Three Essential Keys To The Goals Essay

There are 3 essential ingredients to a successful MBA goals essay, arguably the most common and important essay in MBA applications. Your MBA goals essay must be:

  1. Focused
  2. Anecdotal
  3. Realistic

Let’s take a peek under the hood of each element:

Focused: Your short-term goal should include one function you would like to perform and one or two industries you would like to work in. You can also mention geographic location, if it is relevant. Your long-term MBA goal, usually your goal five to ten years after you earn your degree, can be fuzzier, but should progress organically from your intended studies in b-school and your short-term goal.

Anecdotal: Depending on the question asked, try to open with a brief, relevant story. An engaging anecdote, particularly at the essay’s beginning, draws your reader into your material, makes your goal more concrete and credible, and distinguishes you. It may also highlight a related achievement as well as strong, experiential reasons for your choosing this path to professional success.

Realistic: A realistic goal is achievable given:

  1. An MBA from this school. This program has to have the curriculum, career management services/recruiting connections, and extracurricular opportunities to help you achieve your objectives. If you are asked “Why this school?” show how these characteristics will help you realize your professional dreams. The fit between these school assets and your career goal builds a compelling case for your acceptance — and a winning answer to the question.
  2. Your past experience. Demonstrate that your past experience supports your ambitions. What transferable skills or knowledge, when combined with your MBA from this school, qualify you for the career you want? This is particularly important if you are making a major career change (industry and function) or if you want to go into a particularly clubby field, like private equity or venture capital.

Caution: Writing “I want to go into marketing, consulting, or investment banking…” screams “I haven’t a clue what I want to do.” Bad idea. Remember the F in FAR. Focus.

Go FAR in the MBA application process. Write a focused, anecdotal, realistic MBA goals essay. It will take you much closer to acceptance at your dream schools and your post-MBA goal.

By Linda Abraham, CEO and founder of and co-author of the soon-to released book, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools. Linda has been helping MBA applicants gain acceptance to top MBA programs since 1994.

Our Series On Perfecting Your MBA Essays:



  • HomerSimpson

    Hi Linda,
    Could an argument of the sort “I don’t know what to do. An MBA will help me figure this out” be used for the question “Why MBA?”

  • Thanks for the feedback. It sounds like you do have the elements for a strong goals essay. Best of luck with it and the rest of the application.


  • Di

    Hi Linda,

    Thanks so much for the really detailed response with deep insights. I am really glad that my biggest concern is finally answered from someone with tremendous experience. I just thought that my path is quite non-traditional and most of the tips I have read from various sources could not really apply to my situation. I have definitely gotten a clearer picture after this and it’s all coming together in terms of putting my story together for a more competitive application.

    I have been working in Singapore for the past 3.5 years in 2 different industries, hoping to gain international exposure and get a feel of the dynamics in different industries. I wish to return back to my home country Indonesia to help out with my father and brother, with the aim of expanding the business and hopefully 1 day even internationally. The MBA is definitely a crucial bridge and I hope I have a strong enough application to get into a top program with a strong entrepreneurship focus/program

    Thanks again!

  • Very much. Are you going to take it over as CEO immediately, or how do you see yourself growing into the CEO role? Obviously you know the industry and location. Will you start in operations, finance, or marketing? Show that you have given your future path thought and not just “I’m going into the family business” however that works out.

    Regarding past experience, I assume that you have some work experience, although you may not. Presumably you have worked perhaps in the business over the summer or elsewhere. How has your previous experience given you insight into what your family business needs? If you think your parents are doing a great job running it, then how has your experience either working at this business or others confirmed the wisdom of their policies?

    If you haven’t worked professionally, have you led student organizations or sports teams? Have those leadership or organizational experiences given you insight into what your family business needs or again what it’s doing right?

    Focused, anecdotal, and realistic still applies if your post-MBA goal is to run a family business.


  • Di

    Do these apply as well, if my goal is to take over the family business/entrepreneurship post MBA? There will be no past experience and limited options for internships, how can we try to sell this?

  • Thanks for the feedback. I’m glad you like them!

  • Small School

    Thank you for these articles! They are VERY helpful!