The Struggle for a Compelling MBA Goals Essay

About a month ago UniQpath aptly named her post on the challenge of writing a compelling MBA goals essay: “Struggle.” It ain’t easy. Most schools ask why you want an MBA and why you want it from this school. It only makes sense before you invest the time and money in an MBA that you should be able to answer those questions. It’s not “just” an admissions question.

UniQPath asks, “How do I link my ‘specific goals’ to that university’s MBA program offering?” That’s your mission when writing a goals essay. I would add that you also have to show that your goals are anchored in your experience. Usually you make these connections in the goals essay, but sometimes, depending on the wording of the question and your particular history, you may do so in other essays as well or instead of in the goals essay.

In any case, UniQpath asks a series of excellent questions. My answers are indented.

1) Core program curriculum – BUT, most B-schools have more or less the same type of courses in the core areas (finance, accounting, marketing, etc)

The schools cover these areas from different perspectives and in different ways. Is it a case study school, project-oriented school, or a school that uses a mix of pedagogical methods? Is it a school that emphasizes the connections between different functional areas in business or does it rely on you to connect the dots — if you want to connect them. Do you want a structured program or do you want a highly flexible one that you will be able to mold to your specific needs? Which approach do you prefer and why?

2) Clubs, Activities – BUT, most B-schools have more or less the same type of clubs (ASIA club, Entrepreneurship club)

There is certainly overlap, but there are also specific clubs for niche industries and interests. If you have an niche interest then tie it to the niche clubs. For example some schools, like Columbia, have Luxury Goods Clubs. That tidbit would be great to know if luxury goods product management or marketing is your goal. Look for the differences, not the sameness. MIT just announced a great program in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. It is ground-breaking and new. Find out if it fits your needs and if yes, why and how?

3) Programs – Chances of some difference arise here. Most top schools offer a global practicum, b-plan competitions, case competitions etc

Dig deeper. They don’t all offer the same things and in the same ways. How will some of these special programs help you accomplish your goals? Where are the school’s ties? Is it near Wall St. with excellent IB connections? Or is it near a start-up hot bed? Some have closer ties to Europe, some to Latin American and some to Asia. Where are your interests?

4) World Class Faculty – Hmmm, every school has its own cream

Specifics please. Which faculty would you like to study with? What are you really interested in? Who is doing cutting edge research in that topic? How could that research help you achieve your goals?

5) Commitment to Community – So many b-schools have started emphasizing this lately.

True, but community isn’t just geographic. It can be a community of interest, background, belief, profession. Please see “MBA Admissions: What You Can Do Now to Get Accepted Next Year.” What have you done for your community, however you define it, recently?

6) Student Culture/Personality – THIS one begs to differ. Each b-school has its own persona, that projects itself into the dynamic community that the school represents.

100%. That’s why visits, attending school receptions, info sessions, and reading student blogs and newspapers are so important. Those activities will give you insight into the schools’ cultures and personalities.