Though essay prompts 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?” And, even though many schools have now opted to omit this question during the essay portion of their applications, rest assured that you’ll be asked this question in the data form portion or (most likely) during your interview.
Career goals are fundamental to the entire application process; identifying clear goals 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 formulating your Career Goals early in the process!
To help you get started, here are some general pointers:
Whether the essay is 1,000 or 500 words long, the adcom is looking 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 should they be 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 interests behind particular plans. Along the same lines, applicants should be able to 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 one’s career goals are more compelling when they include 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 Career Goal formulation manages to thoroughly and efficiently address each of these elements, with a nice balance between the “career progression,” the “career goals/why MBA” and the “why School X” questions.
Another critical part of this aspect of the MBA application is the explanation of one’s interest in a particular 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 defining effective career goals, the centerpiece of any compelling candidacy. For more details on developing your goals, and much more about application strategy, download our admissions book: Becoming a Clear Admit: The Definitive Guide to MBA Admissions. For a short time, the admissions book is free, with coupon code: BACLEARADMIT