If you are preparing for your essay or interview responses to the question- “How will an MBA from our school help you?”, this article will help you create a very seamless expression. I will also give you a sample essay at the end – we will start with an average written essay to give you an understanding of where most of you will go wrong- and then I will turn that essay around and create a strong expression- I will also give you my analysis of why was the weak essay a weak essay and what are the attributes of the strong essay. You could be applying to any school - they are going to throw this question at you. If you have started the applications or even if you have seen the interview questions or the essay topics, you must have realized one common theme- Everyone school wants to find out WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT TO YOU- As you go down the rankings of the MBA programs, the intensity of the research might fizzle a little bit, but this question will never disappear. That has been the underlying theme of the top MBA programs- and it gets reflected in their questions-
See the following ESSAY TOPICS for example
Tell us about your career plans. How have your past experiences prepared you to achieve these goals? How will Berkeley-Haas help you? (500 words maximum)
How will the Booth MBA help you achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA career goals?
Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals going forward, and how will the Columbia MBA help you achieve them?
When asked by your family, friends, and colleagues why you want to go to Duke, what do you tell them? Share the reasons that are most meaningful to you.
Based on your research and interactions, describe how your strengths will contribute to the Tepper Community. How will you benefit from being a member of the Tepper MBA Program?
What are your post-MBA plans and how will your past experience and the London Business School programme contribute?
What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA?
Similar questions are going to come even in your interviews.
To better understand the approach needed to answer this question, let us start with:
Why do they ask this question?
They are not fishing for compliments. It is their way of finding “WHY DO YOU WANT THEM?” and if they will be able to fulfill your expectations.
Think about it this way- only by engaging in this process of finding out what you do you want to be in life or how can a program help you, you are sort of creating a basic framework for the exploration you will go through for those two years of your life or one year for applicants looking at one year programs- it is like – you are creating the Intentions for yourself- and then - once you are there- you will actively work on fulfilling those intentions. That being said- even though your goals may change completely once you are there- and as you change your goals, you will probably change the way you will take advantage of the MBA program- but you will still have a broad level idea of what you are getting into. For them- you are sort of creating a BASIC design of your course of action – and when you are at the school- you will be executing that COURSE of action or probably a more refined version of it.
Two different MBA students at any top school can have a very very different experience of that MBA program. These schools have enormous resources of classes, clubs, seminars, networking events, incubators, professional associations- the opportunities that these schools offer are HUGE( Show a pipeline of information passing from here and there). They need to know what part of the information flow will you be interested in here( Show this with a different color).
Mutual Existence: Based on your response, the schools also get to assess if they are capable enough to meet your expectations( although their assumption is that you are ambitious- and that is why- they ask for elaborated goal statements), and with your vision, the schools want to identify if they will be able to do the job for you. Well- this clearly tells us that – if you do not know where you are headed- you can not know Why do you want them to TAKE You "WHERE?"
Step by Step Approach to writing an essay on “What are your career goals, and how will a particular school help you in achieving those?”
Identify your goals: What you aspire to be in the future?
This is the first step to get started with. You need to identify what are your short term and long term objectives . There is a dedicated video on short term long term goals video for all the PythaGURUS MBA Consulting applicants. Get in touch with us if you are exploring MBA Consulting Services at PythaGURUS Education. That video talks about how to create a seamless equation of employability- Past + MBA = Short term + Long term goals. And when you identify those objectives, I do not want you to limit yourself theoretically – I mean- do not simply tell yourself that you want to be a consultant- or an investment banker or an entrepreneur or a product manager- rather- envision yourself as these- Create a vision for your best SELF after an MBA from your target school- and do not limit yourself to simply your designations post MBA. As I said- do not limit yourself to theory- rather- create an image for yourself in terms of what will you be capable of- the designations and the roles are an outcome of what you eventually are capable of performing. Find that out.
Assume that your post-MBA role is starting next Monday- and you have somehow been able to land that job even without an MBA- Make a list of your existing skill sets- that you will be able to deploy right on the first day. This would mean- make a repository of all your existing skill sets.
