Many business school goals essays explicitly ask you to explain why you are applying now. Why do they ask this? In one sense, it’s another way of getting a fix on how certain you are that an MBA is right for you. That is, the “why now?” question is a disguised maturity and focus question and, as such, a complementary variation on the goals and “why an MBA?” questions. You may have detailed, rock-solid career goals and an airtight case for how the MBA gets you to them, but if you can’t say why you need to begin the MBA process now – rather than two years from now – adcoms may conclude that you’re applying now for the wrong reasons. A good “why now?” message gives your application that extra sense of urgency or momentum that can move you from the ding or wait-list piles to the admit basket.
So, whether your school asks the “why now?” question overtly or not, you need to provide an explicit or implicit answer. The implicit answer will be the subliminal message that should be flashing throughout your goal essay’s career progress section: that the trajectory of your skills, leadership roles, and functional breadth has been rising inexorably, so only the lack of an MBA keeps you from bursting into glory into the management ranks. Your explicit answer will support the subliminal answer all along the following lines:
Career plateau. Your learning curve has flattened, and no new challenges are foreseeable in the next two years. If you stay any longer in your current career path, you will risk being pigeonholed as a “[insert your job here],” and breaking out will only become harder.
Goals epiphany. You have only just recently realized what your career’s purpose (post-MBA goal) is, and now that you know it, there’s simply no reason to delay.
Post-MBA goals have time element. Your post-MBA plans are linked to trends that will begin to gel about the time you earn your MBA. You can’t afford to wait to gain the skills to capitalize on these trends.
Maturity. You finally have the professional and personal savvy, balance, and perspective to make the wise decision to invest in your long-term future. (This is an acceptable way of saying ‘My age matches the median age of the people you admit.’)
Natural break in career. You’re approaching the end of a clearly demarcated career phase, such as a corporation’s two-year management training program or a one-year overseas posting.
Excerpted from “Great Application Essays for Business School” by Paul Bodine (McGraw-Hill).
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