UNC MBA Essays 2023–2024: Tips From an Insider -

Philippe Barr, PhD
9 min readNov 10, 2023


Are you gearing up to apply for your MBA at UNC Kenan-Flagler? Congratulations on taking this important step in your academic and professional journey! With an exceptional reputation, a tightly knit alumni network, and an experienced admissions team dedicated to helping applicants succeed, UNC is truly a great university. But as with any top-tier program, getting accepted requires more than simply meeting the minimum requirements — it involves knowing how to stand out among competitors from around the world. As a former assistant director of MBA admissions at Kenan-Flagler Business School with experience reading hundreds of applications every year, we are here today to provide you with invaluable advice about preparing for one of the most important parts of your application: The UNC MBA essays.

UNC MBA Essays 2023–2024 Overview

For the 2023–2024 academic year, UNC Kenan-Flagler is asking applicants to submit three essays: the career goals essay, the leadership essay, and the optional essay. The career goals essay provides an opportunity for you to share your short-term and long-term career aspirations, including why you have chosen an MBA as the path to achieve these goals.

The leadership essay allows you to showcase your leadership skills and experiences, demonstrating your ability to succeed in managerial roles.

Finally, the optional essay is a chance for you to share additional information that can’t be conveyed in other parts of the application, perhaps explaining any gaps in employment, academic challenges or unique circumstances that merit elaboration.

The Most Crucial Part of Your Essay Writing Strategy: A Flawless Resume

Before diving into your UNC MBA essays, ensure your resume is impeccable. Your resume serves as a comprehensive snapshot of your academic and professional journey, highlighting your accomplishments, skills, and experience.

Think of it as the foundation upon which your essays are built. If your resume is flawed or incomplete, it can undermine the credibility of your application, irrespective of how well your essays are crafted. T

herefore, your resume must be meticulously reviewed and updated to accurately reflect your qualifications and achievements. A well-crafted resume will not only reinforce the claims made in your essays but also provide a consistent narrative about your career progression and aspirations.

Why Are Essays Important in the Admissions Process at Kenan-Flagler?

The essays in your UNC MBA application are a crucial aspect of your admissions process, providing a platform for you to address the admissions committee directly and share your narrative. These essays reveal your motivations, ambitions, leadership potential, and unique qualities that aren’t captured by your test scores or CV. They provide an understanding of who you are as an individual, beyond your professional achievements.

The committee looks for compelling, well-articulated essays that reflect a deep self-understanding, clear career goals, and a strong rationale for choosing UNC’s MBA program. This is why perfection in your essays is not just about impeccable grammar or eloquence; it’s about delivering a coherent, authentic and inspiring narrative that aligns with UNC’s values and objectives. A perfectly crafted essay can be the determining factor that tips the balance in your favor in a pool of highly competitive applicants.

Now, let us examine each prompt more closely.

Essay 1

Essay 1 is a mandatory requirement. Your response must not exceed 500 words and should encompass the following inquiries:

  • What are your immediate career goals and how will you benefit from earning an MBA at Kenan-Flagler Business School?
  • As the business world continues to evolve, circumstances can change that can guide you in a different direction. Should the goals that you provided above not transpire, what other opportunities would you explore?

This is a typical career goals essay. In terms of structure, we recommend that you address each section of the essay in the presented order. You should start by outlining your professional aspirations, including the immediate post-MBA position you aim for, as well as your long-term objective. Subsequently, you should provide a compelling explanation for your decision to pursue a graduate business education at Kenan-Flagler. Refering to an online event, or conversations with students and alumni — will work well here.

You should allocate an important part of your essay to discuss how specific courses and student clubs at UNC can equip you with the necessary skills and knowledge to bridge the gap between your current abilities and the requirements of your chosen career paths. To answer this part of the prompt, it is essential to thoroughly research Kenan-Flagler’s MBA program, including its curriculum, special programs, and extracurricular activities. Familiarizing yourself with these details will be crucial.

To effectively demonstrate your genuine interest and alignment with the objectives of the program, you should invest time in understanding the intricacies of Kenan-Flagler’s offerings. This will not only enhance your ability to demonstrate fit but also present your candidacy in a polished and articulate manner, capturing the essence of your qualifications and achievements.

In conclusion, consider exploring additional paths that may contribute to your long-term plan. It is important to acknowledge that flexibility is sometimes required while pursuing a long-term goal. By understanding this, you can demonstrate your ability to navigate the MBA journey with greater adaptability and resilience.

Your UNC MBA Essays Should Not Repeat Your Resume

Your UNC MBA essays should not merely replicate your resume; instead, they should serve as an extension that offers deeper insights into your capabilities, experiences, and aspirations. A resume often provides a limited view of your accomplishments, defined by specific roles, responsibilities, and achievements.

In contrast, an essay allows you to articulate your journey, motivations, and vision in a more comprehensive and personal manner. It enables you to narrate stories that reflect your character, values, and decision-making process, which might not evidently transpire through a resume. Thus, by providing this expanded view of your profile, the essays help the admissions committee to understand you better as an individual, beyond just your professional credentials. This in-depth understanding, in return, can significantly influence your admission prospects.

Brainstorming for Your Essays

Brainstorming for your UNC MBA essays is crucial to crafting compelling narratives that highlight your strengths, passions, and aspirations. This process should start by reflecting on your career goals and leadership experiences, as well as any unique circumstances you may need to address in the optional essay.

