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Oxford Essay Tips

As a recent Oxford MBA graduate, I cannot overstate how the program values students who view the world with an eye for making an impact.

Consider Said's mission statement, which you will hear on multiple occasions and see printed all over the school: a world class business school, embedded in a world class university, tackling world scale problems. This statement is a common thread woven throughout the Oxford MBA curriculum.

Of course, no one expects each of the 300 plus students at the school to solve a previously unsolvable world problem. However, students should demonstrate an ability to impact their community in some way, however small. This year's application question, which is changed from the previous application cycle, is written with the school’s mission in mind.

Question 1: Consider a statistic or trend that shocks you. Why is it important to you and how could it be changed for the better?

The application question is composed of three parts.

1. Consider a statistic or a trend that shocks you.

2. Why is it important to you?

3. How could it be changed for the better?

Out of these three components, number two is the most important and you should start by answering this question first. I recommend that as you brainstorm answers to this essay, you should start by considering your values, what is important to you, and how you can make an impact. After you have identified what matters to you, find a statistic related to your topic and then a solution. Answering part one and part three should easily follow the answer to part two.

I do not suggest first writing about a statistic and how to improve it and then forcing your personal story into the essay. If you do this, you will run into trouble effectively answering the essay question.

Breaking the question down further: a statistics or trend that is shocking to you. I have been asked if this is a trick question. The answer is no. This is not a trick question and there is no right answer. What I find shocking is different to what you find shocking, which is different to what a friend would find shocking. Do not overthink this portion of the essay or try to answer based on what you think the admissions committee wants to hear. If you do, you run the risk of missing the mark with the essay topic.

That being said, I would also avoid a statistic or trend that is bound to appear in countless application essays. Discussing how women only earn 83 cents in the dollar compared to men or how over 14% of Americans live below the poverty line are very general and often cited statistics. Some version of this type of statistic might be commonplace among applications and thus best avoided.

Another important thing to note is that this is not an academic essay. You should not fill the essay with facts and other people's opinions. It is important that your chosen statistic relate to your interests and that you can explain your professional goals seamlessly. After all, this is a business school application essay and you should mention your professional aspirations!

Question 2: Is there anything not covered in the application form which you would like the Admissions Committee to know about you?

This question reads as an optional essay question but it is not; it is mandatory. With only one 500 word prompt available to convince the admissions committee to interview you, this optional essay is very important. You should think about your application holistically and explain anything that you have not be able to. Maybe you want to share more about a community service project that you are part of, or you want to explain your plan to start a business in further detail, or you want to explain the reason behind a drastic career change. Use this question to give more context to your background.

Unlike with the optional essay questions in other business school applications, this question is not the place to detail a bullet point list of weaknesses. Be strategic in answer this question, Oxford gives you few words to convince them of your value so use those words wisely.

Finally, make sure to start your Oxford application early! The application form is very involved and asks multiple short answer questions to judge the feasibility of your career goals. If you wait to begin filling out the application form until close to the deadline, you will be surprised by the additional questions and not have enough time to answer them!


What sets Oriel Admissions apart from other admissions consulting companies? I provide highly a personalized service and work around your busy schedule. Your application will truly be your application, only the absolute best version that it could be. We never take a formulaic approach when guiding you.

Rona is an Oxford MBA graduate and she has successfully assisted clients in applying to Said as well as other top programs both in the US and internationally. If you would like to learn more about my services and how I can help you with your applications, please contact me at for a free consultation.

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