The Why MBA Essay has baffled the most seasoned MBA applicant for ages. We’ve written about it earlier. So we thought it would be good to get additional perspectives from articulate folks who aren’t part of our team.
Our guest blogger Rohit Gupta shares his perspectives on how the Why MBA Essay question can be answered.
For all the hyperactive MBA junta jumping through innovative and out-the-box mental loops to dodge all the questions thrown at them by the AdCom, one of the chinks in their armors is the omnipresent ‘WHY MBA’?
This innocuous query thrown at a random desi candidate can shake the existential foundations of his/her entire educational journey, because the usual modus operandi for pursuing any educational degree is to find out its ‘scope’ through mildly witty conversations over chai with intellectual (educated?) relatives.
You have always expected an anti-Kafkaesque metamorphosis via an MBA, which will annihilate all your shortcomings and grant you the power to transform your life. This question has the potential to destroy your ‘penthouse’ dreams.
There are two facets to this question, the former part concerns convincing your-self of investing in an MBA, and the latter part involves convincing the Admissions Committee (which is obviously the harder part!).
For convincing yourself of doing an MBA, you need to consider both the time and opportunity cost of pursuing an MBA (Sameer has explained this beautifully in his MBA book (Beyond The MBA Hype), so I will happily skip this part).
The usual reasons revolve around industry, profile/domain or even geographical shift, apart from the expectations of roping-in big money in the near happy future. A logical flow should be apparent; past being a testimony of your capabilities and your future aspirations ‘out-of-the-box’, reeking of realistic heroism; the present scenario would be your DIY time-machine enabling you to move from the past to the future as you conquer all the known dimensions of time.
And that DIY time machine boy is MBA, am I right? So, let’s get to the business.
If you want an MBA, for the sake of being mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive, you can chart two paths: the Indian MBA or the international MBA. The Indian context is slightly trickier, as many ‘freshers’ aspire for the MBA-dream immediately after graduation.
The arguments for pursuing an MBA after sufficient work-experience are really strong, but you need to hold the ground with more rigors to convince the AdCom about the sound logic of your plan. For starters, if you have worked in a specific industry for a long time, you will be slightly biased, which is not the case for young graduates.
As far as soft-skills are concerned, there is a yawning gap between what is required and what is offered by the candidate pool, and an MBA from a top school can equip someone with the right attitude and skills to join the corporate bandwagon. Moreover you can state for the sake of being righteous that there is no specific age for learning (sounds familiar?)!
The right starting point is usually enlisting the immediate benefits: apart from the general gyaan that one gleans through traditional classroom learning, there are other numerous perks of pursuing the MBA dream. At any top MBA program, the learning that one acquires through peers is comparable to the learning acquired through top-down teaching methodology.
‘Networking’ has always been a buzzword in the corporate world, and rightly so. It is not just about ‘what’ you know; it is also about ‘who’ you know. In all probability, the people you interact with whilst in B-School will hold important positions in future, and the synergistic effect of this network will be manifested in umpteen areas of your life.
Meanwhile, the usual ‘short-term and long-term goals’ part is not strictly meant to catch you off guard. Sailing in a rudderless ship with no map in hand to discover the hidden troves of gold is not what makes you a great pirate.
Make sure your ‘long-terms’ know and appreciate their short-term siblings, and are in sync with each other. Avoiding generic statements is the best bet, to be as specific as possible. But there is a caveat; specificity and rigidity are often confused in this context.
While it is great to be as specific in your goals as possible (which goes on to show that you put enough amount of research in the plans and it is not just a doodle in the air), rigidity won’t take you anywhere. Instead, if you are clear about your goals, you will often end up with several alternative paths (specific and non-rigid: best combo) to reach them.
The best position is to be able to show that you’ve already taken baby steps towards your dreams, that while an MBA from their school will greatly increase the odds of your success, you will pursue your dreams nonetheless.
Now that you’ve convinced everyone around that MBA is the right weapon in your arsenal, you should also know if a particular school is the right one for you (the idea is picked from Dating Conundrums 101).
Now this is where your short listing criteria should jump out: curriculum (content/structure), A-list professor(s), the culture which is amazing to you, the strong alumni network, the cost/location considerations (if any) etc.
There needs to be a right combination of emotion and reasoning; a personal sales pitch which shows you as a baseless day-dreamer on one end or a soul-less human bot on the other cannot do any good.
When it comes to big-shot schools, they also take into account your probable future trajectory; are you any good when it comes to strengthening their brand name? Will you take their name forward as a faithful crusader for all the right causes?
Your past accomplishments and the diverse set of experiences you have had will be a huge factor in deciding the ‘wow factor’ to be associated with your profile. Do you remember the last movie which had the same story, actors, filming locations and twists in the plot? Guess what, in all probability it will have the same banal climax as well, and the worst part is, that it is banal. Nobody likes boring!
The whole MBA prep process has a silver-lining though: you get to know yourself as an individual, if you dare to be truthful enough. Honesty renders an aura of spontaneity and invincibility, which is in short supply in these days of inflated achievements and fake resumes. If you are in this rat race just for the sake of money or because you are bored (or both), good luck convincing the AdCom!
Author Bio: I am Rohit, an engineer by education, a data analyst by profession and a reader by inclination. Since 2012, I’ve been writing about self-improvement, productivity, coping with life as it comes and just being plain happy. I blog at http://urbangallivant.wordpress.com/
The Why MBA essay question cannot be answered in isolation. Keep in mind that the Adcom will form a perception of your profile based on all the material that you submit.
When you are working on your MBA essays for any school, look at the other questions as well and design a response for each of the other questions before you start expanding on each.