MBA Application Essays Part 1: Career Progress And Career Goals Essays

Essay tips for Career-Progress Career-Goals MBA-application-essays

Introducing MBA Prep School’s Essay Writing Boot Camp Series

MBA Prep School  has created this Essay Writing Boot Camp article series exclusively for Poets&Quants readers. The six articles in the series combine to provide MBA applicants with “basic training” on how to develop and write successful MBA application essays.

Your MBA application essays can be your most powerful weapon in the fight to gain admission to a top business school. This Essay Writing Boot Camp series is designed to serve as an introduction to the application essay writing process.

In the first three articles in this series, we’ll categorize the most frequently asked MBA application essay questions and offer some tips on how to score top marks with your answers to each type of question.

In the fourth article in this series, we’ll highlight the qualities that MBA programs especially value —characteristics you should seek to showcase when writing your application essays.

In the fifth article, we will teach you how to develop promising topics and stories for your essays.

In the sixth and final installment in our series, we’ll share a valuable outlining framework that will not only enable you to identify your best stories but will also make writing excellent essays that much easier.

Once you’ve completed basic training, you will be ready for MBA Prep School’s advanced course on MBA essay writing: the MBA Essay Professor series. It’s free for a limited time to Poets&Quants readers.

Part 1 – Career Progress and Career Goals Essays

This is the first article in MBA Prep School’s Essay Writing Boot Camp series, so let’s begin by getting to know our “enemy” — the MBA application essays!

In this article and in the next two in this series, we’ll discuss the most commonly asked types of MBA application essay questions, and we’ll provide some quick tips for scoring top marks with your responses.

Every business school designs their own essay questions and words them in a unique way. Yet, despite differences in wording and presentation, the various schools’ questions are mostly asking for the same types of information from their candidates. Therefore, at the outset of your essay writing campaign, it will be advantageous for you to learn to recognize the most frequently asked questions. In this three-article series, we are going to discuss seven common types of MBA application essay questions:

  • Career Progress Essays
  • Career Goals Essays
  • Why Our School? Essays
  • Contributions to the Class Essays
  • Leadership Essays
  • Past Decisions Essays
  • Setbacks Essays

Career Progress Essays

The first category of MBA application essay questions that you may encounter asks you to recount the progress you’ve made in your career thus far. This type of essay question offers you the opportunity to convey your achievements on the job and your professional growth.

Here are a couple of Career Progress essay questions from the current application season:

Kellogg Essay 2: Pursuing an MBA is a catalyst for personal and professional growth. How have you grown in the past? How do you intend to grow at Kellogg?

UCLA Anderson Reapplicant Essay: Please describe your career progress since you last applied and how you have enhanced your candidacy.

Additional example essay questions include:

  • Briefly summarize your career progress.
  • Tell us about your career-to-date.
  • What is your most significant professional achievement?

When answering Career Progress questions, bullet points won’t do – the admissions committee will already have a copy of your resume. So, what is the admissions committee looking for in the Career Progress essay? They want to read a “Career Story” — a kind of executive summary of your career to date. An effective response to a Career Progress essay question connects the dots, fills in the white spaces between those dots, and, in doing so, brings your resume to life.

Business school admissions committees admit high achievers. To score top marks on a Career Progress essay, you’ll need to provide evidence of distinguished career performance in the top 10% of your peer group that demonstrates your potential for future advancement.

Career Goals Essays

Your career advancement is certainly important to the top business schools. Nevertheless, an acceptance letter to the best business school isn’t a blue ribbon for past achievements. Admissions officers are interested in what you’ve achieved thus far as a way to forecast your potential for making an even bigger impact in the future. While admissions officers do care about your career story, most are more focused on learning about your plans for the future. Therefore, at some point in the MBA application process — in an essay, on the application form, or an interview — you’re almost sure to be asked to discuss your career goals.

To prove our point, here are a couple of Career Goals essay questions from the current application season:

Columbia Essay 1: Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next 3-5 years and what, in your imagination, would be your long-term dream job?

Michigan Ross Essay: Michigan Ross is a place where people from all backgrounds with different career goals can thrive. Please share your short-term career goal. Why is this the right choice for you?

Some other variations include:

  • What are your professional objectives?
  • What is your career vision?
  • Where do you want to be 10 years from now?
  • Tell us about your dream job.

When it comes to answering this question, you can earn top marks by demonstrating that you have passion for the career you describe and that your career goals are fueled by a larger sense of purpose — rather than by a desire for a bigger paycheck.

MBA admissions officers will applaud lofty ambitions, but they will also expect to see a credible career action plan that connects the dots between your current skills and experiences and your future aspirations.


Learn from Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, and the other top MBAs how they wrote essays that got them in!


Tyler Cormney  is the co-founder of MBA Prep School, a full-service, boutique MBA admissions consulting firm that specializes in helping aspiring MBA candidates realize their dream of attending an elite business school. As a graduate of both Harvard Business School and USC’s Professional Writing Program, Tyler draws upon his unique blend of creative writing, strategic thinking, and coaching skills to help applicants stand out from the competition for a place in the most selective MBA programs, including Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton.

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