Getting into a top MBA program is a significant step towards your career goals, and the Vanderbilt; Owen Graduate School offers an exceptional opportunity for growth and learning. To ensure your success, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to help you with the application process, specifically focusing on the essay analysis for the 2023 – 2024 intake.

If you wish to read more about the admission process, class profile, employment stats at Vanderbilt check out our blog here.

Vanderbilt Owen Essay Analysis 2023-2024 Admissions Cycle banner
Navigating the essay component of the Vanderbilt Owen MBA application for the 2023 2024 cycle

Crafting a Winning Essay

Crafting a compelling essay is a crucial part of your Vanderbilt; Owen Graduate School MBA application. Your essay should reflect your personality, experiences, and aspirations. Here are some tips to make your essay stand out:

  • Tell Your Unique Story: Start by introducing yourself and sharing your journey. What experiences have shaped your aspirations?
  • Why Vanderbilt?: Highlight what draws you to Vanderbilt and why the Owen Graduate School is the perfect fit for your MBA.
  • Academic and Career Goals: Discuss your academic and career goals. How does an MBA from Vanderbilt fit into your plans?
  • Relevance to the Program: Explain how your background and goals align with the MBA program and its values.
  • Show, Don’t Tell: Use specific examples to demonstrate your qualities, such as leadership, teamwork, and problem-solving skills.
  • Edit and Proofread: Carefully edit and proofread your essay to ensure it’s free of errors.
  • Seek Feedback: Don’t hesitate to seek feedback from peers, mentors, or admissions consultants.
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Aerial perspective of Vanderbilt Owen the launchpad for aspiring MBA students

Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School: MBA Essay Analysis 2023 – 2024

Let’s delve deeper into the specific essay prompts for the 2023 – 2024 admissions cycle.

Essay 1

Tell us about your post-MBA career goals by describing two concurrent paths you plan to explore while in the Vanderbilt MBA program. What skills have you developed that will help you achieve your career goals? (200 word limit)

Key Components:

  1. Post-MBA Career Goals: Begin by articulating your long-term career objectives. What do you hope to achieve after completing your MBA at Vanderbilt? It could be a specific role, industry, or company you aspire to work in.
  2. Two Concurrent Paths in MBA Program: You are asked to discuss two paths or directions you plan to explore during your MBA studies. These can be academic concentrations, extracurricular activities, or specific opportunities offered by Vanderbilt’s program.
  3. Skills for Achieving Career Goals: Explain how the skills you have developed so far in your career or education will be relevant to achieving your post-MBA goals. Highlight skills such as leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, or any technical expertise that is pertinent.

Now, let’s generate some ideas for your response:

Introduction: Start by briefly introducing your career goals and stating your enthusiasm for Vanderbilt’s MBA program.


  1. Post-MBA Career Goals:
    • Clearly state your career objectives. For example, you might want to become a marketing manager in the technology industry.
  2. Two Concurrent Paths:
    • Path 1: Discuss one aspect of your MBA experience, such as pursuing a concentration in Marketing and participating in the Vanderbilt Marketing Club. Explain how these experiences will deepen your knowledge in your chosen field.
    • Path 2: Highlight another aspect, like taking part in a consulting project with a tech firm and joining the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Association. Explain how these experiences will broaden your skill set.
  3. Skills for Achieving Career Goals:
    • Draw a connection between your past experiences and the skills you’ve acquired. Mention specific achievements or situations where you demonstrated leadership, teamwork, or problem-solving.
    • Relate these skills to how they will be valuable in your post-MBA career. For example, discuss how your leadership experience in a prior role will make you an effective marketing manager.

Conclusion: Summarize your career goals, the two concurrent paths you plan to explore at Vanderbilt, and how your existing skills will be an asset in achieving these goals. End with a statement about how Vanderbilt’s program aligns with your aspirations.

Remember to keep your response concise within the 200-word limit, and make sure it’s well-structured, engaging, and tailored to Vanderbilt’s MBA program and your specific goals.

Two individuals brainstorming MBA application essays
Prospective students engaged in the critical brainstorming phase for their Vanderbilt Owen MBA application essays

Essay 2

Please highlight something about yourself that isn’t already captured in the application. (200 words)

Analysis: This essay prompt is an opportunity for you to reveal a unique aspect of your background, experiences, or personality that the admissions committee might not have learned from your application materials. Vanderbilt wants to get to know you on a deeper level, beyond what’s already presented in your resume, transcripts, and recommendations.

