Four Steps To Building Your MBA Application Theme

MBA admissions expert EssaySnark is dedicated to helping you build an MBA application theme that will differentiate you from your peers!

This is a guest post by BusinessBecause partner and admissions essay expert EssaySnark
MBA admissions consultant EssaySnark is honored to have the opportunity to share more tips on MBA admissions success with you here on BusinessBecause. Today we're going to tackle a subject that's a little elusive and even may seem esoteric: your MBA application theme. 
You may encounter this term of “theme” on the MBA admissions forums and blogs, and it can be confusing. “Theme” simply is shorthand to say, “What kind of candidate are you?” It also embodies the elements that differentiate you from other candidates. 
The way that “theme “ is expressed is through the essays. The MBA essays are super important. You need to bring in some strategic thinking to put the pieces together in the most impactful way for the admissions committee.
Please don't work too hard on this “theme” business, though. Your theme will evolve naturally when you do a good job of answering the essay questions. You will present your best qualities to your reader simply by reflecting on the essay prompts and identifying your honest, authentic reactions to the questions. You risk getting a little hamstrung if you worry too much about differentiation and how to stand out. Focus on the questions at hand and you'll be in good shape. 
Here's how to start your MBA applications so that your theme can be expressed:
1. Know thyself. We covered the Three Strategies for the Strongest MBA Essays previously. Your background is unique and the stories you can tell are individual to you. The process of self-reflection will be ongoing throughout your application journey. You may want to revisit your thinking about core concepts like leadership and teamwork at specific points you move along. You may be surprised at how your ideas evolve. (To get you started, here's a post from the EssaySnark blahg about what leadership means.)
2. Focus on one school first. Even though you're going to be applying to multiple MBA programs, it helps to begin with one, and only one. Identify which school to do first, and plan to complete that application start to finish before moving to the next. Don't bounce around between the essay questions from different schools. Start with one school and map everything out. That's how your theme will emerge, by being thorough and complete, based on what one school is asking of you.
3. Brainstorm your possible topics. Any MBA essay question can be handled in a myriad of ways. There's no rules about how to answer each one, but there will be one optimal path for you. It may take some trial-and-error to discover it. The first idea you have for a topic might be a great one – or, you may realize that there's another one that's even better, if you spend time digging deeper into your inventory of stories.
4. Keep the big picture in mind. As you narrow in on your approach for each essay, step back and look at that school's essays as a whole. Are you bringing in a good mix of topics along the full spectrum of your background? It's important to have a balanced approach that presents different facets of your life and experience. You also need an awareness of what this particular school stands for and what they value. Go back over your notes from your school research from time to time, to see what connections you can make.
If you feel like you came up emptyhanded in your brainstorming sessions, then maybe change contexts and try again. Go for a walk. Sit on a bench in the park. Gaze at the full moon, or look for the brightest star in the night sky. Let your mind wander. Soak in the world. Give your mind some space before coming at the hard work again. Your MBA application theme is a reflection of who you really are. Your job in the MBA admissions essays is to express that in an honest and sincere way to the admissions committee. This process takes time! But the results may surprise you, in terms of what you are able to produce – and what you come to know about yourself. Have fun with it!

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