‘Why MBA’ Career Goals Essay

Written by Sameer Kamat

The ‘Why MBA’ question isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. There are the basic introspective aspects of whether you need an MBA in the first place, why this is the right time, what your post MBA goals are and if they are well-aligned with your pre-MBA experience.

If you aren’t absolutely confident about those aspects, check out this video first. It explains how you can get the basic foundation in place before you even think about moving to the essays.

Why MBA, Why Now, Career Goals using the MBA MAP




If the concept explained in the video sounds logical, check out some more details about the MBA MAP.

The rest of the content in this post assumes that you have already managed the introspective and philosophical aspects (either on your own or by using the MBA MAP). Now you are planning to apply to MBA programs and looking at how best to articulate the Why MBA aspects in your MBA essays.

In this guest post for MBA Crystal Ball, Nupur Gupta shares tips and advice on how to write MBA essays for the ‘Why MBA’ essay question. Nupur is an admissions consultant and the Founder of Crack The MBA. She graduated from the full-time MBA program at The Wharton School in 2010 with majors in Entrepreneurship and Finance. Nupur obtained her Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Computer Science from Rochester Institute of Technology in Upstate New York.


Why MBA – How to write the career goals essay
by Nupur Gupta

In this post, we will seek to understand the question which arises in most school applications in some form or the other – Why MBA?

How different schools ask the ‘Why MBA’ question?

Look at the following questions from 3 of the top business schools:

Wharton: What are your professional objectives? (300 words)

HBS: Why do you want an MBA? (400 words)

Stanford: What do you want to do – REALLY – and why Stanford? (450 words)

Do you sense a trace of similarity here? Even though they may be worded slightly differently, these questions effectively aim to understand one and only one thing – namely, your PROFESSIONAL GOALS. Yes, professional goals are important enough to warrant bold, underline and capitalization!

What is the AdCom trying to understand by asking this question?

Let me start off by saying that this question is one of the pillars on which your MBA application rests. This question helps the school understand your reasons for wanting an MBA and they use your answer to evaluate if your post MBA goals make sense and whether or not they are in tune with whatever you have done thus far. They are looking to see whether or not an MBA is the bridge that you need to take you from where you are right now to where you want to be as mentioned in your goals. The essay is also a great opportunity for you to reflect on whether or not you really need an MBA to fulfill your career aspirations.

Some things that schools are trying to screen for:

  • Are you trying to use the MBA as a springboard to overcome unemployment or a lagging career progression?
  • Are your goals realistic and achievable?
  • Have you gone through a process of self-reflection?
  • Are you able to articulate your goals coherently?
  • Will your experiences add value to the class?
  • Will you add value to the school as an alum?
  • Will your profile be attractive to Recruiters?

A range of responses from the same candidate and our commentary and rating for each response

Consider 3 different responses from a candidate who is a 2nd generation owner/manager in a family business setup in the ophthalmic lens industry currently wherein the firm is within the top 15 players in the market.

1. Weak: my goal is to make a long-lasting impact in the field of ophthalmic lenses

2. Average: my goal is to return to the family enterprise and position it as a leading ophthalmic lens provider in India by implementing the learnings at business school

3. Strong: my short-term goal following my MBA from Wharton is to return to the family business and to implement the learnings in operations and marketing to our production and retail divisions in order to position the firm as the leading distributor and retailer in India in order to make an impact in the field of ophthalmic lenses. In the long-term, I would like to position the company as a leading global player in the industry through inorganic growth made possible by the 80,000+ strong alumni network at Wharton along with learnings from courses such as ‘Cross Border M&A’.

Response #1 is a generic ‘wishy washy’ goal with no thought as to how the person intends to make an impact, how an MBA would help in the process. In general, it is extremely vague and does not provide any insight to the user.

Response #2 begins to address some of the issues in Response #1 by starting to show the MBA as the missing link which can help the student transform the company from its current state to its desired state which is to be a leading provider of ophthalmic lenses.