Brainstorming Ideas:

  1. Personal Values and Philosophy: Share a personal value or life philosophy that has shaped your decisions and actions. Explain how it influences your approach to leadership, teamwork, or problem-solving.
  2. Hobbies and Passions: Discuss a hobby, interest, or passion that you are truly dedicated to. This could be a sport, art, volunteer work, or any other activity that demonstrates your commitment and character.
  3. Life-changing Experience: Describe a significant life event or turning point that has had a profound impact on your life. Discuss how it has influenced your goals and your perspective.
  4. Cultural or Global Perspective: If you have a unique cultural background or have lived/studied in different parts of the world, consider how these experiences have shaped your outlook and your ability to work with diverse groups.
  5. Challenges and Overcoming Adversity: Share a personal or professional challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it. Highlight the skills and qualities you developed through this process.
  6. Unusual Skills or Talents: If you have an unusual skill, talent, or accomplishment that is not well-represented in your application, this could be a good opportunity to showcase it.
  7. Personal Motivation: Discuss what motivates and drives you, perhaps a particular cause, ambition, or aspiration that goes beyond what’s on your resume.
  8. Future Goals and Ambitions: If you have a long-term goal or vision that is unique and compelling, this is the place to discuss it.

Remember to keep your response concise and focused. You only have 200 words, so choose a topic that is meaningful, allows you to show more about your character, and complements the information already provided in your application.

Optional Essay 1

You are encouraged to provide an additional statement to clarify and explain any of the following: gaps of more than three months in full-time employment, lack of recommendation from your current or most recent supervisor, limited full-time work experience (ignore if you are a recent undergraduate), poor academic performance, weak test scores, academic misconduct, violations of the law, or anything else you think is important for the Admissions Committee to know about you that is not already addressed elsewhere in your application. (300 word limit, optional)

The optional essay for Vanderbilt’s MBA program allows you to address any gaps or weaknesses in your application or provide additional information that you believe the Admissions Committee should be aware of. Here’s how you can approach this essay:

  1. Identify the Issue: Begin by identifying the specific issue or concern you want to address. This could be a gap in employment, a low GPA or test score, or any other aspect of your application that you feel requires further explanation.
  2. Explain the Circumstances: Provide a clear and concise explanation for the issue. Be honest and straightforward about what happened. For example, if you have a gap in employment, explain the reasons behind it, such as pursuing further education, personal reasons, or a career change.
  3. Show Personal Growth or Learning: If applicable, demonstrate how you’ve learned and grown from the experience. This is particularly important if you’re addressing an issue like poor academic performance or academic misconduct. Highlight any actions you’ve taken to improve yourself or prevent a similar situation from occurring again.
  4. Link It to Your Candidacy: Explain how this issue is relevant to your MBA candidacy. Discuss why it should not be a barrier to your admission and how it has shaped your readiness and suitability for the program.
  5. Keep it Concise: Remember that you have a 300-word limit. Be concise and to the point. Avoid unnecessary details and focus on the most crucial information.
  6. Positive Tone: Maintain a positive and forward-looking tone throughout the essay. Emphasize your determination to succeed in the MBA program and how this issue has not deterred your commitment.
  7. Proofread and Revise: After writing your essay, proofread it carefully for grammar and clarity. It’s essential to ensure that your message is conveyed effectively.

Here are a few potential scenarios and how you might approach them:

  • Gap in Employment: If you had an extended period of unemployment, explain the circumstances, such as personal reasons, travel, or further education. Highlight how this break has enriched your skills or perspective.
  • Low GPA or Test Scores: Explain any reasons for a low academic performance, such as health issues, personal challenges, or learning experiences that have prepared you for the MBA program.
  • Academic Misconduct: Address the issue head-on, acknowledge the mistake, and discuss what you’ve learned from it, emphasizing your commitment to integrity and ethics.
  • Legal Violations: If you’ve had any legal issues, provide context, express remorse if applicable, and explain how you’ve grown and learned from the experience.

Remember, the purpose of the optional essay is to provide the Admissions Committee with a well-rounded understanding of your candidacy. Be honest, positive, and focused on how you are well-suited for Vanderbilt’s MBA program despite any shortcomings.

Optional Short Answer

Share an interesting or fun fact about yourself. (400 characters)

For the “Optional Short Answer” prompt, you have a brief opportunity to share a fun or interesting fact about yourself in 400 characters or less. Here’s how you can approach this:

  1. Choose an Interesting Fact: Think about a unique aspect of your life or personality that you’d like to share. It could be a hobby, a personal achievement, or an anecdote that represents you well.
  2. Concise Description: Given the character limit, be concise and to the point. Describe the fact in a way that makes it intriguing and memorable.
  3. Relevance: Try to relate this fact to your overall application or how it aligns with the values and culture of Vanderbilt’s MBA program.
  4. Example: If you’re an aspiring chef and you love experimenting with global cuisines, you could write: “I’m a culinary explorer, constantly creating fusion dishes.”

Remember, the goal here is to provide a glimpse of your personality or interests in a brief and engaging manner.

Applicant recording a video essay for MBA application
The modern application process includes video essays a dynamic way for candidates to showcase their personalities to Vanderbilt Owens admissions committee

Video Response

The video response is a required component of the online application. Our goal in asking you for a short video response is to glimpse an authentic and unscripted view of your personality, creativity, and communication style. Don’t stress over this portion of the application!  The video response questions are easy to answer. Just be yourself!

