Business School Essays: Failure Questions

List of questions


To recognize that effective managers are able to learn from failure, describe a failure that you have experienced. What did you learn from the experience? (Harvard)


Any applicant who tries to claim or assert perfection on the application would, at best, be treated as a joke. No one is perfect, and no admissions committee expects perfection. Yet, more than any other question, this one strikes fear into the hearts of applicants. However, answering this question does not need to be difficult. You must get past the biggest hurdle-your own reticence.


Failure often results from good intentions and admirable qualities such as initiative, leadership, and risk taking. Take advantage of the fact that failure will sometimes result from our best qualities. Any leader who has tried to forge a new path has made a mistake somewhere along the way. If you are honest and forthright about the mistake you made, people will remember the intention over the result. Besides, the committee is not interested in judging you on your mistake, they simply want to know how you dealt with it. The only real way to flunk this question is to dodge it. If you choose a trite or irrelevant topic, the committee will either question your honesty and your maturity or doubt your ability to lead, take risks, and think outside the box.


If you are having trouble choosing a situation, consider the following guidelines:


  1. Choose something that has happened recently. Delving too far into your past is an obvious cop-out.
  2. Do not limit yourself to professional failures, but do not shy away from them either. Admissions committees are aware of the risk inherent in choosing job failures and will give you points for being forthright.
  3. Do not choose anything overly dramatic or that would call your morals into question. The reader should be able to relate to your failure, not be shocked by it.

If you cannot clearly state what you learned from the incident or the actions that you took to amend it, then pick something else. When you are writing, take a simple, straightforward, objective tone. Do not try to excuse your actions. Let your story speak for itself. Keep your essay as concise as possible.


  1. Why Do You Want an MBA Questions 
  2. Contribution and Diversity Questions 
  3. Accomplishment Questions 
  4. Leadership Ability Questions 
  5. Hobby and Extracurricular Questions 
  6. Role Model Questions 
  7. Failure Questions 
  8. Very Personal Questions


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