Serving up the Weak Sauce: Why Your Goals Put the Admissions Committee to Sleep

Summertime is a great time to hone your favorite recipe on the grill. But it’s also a great time to hone your MBA goals. Soon your application will get grilled by the admissions committee . . .

So take some time this summer to focus on your future. Don’t let a poorly written goals essay stop you from getting into the school of your choice.

Here are three tips to writing an effective, convincing goals essay:

1.  Connect the Dots:  From Your Past to the Future

The best goals essays have a connection to your past and point to a believable future. Introduce your goals by briefly describing your experience in the field you want to enter post-MBA. This is especially important if you are a career switcher. For example, if you’re switching from accounting to luxury brand management, you better have some pretty strong evidence that you’re already well-situated in the industry. Mention recent contacts that you’ve made, associations you belong to, a side business you’ve started, or contract work that you’ve done. 

Make sure these connections to your future are recent. College experience alone probably won’t cut it.

2.  Be Specific

Nothing is more exasperating than reading an essay with vague goals. It’s guaranteed to make the admissions committee snooze. Be as specific as possible so you keep them interested, and even better, excited to find out more about you.

For your short-term goal, mention a specific job that you would like to have post-graduation. Explain why your past experience would make you qualified to enter into that field. Mention an innovation you plan to institute there. (Keep it strong, but small. You’ll want to have room to really impress with innovations you plan for your long-term goal.) Finally, explain what skills an MBA would provide you with that you do not already have that would help you succeed in this position.

For your long-term goal, get the admissions committee jumping out of their seats. Give them a goal that will interest them so much that they will want to help you get into their program. Start out with a brief overview of the industry or sector you plan to enter. How will it change over the next 10-15 years? Select a particular innovation to institute or trend to harness. Explain your plan. Finally, describe how taking two years right now to get an MBA will position you to become a leader, not only within a company, but within an industry.

3. Do Your Research

Get out and network. Talk both to people who have the career you want when you graduate and to people who have the career you want 10-15 years down the line. Ask them how they got that position and how their MBA helped them make an impact.

Also, ask these contacts how your background would be an asset to the field you want to enter. In your goals essay, you can refer to these conversations as supporting evidence to convince the admissions committee that you can and will achieve these goals. And that other successful people believe in your abilities too.

So have some fun this summer. But invest some time in really sharpening those goals. You’ll enjoy the payoff in your future!

By Michelle Stockman, who is happy to answer any of your questions about writing a compelling goals essay. Please feel free to leave them in comments to this post.

  • Sameer

    Hi Michelle,

    For somone who wants to be an entrepreneur right out of school, wouldn’t the long term career goals not-shine-so-much in front of the short term goals: you can at most talk about how you can grow your company? Would really appreciate your thoughts on this. Thanks

  • Michelle Stockman

    Great Question. As an entrepreneur, your long-term goals can still shine.

    With your short-term goals, you want to discuss how an MBA can help you strengthen your current company. For example, you can talk about how you would take your current product or service into new markets. Explain why you think your company could succeed there. But don’t forget to discuss why you need an MBA to make it happen.

    In your long-term goal, you can talk about how you plan to make your company into a "brand." For example, once you’ve established a firm market
    share based on your company’s current strengths, what other products or services could you bring under your brand umbrella? What strategic partnerships would make sense to help you expand the brand into other products and services in the future? Again, make sure you mention aspects of your intended MBA program that can help you think on a macro scale for the future.

    Let me know if you have other questions.


  • Sameer

    Thanks a lot Michelle! The "brand" thing really makes a lot of sense. I do have another related question. You mention, "The best goals essays have a connection to your past and point to a believable future", in that context how "believable" are goals around entrepreneurship? Are they viewed with skepticism? First, as very few students start their own venture immediately upon graduation and second, the whole cost aspect of an MBA makes it difficult to believe that people would be willing to take such risks immediately without some financial stability. Looking forward to your thoughts on this. Thanks a lot.

  • Michelle Stockman

    1. Goals that deal with entrepreneurship are definitely more believable if you have already started your venture, it enjoyed moderate success, but it is still small. That way you can refer to the past, but point to your future.

    But you’re right, most people wait a little while to start an entrepreneurial venture after graduating. But not everyone does. If you’ve got a great idea, the admissions committee will recognize it.

    To address the concern about financial stability, it would be wise to disclose how much revenue you’ve been able to make with your company, or explain how you plan to support yourself during school. Explain why the cost you would incur for your education is worth it.

    You would also need to talk about why you need an MBA to help your company grow. It might be the professional connections you can make, or the financial strategy skills you would learn that could catapult your company forward. With an MBA you may be able to make smarter decisions sooner within the lifecycle of the company.

    If you want to go global, any type of international program that your program offers could be an asset to the future of your company.

    Please let me know if you have any other questions.