Short- and long-term goals
Before you start drafting your goals essays, work out three levels of goals: short-term, intermediate, and long-term. It helps to have this whole picture in your mind regardless of where you’ll “zoom in” for a particular essay. Short-term is immediately post MBA to about two years later; intermediate is about two to five years post MBA; and long-term is the rest. Usually essays ask for short- and long-term goals, but you’ll need intermediate as the bridge between them.
Short-term goals are the most specific, for obvious reasons – they’re closer in time and they’re also the direct link to the MBA program. As you describe successive steps, use less and less detail in each, because the further out you project, the less certain things are. Don’t go beyond what’s practical, e.g., describing in detail what you’ll be doing in twenty years. Adapt each phase to reality too. If your targeted industry (say, healthcare) is in great flux, that point should be reflected in your goals.
Responding to specific goals questions
Different sets of essay questions will emphasize different aspects of the goals; they’ll require different lengths and have different tones. Some are open; other are focused and directed. They key is to “read” not just the words but the tone of the question. Anecdotally, I’ve noticed a trend toward short, focused goals essay questions; there are fewer 1,000 word goals essays, fewer essays asking for your “vision.” Most want the facts, straight.
Read the question carefully, and emphasize in your essay what the question emphasizes (e.g., short-term or long-term equal or do they just mention post-MBA goal?). In other words, be guided by the question. That doesn’t mean you can’t bring in other elements, but they should support your main points.
Often the question asks why you want an MBA or want to attend the particular program. Link these points directly to your goals. If you can weave in your school visit and/or interactions with students and alumni, great!
By Cindy Tokumitsu, author and co-author of numerous ebooks, articles, and special reports, including Why MBA and Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One. Cindy has advised hundreds of successful applicants in her fifteen years with Accepted.com.