An Overview of Penn State’s BS/MBA Essays
This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Robert Crystal in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.
- Why Penn State?
- Specific Discipline
- Cultural Competency
- Career Aspirations
- Overcoming Challenges
- Biggest Commitment
- Helping Others
A BS/MBA program is a joint-degree program that combines a particular undergraduate degree with a particular graduate degree. You’ll graduate with both a bachelor’s and a master’s. Rather than have a gap between completing each degree, you’ll get your master’s right after the program ends. It’s like going to college and business school all at once. You’ll also get access to excellent resources that will help you succeed in your career. At Pennsylvania State University, the BS/MBA application includes various supplemental essays, and this article will take you through each one.
Why Penn State?
This prompt—why this college?—is quite common across colleges, which use it to differentiate candidates based on their level of interest in the specific school.
You only have a word count of 150 here, which isn’t much space. Try to focus on two or three major things that you like about Penn State, as well as the BS/MBA program. You can talk about a few broader aspects of the university, but focus on that specific program. Do research; the school’s admissions website is a great place to start, and there are videos on YouTube of current BS/MBA students. Watching these will give you a better feel for the program, and you can see how these students see themselves now and in the future. All of this should help give you a few ideas of your own.
In the second prompt, you have to select your particular scientific discipline and explain why it’s interesting to you. What do you want to devote four years of college to? There are many options, from astronomy to astrophysics and statistics, and you have 200 words for your response.
You need to show that you’ve narrowed your undergraduate interest in the BS/MBA and that you’ve put thought into your choice. Be sure to include vivid imagery and specific details to describe experiences that you’ve had with this subject in the past and how you want to pursue it in college.
Talk about the curriculum or specific classes that you’re interested in. If you want to take on research projects in college, mention them, as it can demonstrate the seriousness of your pursuit. Bring in other factors related to the subject if you can—for example, discuss the clubs and extracurriculars at Penn State that you feel would help you take your interest to the next level.
This prompt is known as the “diversity essay.” It’s right there at the top: you are to talk about inclusiveness and diversity and how you’ve demonstrated a commitment to cultural competency. This value is essential, especially in an increasingly global community.
Cultural competency refers to the ability to appreciate and accurately interpret other cultural traditions, as well as the actions and words of people from different cultures.
But what counts as another culture? There are a few obvious cases, such as someone who comes from a different country or from a radically different part of this country. But there are so many other cultural divisions. Your school is technically a community and might include students from a variety of racial, ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
To show that you understand what cultural competency means and that you’re committed to it, you’ll have to describe significant interactions with people who are different from you. Those experiences indicate your commitment to inclusiveness and diversity.
This essay is all about your goals. You’re to discuss your career aspirations and how the science BS/MBA program would help you reach those ambitions, in 200 words.
A significant admissions factor for combined degree programs is whether the admissions committee thinks that you’re actually committed to taking this specific path. They don’t want to give a highly coveted spot to someone who will change their mind about following through on the MBA after only a year or two of college. This means you’ll need to show specific, long-term goals that fit with the program, as well as the deeper motivations that will carry you through five to six years of intensive education.
Think about a particular problem that you’d like to solve, a legacy that you’d like to leave, or a particular rank in a certain company that you want to achieve by a specific age.
You may want to bring affordable solar cells to the mass market. Perhaps you want to forge a path in a specific industry for minority women. Maybe you’ll do biotech in the short term and in the long term, move into the public sector, and use your entrepreneurial experience to adjust inequality and healthcare outcomes. You have a great deal of flexibility. Just think about what you’d want to do if you knew that you could do anything and forge any path imaginable.
For prompt five, you’ll need to discuss your leadership and collaboration skills and give examples of how they’ve been demonstrated. At its core, the BS/MBA program at Penn State sees itself as a good training ground for future leaders on the frontiers of both science and business. The admissions committee wants to admit students who are going to work with and lead others.
One of the keys to a successful response for this prompt is to avoid repeating the words leadership and collaboration and their synonyms, as they’re overused. Instead, focus on your examples—show, don’t tell. It’s totally possible to write a good response without even using the words “leadership” or “leader.”
Offer a high-quality, detailed depiction of your leadership in just one situation. That’s preferable to listing every single leadership role that you’ve had. Show what you’ve done, get specific, and tell a story.
This essay is about resilience and overcoming challenges. It tells you that transitioning to college can be a challenge and asks you to describe the adjustments that you believe you’ll need to make in order to transition from high school to college.
Brainstorm the major differences between your life as a high school student and the experiences that you expect you’ll have in college. If you’re not sure, try talking to friends, family, or acquaintances. Read various articles on the process of transitioning from high school to college.
Once you’ve identified these challenges, you’ll need to frame them. Note that these aren’t actually struggles, but rather adjustments. You have to be forward thinking and consider how you’ll need to change in order to succeed in college.
If you’re close to your family, you’ll need to develop patterns for staying in touch with them. You’ll also need to find new support systems in college because you won’t have members of your family around to advise you.
If you’re accustomed to a structured school day followed by extracurriculars, you’ll need to develop good time management skills in order to fill the time between classes in college. You won’t have the same structure that you’re used to, so you have to create an efficient schedule.
The goal of this essay isn’t to prove that you’re perfectly prepared for college. You may be ready in some ways, but you’re probably lacking in others. At the end of the day, the admissions committee wants to see that you have a strategy. It doesn’t have to be bulletproof. You probably haven’t resolved everything, but you know this much, and you’ve thought about the issues that you’re going to face and how to overcome them.
In this essay, you’ll be describing your biggest commitment. You need to choose just one and it needs to be substantial.
If you don’t have the sort of thing that a reader would automatically think of as a big commitment, you’ll need to convincingly argue that it was, in fact, a substantial responsibility. Don’t be afraid to think broadly. You could include family or interpersonal commitments if those are important to you. Academic commitments, like a heavy course load, can also qualify. You could also write about being an avid writer, even if you haven’t published anything.
These general supplemental questions are all about your activities and your experiences. You’ve probably already talked about several things that could count as major commitments. It might be difficult, but you can’t double up on anything in this essay. All these supplemental essays should be complementary and reveal new parts of yourself to collectively present a clear image of you as a whole, multifaceted person.
This final prompt asks you to describe a time when you helped someone else succeed. Most college essays are designed so admissions officers can learn more about you directly. This one, though, is asking you to speak about yourself through the lens of helping someone else.
You’re not the centerpiece here; you need to show, rather than tell, a time when you helped someone succeed. At the same time, you need to offer up your own narrative—all within a small word count.
Try starting with a specific, vivid scene with you and the subject of your response. Then, transition into a bit of background. What did you do all of this for? How did you help them succeed, and what was your contribution to their success? Finally, talk about how this experience affected you.
Wrap it up with a sentence or two about how you plan to take the lessons that you learned to the BS/MBA program at Penn State, your career, and your approach to life in general. Although you’re ostensibly writing about helping someone else, how you tell the story reflects on you. Ultimately, that’s the real purpose of this essay: the college wants to see how you interact with other people when you’re not the main beneficiary.
This says a great deal about you, after all. How you have helped other people has many implications for your character. Make sure the admissions committee can see you at your best.