Response #3 breaks the question down into two pieces – short-term and long-term goal. It talks about specific learnings from the MBA program that would be useful for the student (operations, marketing) and it further polishes off the desired goal to make it seem achievable and hence, more realistic.

MBA Essay Writing Do’s for the Career Goals Essay

  • Be as specific as you possibly can be
  • Show how your past roles are in sync with what you want to do and demonstrate intent as opposed to luck or destiny
  • Show the bridge connecting you from where you currently are to where you wish to be and how an MBA can provide the link between the two points
  • Stick to the word limits (+/- 10% is a good rule of thumb to follow)
  • Should you get laid off close to when you are applying to business school, try to take up something meaningful to do during that time period and preferably whatever you choose ties in with your goals so AdComs can see some sort of logical progression towards your goal
  • Show that you have done your due diligence to understand the school and evaluate how its resources would help you achieve your career goals
  • Ensure that your goals are realistic and briefly mention a path to get there
  • Career changers should ensure they understand the industry they aspire to enter well
  • Read the question and make sure you answer it properly. This becomes even more important as schools make slight changes in the way the question may be asked and you need to make sure you answer the question(s) being asked.

MBA Essay Writing Don’ts for the Career Goals Essay

  • Do not launch into a ‘save the world’ tirade unless it seems plausible given your career progression thus far
  • Do not use a cookie cutter approach in your essay for different schools. Tailor your response to each specific school in a way that highlights the resources at the school and demonstrates to them a great fit and also your excitement about their specific program
  • Do not be superficial in your reasons. As an example, stating you want an MBA because of the brand value, to take a break, to get back into the workforce, etc. may hurt your chances of admission as they show a lack of deep reflection on your part
  • Do not use language or tone that might make you seem arrogant or rude

You might also be interested in reading the following related posts.

MBA essay tips for Indian applicants
MBA Essay Tip #1: Undo the Adcom’s preconceptions about India
MBA Essay Tip #2: Don’t be so quick to throw away the tech background.
MBA Essay Tip #3: Focus on SOFT skills. Leadership, not tech.
MBA Essay Tip #4: Be creative. Take Risks.
MBA Essay Tip #5: Don’t kid yourself.

Just as a quick reminder, don’t jump into the essays if you haven’t figured out the basics first. If you aren’t ready to tackle the essays yet, check out the MBA MAP.

We are always hoping to add folks to our reviews & testimonials page. So if you need 1-on-1 support with any of this, drop us a note on: info [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com


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Sameer Kamat

About Sameer Kamat

Founder of MBA Crystal Ball | Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors Connect with me on Google+ | Twitter @mba_cb | Facebook


3 Comments

  1. Neha   |  Monday, 16 April 2012 at 7:47 am

    This is an excellent post and very helpful. As a graduate from one of the ivy schools, I wish I had this kind of information while I was applying for my MBA several years back.

    Here is my take on the Why MBA question: It is pretty straight forward but a trick question really. It reflects on how much deliberation the candidate has given to the thought of why he wants to do an MBA, what will he gain out of it and why is now the right time to do his MBA. Also, even though the schools don’t ask why you have chosen that particular school, it is always good to crystallize your thoughts on all the above before you finalize your application. Over the last few years, I have seen so many applicants with brilliant profiles and articulate essays being dinged, because they were not convinced of one or more of the above questions.

    Before writing your essays, one must remember that adcom looks at over 7000 applications per year. They are extremely good at identifying applicants that are unsure of their MBA. So before you start your application process, please deliberate upon all the above question in great detail.

    All the best with your applications!

  2. Siddharth   |  Thursday, 24 January 2013 at 3:49 pm

    This is definitely helpful. I myself belong to one of those with a weak answer, especially in interviews. This post does point out to my weakness of not explaining what i say, of saying an answer briefly, which is absolutely not the way to go.

  3. Sameer Kamat   |  Thursday, 24 January 2013 at 4:06 pm

    Siddharth,

    This post focussed on tackling the Why MBA essay. We’ve covered MBA interviews in other posts. You might find the following useful:

    How can you prepare for MBA interviews for free?
    Situational or Behavioral Interviews: What questions can you expect?

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