Identify what is missing- What are some of the things that you will not be able to do in your post MBA career without an MBA from your target school- and yes! You will have to do this for every school. The point that I am trying to make here is – that you simply cannot limit yourself to stating that a school will get you into product management- that is a job that you want- and the school will ensemble resources to get you there- but the point is – What is stopping you from lets say - in five years- becoming the best professional who can roll out new products- hand hold a team through the entire life cycle- plan and strategize effective marketing campaigns- and make the product a HIT. And then do the same thing with a very different product. Lay the skill sets of your Future positions: ( Identify the list of skills needed for becoming a product manager). We assumed that your post-MBA job is starting next Monday without an MBA- and then ask yourself – what are the major limitations you will face if you did not go to this school. Even if you are planning to stay in your existing industry and function, you still need to be very clear about how the school will elevate your abilities- what are you struggling with- rather than focusing on how you will be a senior consultant or a senior manager after MBA. No- schools see themselves as transformational bodies-and they want to experience your awareness of the transformation you want to experience in an MBA.
Start Exploring the Resources from the school (Read the section within this article that talks about - what parameters to look at while researching on a school- What defines a school? Once you know what is missing for you- once you know what are you currently not capable of- and if you have a list of 10 things you would want – now – you just need to fill in the gaps- Sources for these- Networking attend school information seminars, do informational interviews, make class visits, explore the website of your programs( although – many applicants are limited to only exploring the website, but that is not sufficient. )
What parameters to look at while researching on a school- What defines a school?
a. Handicap in Skillsets- we can also call it Academic understanding: How will the school help you with your current handicap in skill sets. If your target is to work with McKinsey, and you get recruited by McKinsey without an MBA, what are the key challenges you will face as a McKinsey consultant? What will go wrong if you are in a room with 5 other consultants? Let me share a perspective that may apply to some of you, while others may have to develop their framework to address "Skill handicap"
i. How will you know what research to conduct? How to look at an industry? If a client is facing a cost problem or a market entry problem, how will you even know what framework to begin with? It is like – You have been working as a functional specialist, but you need to see things which are currently bigger than you.
ii. Operations: You need to be exposed to very mature operational tools and metrics, and the best practices that will enable you to move into a lean and streamlined operational environment. Your job will primarily involve moving raw materials to finished goods in optimum quantities, with minimum investments, at the right time to the customers.
iii. Marketing: You need to have a great understanding of marketing and the dynamics that affect consumer behavior. Different products are driven by different consumer demands( Nike Vs. Boeing) and you need to be conversational across this function
iv. How would a strong investment in inventory affect the balance sheet of your company? And you need to get very conversational in finance and accounting
You need to have a very good understanding of the importance of finance. Why do companies strive to create an appropriate mix of debt and equity? What tools do companies use to measure the returns on equity? For some of you- WHAT IS EQUITY?
b. Approach to learning: You need to understand the school’s architecture of the curriculum. What are some of the key advantages you noticed in terms of the flexibility of the curriculum? While most of the schools will have pre-designed curriculums in the first few quarters and will allow a decent level of flexibility only towards the second half of the program, you still need to understand how the entire program is structured and what are some of the key advantages that the schools is trying to portray. Some schools will allow greater flexibility to its MBA Grad and enable them to make their own choices. On the other side, some schools will have structured curricula to give a broad orientation to its MBA grads and that is certainly important too. For example, Chicago Booth has the most flexible curriculum, and one can enjoy the widest range of electives starting from the first year. However, a student at HBS will go through a standard curriculum for the first three quarters as the school wants everyone to develop a strong general management perspective before giving the opportunities to the students to widen their choices by picking electives. Visit the academic portion of the school's website to understand more about the curriculum options. E.g. Ross school of business offers "MAP" to enhance the practical approach to learning and decision making and students get to work on real-time industry projects during their MBA program. How is the curriculum designed? How flexible can you be while experimenting with different majors? Remember: Some programs will not allow you to choose at a later stage. However, many programs give you the flexibility to explore a lot of opportunities. In fact, programs such as HBS, and TUCK, and Darden have the same curriculum for all first-year students. That allows you to experiment with different companies (marketing and finance), and you get to pick them later.
