that companies should also take an active role in philanthropy. I was pleased to see in the admissions brochure that other Kellogg students feel the same, as demonstrated by their Business with a Heart program. I know that my unique perspective and experiences would contribute to this group, and enable me to enrich the lives of the community as well as those of my fellow students.


COMMENTS:


This essayist is a good example of someone who chose to focus on one trait rather than several. By choosing only one quality, her essay is concise, to the point, and easy to read. She also leaves a strong impression by introducing only one theme. This essay is particularly strong because the writer does not simply label herself as a volunteer and leave it at that. She makes the topic personal. First, she walks us through her motivation, then through the experience itself, and finally through how it has affected her and made her different. She gives details to bring each of these steps alive but manages to do so in a very short amount of space. She even specifically details how this experience will help her contribute by listing the name of the program she has targeted.


  1. Why Do You Want an MBA Questions 
  2. Contribution and Diversity Questions 
  3. Accomplishment Questions 
  4. Leadership Ability Questions 
  5. Hobby and Extracurricular Questions 
  6. Role Model Questions 
  7. Failure Questions 
  8. Very Personal Questions

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