Kenan Flagler Application Essays Examples

Kenan-Flagler MBA Essay 2 (Optional)

What personal qualities or life experiences distinguish you from other applicants? How do these qualities or experiences equip you to contribute to UNC Kenan-Flagler? (300 words maximum)

This is a fun one. An opportunity for you to let your personality bleed through a bit. Don’t be afraid of taking some risks here and cutting loose. In doing so, you’ll be proving THAT you have qualities that distinguish you from others. What does taking risks mean exactly? Well, it could be in the CHOICE of the qualities you talk about, or in the way you DELIVER it. Perhaps you take on a more conversational tone. Perhaps you tell us an incredible story (as opposed to a more dry explanation OF the thing). Whatever it is, your personality should shine through here. Someone who doesn’t know you should be able to read this essay and get a sense of what you must be like in person.

But okay, let’s talk about the actual STUFF now (in the abstract). What kind of thing distinguishes you from other applicants? Well, this is where you’re gonna have to be super hard on yourself. Or, extremely self-aware. Recognize that many of the things you THINK are unique to you are in fact quite common. Oh no.

Recognize further that some of the things you think you own…. others not only have, but have cooler versions of! Double oh no.

Start with that as your challenge. Don’t just pick stuff to talk about. Sell us on why these are cool. Because chances are, we’ve seen it a thousand times before. If you can “sell” it well, then the sky’s the limit. Then you can make even the most COMMON thing seem uncommon. And that—by itself—is a cool skill.

What could possibly distinguish you from other applicants? Couple tricks here to get the juices flowing. Think about cool oxymorons and surprising aspects of yourself. Let’s say you’re a mid-20s Indian male IT guy from India. Well, rather than talk about how you play cricket, what if your thing is lacrosse? Or, hell, BALLET? Or something else that makes us go… “what just happened.” Think about the predictable, and then try to make it go upside-down. You’re an IT guy, but you were a contestant on American Idol. You’re a corporate, Wall Street type, but you write children’s books in your spare time. You’re a Chinese guy who hates numbers. Find things that surprise WITHIN YOUR OWN REPERTOIRE. Don’t just look for ways in which you think you might be cool. Those juxtapositions are there already. Find ‘em. This should get you 2/3 or 3/4 the way there.

But once again, don’t ignore that second question about how you APPLY these. The “what’s in it for us” aspect. What’s the VALUE in that trait? Be careful here, there doesn’t need to be a 1:1 relationship between your cool traits and the way you apply it.

Let’s say you’re a potter, and that you have a ridiculously cool life history in clay pot making. Well, that doesn’t mean you need to “start a clay pot making club” at Kenan-Flagler. There must be some other WAY in which you can apply this cool thing. Maybe your passion for art can be channeled toward something neat and productive while at school.

Maybe it is starting a club, but maybe that club is focused on helping raise money to provide opportunities for students studying art at a local elementary school. Or maybe it’s even simpler than that. Maybe clay pot making is a pure distraction for you from work. Maybe there’s value in that, and in you bringing that out in other students. Maybe it ends up making for a healthier campus life, and more productive, happier students. There are all sorts of possibilities. But you’ve got to argue it, and convince us that there are. And it can’t seem canned. We’ll know in an instant whether you’re just saying it to impress, or whether you’ve actually thought it through. (Never try to impress; it won’t work!)

Now that that’s handled,  check out our analysis of the rest of UNC Kenan-Flagler’s application essays.


Read more and explore each step of the Kenan-Flagler full-time MBA application process here.


UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School is a flexible program that offers a full-time MBA in Chapel Hill, Executive programs outside of D.C., and even an online program.

With a world-class university offering resources beyond the MBA program, UNC is an excellent option. Kenan-Flagler touts a strong career focus and that students receive career advancement from each MBA option. There is a global focus and several global immersion opportunities with each program at Kenan-Flagler. This essay set has only one required question, and it is entirely career focused. Kenan-Flagler is focused on your career and attracting recruiters to the program, so this is a logical area of focus.

Essay One (Required)
Please describe your short and long term goals post-MBA. Explain how your professional experience has shaped these goals, why this career option appeals to you, and how you arrived at the decision that now is the time and the MBA is the appropriate degree. Additionally, please briefly address a backup plan should your short-term goal not come to fruition for any reason. (500 words maximum)

This is primarily a standard career goals essay. The question asks about your background, what your short- and long-term career goals are, and why now is the right time for you to pursue an MBA. The other part to this question is to describe your backup plan if you do not achieve your original career goals.

The first part of the question focuses on the short term, asking for a very clear link between your short-term career path and your MBA. Due to Kenan-Flagler’s focus on the perspective of recruiters and your career advancement, this focus on the short term will show that you have realistic ideas about your career trajectory. The long-term goals should flow naturally from your short-term goals and demonstrate that you can plan for your career.

Because everyone’s life takes twists and turns that may not have been planned, Kenan-Flagler wants to know if you have a Plan B that is as well thought out as your Plan A. If you want to work in consulting, but you aren’t able to land a job at the firm you prefer, perhaps you will pursue a role as in-house strategy in your target long-term industry. Finally, make sure that you have career goals that require an MBA and that you can cite specific classes, professors and programs at UNC that will help you achieve your goals.

Essay Two (Optional)
What personal qualities or life experiences distinguish you from other applicants? How do these qualities or experiences equip you to contribute to UNC Kenan-Flagler? (300 words maximum)

This question is a gift to any applicant who needs to differentiate his or her story. Think about what is unique about your background or perspective. If you have an interesting and diverse background you will certainly have enough material and the task will be to link your background clearly to a contribution you will make to the Kenan-Flagler community. Think about clubs or activities you will join and what you will bring that is unique.

If you are someone without a particularly unique background you will want to focus on personal qualities. What personality trait helps you stand out in a group? What do people often tell you about yourself? And how will this trait contribute to the community at Kenan-Flagler?

Essay Three (Optional)
If your standardized test scores are low, or if you have not had coursework in core business subjects (calculus, microeconomics, statistics, financial accounting), please tell us how you plan to prepare yourself for the quantitative rigor of the MBA curriculum. (300 words maximum)

This optional essay is straightforward and simply requires you to outline your preparation for the program. If you do not have the requisite coursework you may have gained training through work that will result in the same preparation. If you do not have the preparation through work or courses, it may be worth registering for continuing education classes and informing the admissions committee in this essay.

Essay Four (Optional)
Is there any other information you would like to share that is not presented elsewhere in the application? (300 words maximum)

This optional essay can be used to explain anything unusual or problematic about your application, from poor undergraduate GPA to choice of recommenders. In addition, because it is so open-ended, you may use it to communicate any additional information that may be beneficial to your candidacy. If you did not have the opportunity to communicate one of the areas of your application strategy, this may provide the space to do so.

This entry was posted in Application Tips, General, UNC Kenan-Flagler Advice and tagged Essay Tips, Fall 2018 MBA Essay Tips, Kenan Flagler essays, Kenan-Flagler, Kenan-Flagler Business School, Kenan-Flagler essay tips, Kenan-Flagler MBA, UNC, UNC Kenan Flagler, UNC Kenan Flagler Business School.
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