One of the greatest mistakes I see applicants make in their MBA application is being short-sighted about goals – only focusing on what they want to do immediately post-MBA or what they think the admission teams want to hear. Aspiring MBA candidates often misunderstand what it means to gain admission. By offering admission, business schools state that they believe in the candidates’ potential for long-term success. Misunderstanding the importance of goals and not aligning the impact they look to make long-term with a school’s vision often leads to great candidates not being accepted.
To avoid this fate, applicants should reflect on the role they want to play as global citizens and leaders in their field. Here are three elements that, as an applicant, you must articulate in your MBA applications.
Step 1: Your North Star Guides You in Life and Work
When it comes to admission to M7s and top-20 business schools, the admission committee is looking for future leaders who will impact businesses and the community they are a part of. Therefore, your long-term goals are your guiding principle – the North Star – that drives your every decision in your career. With that in mind, start with clearly articulating where you are looking to make an impact. Are you interested in leading sustainability-minded logistics? Help small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) develop strategies around data safety? Are you looking to create alternate ways to educate youth? These are only a few examples of possible paths towards which you can direct your long-term journey. Where is your North Star guiding you?
Given that the most impactful goals are the ones tied to purpose, I suggest that you write out how you envision making an impact in your field and why that impact matters? Otherwise, you risk your long-term goals coming across as shallow. When you write out your long-term vision, be as specific as possible, including having a title in mind and naming the company you would like to work for, even if it’s your own.
Step 2: Your Post-MBA Job is a step in the direction of your North Star
Once you’ve identified your guiding North Star, every other professional decision should support that journey. Therefore, reverse engineer the roles you must hold along the way to help you get to your long-term goal. Typically, multiple paths can be followed in executing a long-term plan – having only one direction can be a red flag for many admission teams. The goal you write in your application should identify the shortest path, but you must still identify alternate routes in case the most straightforward approach does not pan out. Suppose your goal is to lead sustainable-minded logistics for retail. In that case, short-term, you may want to either go to industry or perhaps join a sustainable consulting firm that will help you understand how various companies deal with sustainability before you lead strategy in the retail space.
Step 3: Your MBA is your training ground to help you weather the journey
Identifying your short- and long-term goals is not enough. It would help if you also outline the skills you already have and what you will need to develop to help you get there. This is particularly important as it enables you to select an MBA program that provides the right resources and support systems to help you achieve your goals. For example, suppose you do not have prior experience in sustainability-focused business decisions; in that case, a school that offers classroom training, hands-on learning opportunities, and a network of like-minded peers is essential, regardless of their rank. The schools you select should have a structure, a track record, a support system in helping students weather their journey in the field you are interested in.
There are many elements in a candidate’s profile that admission committees consider when putting together a class. Beyond the standardized tests, academic performance, and professional achievements, which are table stakes for M7s and Top-20 MBA programs, the goals are their guiding principle in selecting students and maintaining high placement. Superficial goals, without depth and meaning, do not do a good job conveying a thoughtful future leader who is inspired to make a positive change in their field. Therefore, take the necessary time to research and clarify your goals to increase your chances of admission.
Prior to founding Sia Admissions, Susan worked at an NYC-based Hedge Fund and a Belgian-based PE firm. Committed to success, she operates with the premise that each applicant has a unique story to tell. Her goal is to coach prospective students to present a story sympathetic to their ambitions while taking into account the target b-school’s mission and its admissions criteria to ensure the highest probability of acceptance. Susan offers one-on-one admission coaching to high-achieving MBA aspirants targeting M7 and top-20 MBA programs.