A few years ago, in the good old days when Wharton still offered feedback to rejected applicants, I talked with a potential client who happened to be reapplying to Wharton. I asked him whether he’d obtained feedback on his application, and he said yes. Well? “Actually they said they really liked my application. They said I was well qualified, and I would be a good fit for the school.” Pause. “The problem was my goals. Venture capital. They said it wasn’t a feasible goal for me.”
Like many people, this person dreamed of going into VC – he surely could do it, given the chance, and it would be wonderful for him – just that his chances of getting a VC job post-MBA were about zero. The adcom knew that, and he should have known it too.
Inappropriate goals, ineffectively presented goals, and impractical goals can get otherwise well qualified applicants dinged from top MBA programs. This story is not an isolated case. I have heard similar ones every year for thirteen-plus years.
How do you avoid this scenario? Effort. Thought. Research. Many people start their MBA application process with their goals sort of sketched out in their head. But sketched out won’t cut it, and if you focus only on what you’d like personally without figuring out how you’re going to make it happen, you might not realize that there are a few obstacles, as the person in the above story belatedly discovered. It’s not that you should never present complex or difficult goals in an MBA essay, but rather that if you do you should acknowledge that fact and have some concrete sense of how to achieve them. If the above applicant had said in his original essay that he knew how hard it would be for him to land a VC job and here’s how he was planning to go about it, and if it still didn’t work out, here’s what he’d do instead that would also take him to his long-term goals, he might have been admitted, considering how positively the adcom viewed the rest of his application.
So what exactly are well-articulated, credible, engaging – and ideally exciting – goals, and how do you craft them in the goals essay? The next four posts in this blog series will walk you through that process step by step.
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 and she would love to help you too. Click here to get in touch!
• Focus on Fit, a podcast episode
• Do You Know the 4 Factors for Assessing Your MBA Profile?
• Business School Selectivity Index, a tool to help you discover the schools where you are competitive