It’s important that you have some idea of what your goals are before you begin your MBA application, not just because it’ll make writing your goals essay easier, but it’ll help you determine which schools are best for you, which concentrations you’d like to pursue, where you’d like to study, etc.
Spend a good chunk of time thinking about why you’d like to pursue an MBA. When applications ask about your “goals,” they’re really asking you, “Why do you need an MBA?” or more specifically, “How will you benefit from a Harvard (or Stanford or Wharton) MBA?”
The challenge here is to think of goals that go beyond the superficial and obvious (or at least to think of an original way to express your less-than-original goals). For example, “I want to go into marketing” won’t cut it, but if marketing is a passion and a goal of yours, then there are ways to frame it without falling into the boring trap, mainly through the use of details. For example, “I would like to be a consumer goods brand manager” is specific and concrete. It will automatically distinguish you from others interested in marketing in general or any area of marketing other than consumer goods. And if you can convey how your interest in consumer good marketing developed, your MBA goal will have legs. Furthermore, details will make your essay or interview response interesting, credible, and individualized.
The following tips will demonstrate that you’ve thought long and hard about your goals and why receiving an MBA is a necessary step towards achieving your goals:
- Utilize the MAP principle. MAP stands for Motivation, Aspiration, and Perspiration. What motivated you to pursue activities related to your goal? Where did you previously invest effort and sweat? What do you aspire to in the future that relates to your answers to the previous two questions? Depending on the actual wording of the question, you’ll probably want to include these three elements in responding to goals questions.
- Distinguish between short-term, long-term, and intermediate goals. At each of these stages, what would your ideal position be? What type of company? And in what industry? These positions/companies/industries may change as you transition from the short-term to the long-term. Although you can be increasingly fuzzy as you look farther into the future, for your immediate post-MBA goals use specific examples of job functions and companies to further illustrate how much you’ve thought about your future. Depending on the question, your goals, and the timeframe, you may be able to include concepts of vision, innovation, and contribution.
- Prove that your goals are realistic. Look up hiring trends, services, organization, market status, products, competitive concerns, etc. at your desired companies.
- Become familiar with the challenges of your chosen industry. Are there any current events that have affected your industry?
- Be prepared to discuss why you’re attracted to your target positions/industry. Most questions won’t specifically ask about your motivations for pursuing your particular goals, but keeping your motivations in mind while you write will help you present a more engaging story with a stronger message—ingredients that will further help your essay stand out.
Following these steps during the pre-writing stage of your goals essay will help you formulate a clear, compelling, and original portrayal of your goals. It will also make the actual writing of any goals essays move more quickly and effortlessly. For more ideas on how to write MBA goals essays, please visit MBA Goals 101.
By Linda Abraham, CEO and founder of Accepted.com, the leading MBA admissions consultancy, and co-author of the new 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.
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