On one hand, the new USC Marshall MBA essay question is very focused: goals, why Marshall. There is a little twist, however, which gives the question an intriguing complexity: personal and/or professional goals… What does this twist say about Marshall? That the adcom trusts you to frame your goals in the most meaningful way, and to reveal or not reveal personal considerations and plans as you see fit. Knowing yourself – what you want and need and why, and knowing how to present and share what’s important about you will be keys to contributing to Marshall’s collaborative community and making productive use of Marshall’s flexible program. In this one essay, convey that knowledge.
Required Essay: What are your short-term and long-term personal and/or professional goals following graduation from USC Marshall? How will USC Marshall enable you to develop or improve your skills in order to reach your goals? (500-700 words)
Most people will want to address professional goals in this essay, and I suggest doing so. As far as personal goals, there is no one formula that works for everyone; some may address this point extensively, and some not at all – and both approaches may be exactly right for those particular applicants. That said, there is not necessarily a solid line between personal and professional goals, and so if you address (a) how you intend your career to develop and (b) how you want to grow through the MBA experience, that will likely be just fine, and you needn’t worry about personal versus professional.
The key is to be specific about whatever goals you do discuss. Clarify why the goal is important to you, and give some concrete and practical expression of what achieving it will look like. Don’t forget to discuss both short- and long-term goals, and for the former, for professional goals be specific about industry, function, type of company, perhaps geography.
In explaining how USC Marshall will facilitate these goals, cite particular qualities and aspects of the program that address your learning and growth needs, and/or your academic or professional interests. Rather than citing 10 things you like about the program, focus on the top 2-4 in some depth, with thoughtful insight about their applicability to you.
Optional essay: Please provide any additional information that you believe is important and/or will address any areas of concern that will be beneficial to the Admissions Committee in considering your application. (250 words)
This question invites you to both discuss points that will enhance your application and explain anything that needs explaining (e.g., gap in employment, choice of recommender, etc.). For the former, if you ask the adcom to read additional material, make sure that it truly illuminates and is germane to your candidacy. It should not be something that is just nice for the adcom to know.
Re-application Essay: Please describe any significant professional, personal, or academic growth since your last application to the USC Marshall School of Business. Discuss your specific professional goals and how the USC Marshall Full-Time Program will help you achieve these goals. (500 words)
The key to a successful reapplication is to show growth and that’s the job of this essay. At least one of the growth points you present should be professional – there are the obvious things like a promotion or a new project to lead, and less obvious things like new industry or functional exposure, informal leadership, a challenge or problem that “stretched” your skills and perspective. In describing goals, if they’ve changed from the previous application, note why.
Cindy Tokumitsu is the author and co-author of numerous ebooks, articles, and admissions guides, 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.