Read through the video response instructions below before starting the process. Once you have read the instructions, follow the instructional prompts provided on the screen for the video response recording process.

Video Response Instructions

  1. You will be prompted to start the video response process by first testing your equipment (video and sound). See below for the Red Button that Says “Start Test”.
  2. Proceed through the testing steps. Once you have acknowledged that you have thoroughly tested your equipment, you will be prompted to proceed with the process of actually recording your video response.
  3. The system will display a question for you to answer. You will have 30 seconds to gather your thoughts and prepare your answer. There will be a visual timer countdown on the screen.
  4. You will then have up to 90 seconds to respond with your answer to the video response. You may use the entire 90 seconds or stop the recording when you have sufficiently answered the question. There will be a visual timer countdown on the screen.
  5. When your recording is stopped you may review your recording. If you are satisfied with your video essay recording, you may proceed to the next page of the application. If you would like to record the video essay again, you may. 
  6. The system will allow you 3 opportunities to record your video response. Each time you redo the video response, you will be given a different question.
  7. After 3 attempts at recording you will not be given the opportunity to record again.
  8. You will see a message that reads “We have successfully received your video submission.” after you have recorded your video response.

Important notes to remember as you begin:

  • You will have 3 attempts to do a video response recording – each attempt will present a different question
  • You will have 30 seconds to prepare to answer the question on the screen
  • You will have up to 90 seconds to respond with the video recording

It’s important to keep in mind that this is your chance to make a genuine impression, so here’s how you can approach this:

  1. Prepare for the Technical Aspect:
    • Before you begin, ensure that your video and audio equipment is functioning correctly. Follow the instructions carefully to test your equipment.
  2. Be Authentic and Relaxed:
    • As the prompt suggests, don’t stress over this. The admissions committee wants to see the real you. Approach this with confidence and be yourself.
  3. Time Management:
    • When you start recording, you’ll have 30 seconds to prepare your response after seeing the question. Use this time wisely to gather your thoughts and structure your answer in your mind.
  4. Content and Structure:
    • During your 90-second response, you should be concise and clear. Stick to the main points of your answer.
    • Use the 30-second preparation time to outline your response: Introduction, main points, and a conclusion.
    • Be sure to directly address the question asked.
  5. Rehearse Your Responses:
    • Even though it’s meant to be unscripted, you can think about some key points or examples you’d like to include in your response. Practicing a few responses to common interview questions might help you feel more comfortable.
  6. Review Your Recordings:
    • After recording your response, review it if you have time. Ensure you’re satisfied with your answer, both in terms of content and delivery. If you’re not happy with it, you have the option to record again.
  7. Adaptability:
    • Keep in mind that you’ll have up to three opportunities to record your video responses. Each time, you’ll receive a different question. If you don’t like your response the first time, it’s okay; you have two more chances.
  8. Reflect the MBA Qualities:
    • While being authentic is key, also consider how your responses reflect qualities and skills that are desirable in MBA candidates, such as leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, and adaptability.
  9. Practice and Feedback:
    • If possible, practice with a friend or family member and seek their feedback. This can help you improve your video responses.
  10. Keep it Professional:
    • Dress appropriately, maintain good eye contact with the camera, and speak clearly. Remember that this is still a formal application component.

Remember that Vanderbilt’s goal with this video response is to get to know you better beyond what’s written in your application. Approach it as an opportunity to add depth to your candidacy. Good luck!

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The gateway to transformative education at Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management

The Vanderbilt; Owen Graduate School’s MBA program is an excellent choice for those looking to advance their careers and personal growth. By following the tips and insights in this guide, you’ll be better prepared to create a winning application. Craft a compelling essay that showcases your uniqueness and passion for joining the Vanderbilt community. Best of luck with your application journey!


How can I make my essay unique and engaging?

Craft a personal narrative that highlights your journey, motivations, and aspirations. Use specific examples, show your fit with Vanderbilt, and seek feedback to ensure your essay is engaging.

What are the key factors Vanderbilt looks for in applicants?

Vanderbilt seeks candidates with a strong academic background, leadership potential, a commitment to community, and a clear alignment with their MBA program’s values.

How should I prepare for the interview?

Prepare by knowing your application, researching the school, practicing common interview questions, and asking thoughtful questions. Consider mock interviews for added confidence.

What is the acceptance rate at Vanderbilt; Owen Graduate School?

The acceptance rate varies from year to year, but Vanderbilt typically admits around 30-40% of applicants. Make sure your application and essay are strong to improve your chances.

Are there scholarships available for MBA students?

Yes, Vanderbilt offers a range of scholarships based on merit, need, and diversity. Explore your options and apply for scholarships that align with your profile.

Can I visit the campus before applying?

Yes, visiting the campus can provide valuable insights. Check the school’s website for information on campus tours and events.

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