c. Teaching Methodology: If the school has a case-based approach, you need to emphasize this aspect. Talk about "How will the case-based approach help you?”. You do not need to have a generic reason. You do not have to praise the school and tell them that they have a case-based curriculum. They know it already. You have to find out why is a Case-Based curriculum important for you. If the lecture-based method appeals more to you, do mention it. In the nutshell, you need to have an understanding of the mix of the lectures, cases, and team assignments that the school has and then make a strong case for “Why are those things important to you? “
d. Working with cross-functional teams from various geographies: How will this help you? How will this help you when you are working for your target employer that employs people from diverse countries? Have you ever done business with Chinese? How will the diversity of the program help you when you are working on a Bargaining and negotiation exercise, and are negotiating terms with someone from Latin America?
e. The Faculty: Are there any Faculty that you were impressed with. Were you able to find the names of some rock-Star Faculty who could make a difference to your overall learning experience? And this is not about throwing in names by randomly researching on the website of the MBA program. Speak with existing students and alumni to find out who are the key people that are very popular in the student community? Who are the Faculty that are strong in your areas of interest? Who is strong in Consulting? Who is strong in Corporate Finance? Who understands the investments in APAC?
f. Electives/Key Subjects: What are 2-3 specific/unique academic programs or classes that appealed to you and based on your interactions with the current students, you realized how these will help you reach your goals? Explore the range of electives offered by the school and pick the ones that look appealing to you. And it is not about randomly throwing the names of some courses. If you have deeply researched and were impressed by an elective that will allow you to create a strong career in consulting, mention that.
g. Non-Academic offerings: What are the categories of clubs that you plan to join and contribute to( By seeking some kind of voluntary roles) in your target school? What are the "Outside the classroom" activities that the school offers to nurture its MBA graduates? Remember: It is not about giving a laundry list of those clubs. You need to address why they ARE IMPORTANT FOR YOU. Someone might say that "Kellogg has a very active consulting club that will offer me the opportunity to network with the alumni that work in the target consulting firms in North America. You might also talk about the experiences of one of the current students and how he described the dynamism of the consulting club, and how the case interview preparation and the other career workshops helped him build a strong case for a career in consulting. If the consulting club of your program is very active in strategy related roles in healthcare, and you are specifically interested in that area, do mention that, and emphasize on the importance of getting that opportunity. Similarly, You can also talk about the non-academic clubs that the students engaged in, and why do you feel such a personal immersion will enable you to groom yourself as a complete individual. Do not simply talk about the net-impact club. Rather, bring up some of the incidents from your life where you felt empowered by giving back to the society, and draw parallels between your past, and the opportunities that the school will give you in the future.
h. TARGET RECRUITERS: The companies that recruit from your school. The target list that you had in mind when you started thinking about an MBA program. While it is not easy to have a very clear target in mind, you still want to have some idea of your future employers. What are some of the big-4 and the boutique consulting firms that recruit from the campus? What are the positions offered by Microsoft or Amazon or E-bay at your target school?
i. Alumni Group: I have seen a lot of time people mention the size of the alumni body and the presence across the various countries. Well, think about it – You need to talk about the response rate of those people. When you spoke with them, were they delighted to know that you are interested. Were they willing to help? Could you feel the warmth or the connection that you were looking for? Chances are that it is not going to change too much for you and it is very representative of your experience with them when you graduate from the program. How would you feel to be a part of the alumni chapter of that school? Will you get good business partners, or recruiters or even mentors?
j. Overall Atmosphere: What elements of the school’s atmosphere, the nature of its students or the general sense you got aboutthe school through visits or conversations with students/alumni made it attractive to you? The diversity of the international students( number of countries represented by the student body), the class size( small or big), the percentage of internationals. Talk about How will your life be impacted while you are at the program. Now, I understand that not everyone can make a class visit. However, you can gather a lot of information about the program by engaging in conversations with the alumni and the current students.
k. Location of the school: Proximity to the employers or a serene small city environment or a place like New York City or a small town like Hanover( Dartmouth Tuck). Where would you rather be? Would you be in a small town like Charlottesville and study at Darden or would you rather be in a big city and study at NYU Stern? There is no right or wrong approach. It is about your personal preferences. It is about what you think is right for you.
