Though essay questions tend to vary year to year, the two things that nearly every prospective student can count on being asked are “What are your short-term and long-term post-MBA goals?” and “How will Business School X help you achieve these goals?” Even those schools that do not ask this question directly in their essays will likely ask the question in their data forms, or during the interview.
These are the fundamental questions of the entire application process; identifying clear answers will help in everything from creating a list of target schools to communicating effectively with recommenders and interviewers down the line. As such, it’s a great idea to begin drafting answers to the Career Goals essay early and often! To help you get started, here are some general pointers:
Whether the question is asked in an essay of 1,000 or 500 words, or posed in an interview, the adcom looks for applicants who offer fully defined long- and short-term career goals, sound reasons for pursuing an MBA at this point in their careers, well-informed interest in School X and specific plans to contribute to the campus community if they are admitted.
The key to successfully tackling each of these components is specificity. In presenting future goals and explaining one’s motivation for seeking an MBA, it is crucial to present well-defined and feasible objectives. Unlike the undergraduate experience at many American colleges and universities, MBA adcoms believe that students need a fair amount of direction at the time they enter the program in order to take the right classes, join the appropriate clubs and seek the best internship. Everything is oriented towards preparing for the post-MBA job, so specifying a specific industry and function for the short-term is of the utmost importance. In addition to identifying goals for the adcom, it is also important that applicants explain their interest in their particular plans. Along the same lines, applicants should comment on what they hope to accomplish in their target positions.
Admissions officers understand that successful students are focused in their ambitions, and one of the best measures of this is what they have done so far. Not every school asks for this explicitly, but in most situations a Career Goals answer is more compelling when it includes a brief but coherent career history summarizing the applicant’s work history to date. This should reveal the continuity between one’s previous professional experiences and goals for the future. A great response manages to thoroughly and efficiently address each of these elements, with a nice balance between the “career progression” content, the “career goals/why MBA” content and the “why School X” content.
Another critical part of a response is the explanation of one’s interest in a given program, as the adcom is sensitive to whether or not applicants are serious about attending if admitted. Individuals who name specific classes that are relevant to their goals, recount their impressions of the campus culture based on a class visit, or share what they’ve learned from discussions with alumni and students will be in good shape. The aim is to convey the fact that the applicant has conducted extensive research and is making an informed decision in applying.
Beyond convincing the adcom of their genuine interest in the program, it is also important for applicants to keep the following concept in mind: Any fair trade necessitates mutual benefit. In other words, in addition to showing that School X is the best MBA program for one’s needs, the applicant should demonstrate to School X that he or she will enrich its community. A strong candidate describes insights he or she could contribute in class, and offers detailed intentions for getting involved in campus activities.
These general pointers should set applicants on the path toward crafting a great response to the MBA Career Goals question, the centerpiece of any compelling candidacy. Happy writing!