Most schools ask why you want an MBA and why you want it from this school. And really, even if they didn’t ask you, you should still ask yourself. Before you invest the time and money in an MBA, you should know the answers to those questions. It’s not “just” an admissions question.
When you sit down to write a goals essay, your mission is to link your unique goals with the mission or goals of your target MBA program. You also have to show that your goals are anchored in your experience. (Usually you’ll 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).
Here are some tips to help you with this goal-linking process and get ready to write a stand-out goals essay:
1. Look at the school’s core curriculum
It’s true that most b-schools have more or less the same type of courses in the core areas (finance, accounting, marketing, etc), but they’ll cover these areas from different perspectives and in different ways. Do they use the case study method, or are they more project-oriented? Or do they use 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. Explore the clubs and activities
There is definitely overlap between the schools in this area as well, but there are also specific clubs for niche industries and interests that are only found at certain schools. If you have a 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.
3. Check out the special programs at each school
Most top schools offer a global practicum, b-plan competitions, case competitions, etc. But you need to dig even 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 startup hub? Some have closer ties to Europe, some to Latin American and some to Asia. Where are your interests? As an example: MIT has a great program in Entrepreneurship and Innovation – find out if it fits your needs and if it does, why and how?
4. Research the school’s faculty
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. Keep an eye on a school’s commitment to community
Keep in mind that community isn’t just geographic. It can be a community of interest, background, belief, profession. What have you done for your community, however you define it, recently?
6. Pay attention to student culture/personality
Each b-school has its own persona that projects itself into the dynamic community that the school represents. That’s why visits, attending school receptions, info sessions, and reading student blogs and school newsletters are so important. Each of these will give you insight into the schools’ cultures and personalities.