Most common mistakes:
CREATING SCHOOL BROCHURES- Not telling them why they are meant for you: This is one of the most common mistakes I have seen in many MANY applications. While telling WHY STANFORD or WHY TUCK, I at times read essays that can be used as Brochures of the program. They could simply take your essays and make their webpages. Think about it this way- when they planted the WHY MBA Essay in their application checklist, their intention was not to be made to feel important. They are not asking the world to write the expressions for admiration. When you Say "Tuck is the best General Management program that helps students develop strong interdisciplinary thinking. Moreover, it has such a close-knit community that enables the MBA Students to form great life long connections”- think about it 0 you are really not telling them what they are looking for- rather- you are talking about stuff that they already know- moreover, they are not asking you why TUCK is the best program in the world. They are asking you WHY is it meant for you?
Staying on the Surface- I have seen this a lot of times – you do not go deeper but simply touch the surface and come back. For example- when you tell the school that “The entrepreneurship club at Wharton will also help me in my long term goals of starting my own company”- for them – you can just as easily replace the name of the school with Harvard, and then Columbia- and simply state that “The entrepreneurship club at Columbia will also help me in my long term goals of starting my own company”– every school has an entrepreneurship club- you need to be specific why the Entrepreneurship club or the consulting club or the finance club at your school so important to you- What are some of the skill sets that you want to develop and how will they help you. I am going to give you a TIP Here- once you are done writing your essay- and when you look at various reasons you have cited for “WHY THIS SCHOOL?” – try to replace the name of that school with other schools- and see if the essay still comes out to be okay- If it does- that essentially means that you have written a very average WHY THIS SCHOOL essay.
Not researching enough about the school and throwing unnecessary details: I have often seen applicants limiting themselves to the website or google research while creating responses to these questions. It is actually the symptom – the problem is that many applicants are not really certain of "Where do they want to be in life" and even if some of the applicants write coherent goals stories- they are really not certain "What is currently missing in them that will stop them from performing in those future functions. They are not sure "WHAT is needed to perform in future roles. And without a direction, the end up Focusing on unnecessary details- and throwing in unnecessary courses, clubs without creating a strong differentiation. You need to go out- you need to talk to people- and before you do so, you need to identify your own GOALS Stories, and where you want to be in life, and then create the right set of questions that you plan to ask them. You can also see the networking video- I have discussed networking in great detail in that video- it has a step by step approach to getting you started with your research.
Not Being Focused- Doing too much in 500 words: Some schools will give you not more than 500 words to describe both your goals and your reasons for picking up that program. Now, I understand that 500 words are not sufficient but some of you pick up as many as 10 reasons for Why that SCHOOL in that essay. When you are giving ten reasons- you cannot go deeper and will stay on the surface. You will simply vomit the laundry list of activities that happen on the school campus without sounding focused- Recommended- Identify 5 or 6 Attributes- of the program that are a strong fit between your past and your future. And for all of these attributes- go deeper and tell the school specifically “HOW WILL THEY HELP YOU IN THAT AREA?” for example- Instead of saying “The strength of the school in Finance will also help me develop a great perspective of analyzing financial statements, and understanding accounting terms” you should say- “My future role as a senior operations manager at ABC company will often involve working with other functions such as Finance and accounting.
Treating schools as Placement Agencies: This is a very common theme that a lot of applicants have in their essays. Even after reading their essays multiple times it is hard to pinpoint – What is it that they want from this MBA program. I mean- we got your goals, we got your past experiences, but we are not quite able to understand that WHY DO YOU need us between your past and your future. Yes! we can see that you need an international exposure, and you need an access to the network- and we offer campus placements too- but all the schools do that- what did you find special in us? We are not simply a placement agency- it is like- the moment you create a login Id on the school's website for applications, it is assumed that you need access to network, and placements from us- but we are much more than that.
Writing something that the school cannot do: Some of you have unrealistic goals and write something that is beyond the risk appetite of the admissions committee members. For example- if your story has no connection with Finance, and you tell a school how they can help you in moving over to Private Equity- they will be hesitant in picking you up. Write something that has a precedent- The kind of careers you are looking for from a particular school- they should realistically be possible with an MBA from that college. Or else you are simply telling the admissions committees that you will be a liability.