Consider drafting a list of key points you wish to communicate in each essay to ensure that you present a well-rounded picture of your potential as a business leader. Remember, the essays are your opportunity to provide the admissions committee with insight into who you are beyond your transcript and résumé. Therefore, be genuine and thorough in your responses, ensuring they align with your overall application narrative and reinforce your candidacy for the MBA program at UNC Kenan-Flagler.

Crafting Your Responses to the UNC MBA Essays

When crafting your responses to the UNC MBA essay questions, it’s essential to maintain a clear and concise narrative that aligns with your overall application. Start each essay by succinctly presenting your thoughts and gradually delve into the details, ensuring your responses directly address the essay prompts.

Use specific examples from your past experiences to highlight your qualifications and to demonstrate how an MBA from UNC Kenan-Flagler will help you achieve your career goals. Avoid being overly verbose or straying from the topic.

Remember, the goal is to allow the admissions committee to understand your individuality, motivations, and potential as a future business leader. Be sure to proofread your essays for clarity, coherence, and correct grammar, ensuring they present a polished and professional image.

Review and Refine Your Writing

Once you have completed your initial drafts for the UNC MBA essays, it’s time to review and refine your writing. This process is vital to ensure your content effectively communicates your thoughts and intentions. Reread your essays with a critical eye, checking for any inconsistencies in your narrative or unclear statements.

Look for instances where you could be more precise or where an example could better illustrate your point. Consider getting feedback from a mentor, a colleague, or a career coach, as they can provide an outside perspective and potentially identify areas for improvement that you may have overlooked.

Additionally, use online grammar and spell-check tools to catch any errors. Remember, your goal is to submit well-crafted responses that effectively convey your potential as a future business leader.

What to Avoid When Writing Your UNC MBA Essays

Avoiding certain mistakes can significantly improve the quality of your UNC MBA essays. For instance, steer clear of generic or clichéd statements that don’t add value to your narrative. Be careful not to overuse buzzwords or jargon, which might make your essays sound artificial or insincere.

Avoid making unsupported claims; always back up your statements with specific examples or experiences. It’s also crucial not to underestimate the importance of following the essay instructions. Ignoring word limits or straying off-topic can leave a negative impression on the admissions committee.

Lastly, avoid submitting your essays without thoroughly proofreading for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors, as they can detract from the overall quality and professionalism of your application.

Strategies for Preparing an Application That Stands Out

Every element of your UNC MBA application should be meticulously crafted, presenting a piece of the puzzle that, when put together, offers a comprehensive portrayal of your unique character, experiences, and aspirations.

Think of your application as an opportunity to tell a compelling story in which each component — from your essays to your resume and recommendation letters — contributes a distinct yet cohesive chapter.

This approach is critical as it allows the admissions committee to gain a nuanced understanding of who you are, both professionally and personally. A disjointed or inconsistent application could lead to confusion or misinterpretation.

Achieving harmony in the separate elements not only demonstrates your attention to detail and organizational skills, but also helps paint a vivid, truthful, and engaging picture of your journey and potential.

Tips From an Insider on How to Make Your UNC MBA Application Shine

A UNC MBA insider would advise applicants to make their essays shine by delving into personal, tangible experiences that highlight their leadership skills, teamwork abilities, or entrepreneurial spirit.

Be authentic and sincere, allowing your true personality to shine through. Showing your passion for your chosen field or the specific program at UNC can be a compelling addition to your essay.

Moreover, ensure that your essays align with your other application components, such as your resume and recommendation letters, to present a consistent and cohesive picture of who you are as a candidate. Lastly, don’t forget the power of storytelling-a well-told narrative can captivate the admissions committee, making your application memorable.


Now that you know the critical tips for crafting a standout UNC MBA essay, you may be wondering where to go from here. You should start by keeping these ideas in mind as you work on your essays: create a strong narrative of who you’ve become and what drives you, focus on the storytelling aspect of writing, and don’t forget to edit!

As daunting as this process may seem right now, with the right approach and resources, it will prove an enjoyable challenge. Do bear in mind that mistakes are often positive learning experiences; some of our favorite acceptance letters came after numerous revisions. Ultimately, putting forth your best effort in this endeavor will very likely result in success. So if you find yourself truly at a loss or just unsure about how to best approach your essays, there is no shame in reaching out for help.

Check out our MBA essay services; we offer packages (from scratch) or hourly service to refine draft — helpful resources that can make all the difference in standing out among hundreds of other applicants With dedication and persistence, you will reap the rewards expected of an aspiring member of America’s foremost business school. Good luck!

With a Master’s from McGill University and a Ph.D. from New York University, Dr. Philippe Barr is the founder of The Admit Lab. As a tenure-track professor, Dr. Barr spent a decade teaching and serving on several graduate admission committees at UNC-Chapel Hill before turning to full-time consulting. With more than seven years of experience as a graduate school admissions consultant, Dr. Barr has stewarded the candidate journey across multiple master’s and Ph.D. programs and helped hundreds of students get admitted to top-tier graduate programs all over the world.

Follow me on YouTube for tips and tricks on navigating the grad school application process and weekly live Q&A sessions!

Originally published at https://admit-lab.com on November 10, 2023.



Philippe Barr, PhD

I am Philippe Barr, founder of The Admit Lab, a graduate school admissions consultancy that helps students get admitted into grad school: https://admit-lab.com/