There is a common misconception that we want to clear up: that an acceptance letter to a top-tier business school is all about what you’ve achieved so far.
An acceptance letter to a top tier MBA program is not a blue ribbon for past achievements. While it’s certainly true that admissions committees want to know what you’ve accomplished thus far, it’s because they are trying to assess your future promise – your potential.
You must convince the admissions committee that you are just getting started and that you will achieve even greater things in the future!
One of the primary ways is to get the admissions board excited about your future plans – and you can do that with your career goals essay.
One question appears in some form in just about every application:
“What are your short-term and long-term career goals and how will our program prepare you to achieve those goals?”
Is the admissions committee really all that interested in what job you hope to get when you graduate? Do they want to read 10,000 essays about each candidate’s rung-by-rung plan for climbing the corporate ladder? Not really.
If not, then why do they ask the career goals question?
They ask the question because they want to be convinced that you have outstanding “potential.” There’s that word again. At MBA Prep School, we define “potential” as a collection of capabilities fueled by passion and directed by purpose toward a defined set of career goals. It follows that an A+ career goals essay must express your career purpose, career goals, and career action plan.
Your past achievements are evidence that you have the capabilities (i.e., skills, talents, and experiences) necessary to achieve your aspirations. Many candidates undermine their chances for admission by proposing a set of lofty career goals that don’t appear realistic when viewed in the context of their past experiences and strengths. Grand ambitions are fine but you can hurt your chances for an acceptance letter if you are unable to convince admissions officers that the dots connect from your past accomplishments to your future aims.
Defining your career goals is a central step in formulating your application strategy because a powerful career goals essay will tell the admissions officers how you plan to become a leader of consequence once you graduate. The coherence of your career goals essay will serve as an elegant proof of your potential. Your career goals, if properly developed and defined, will set you apart from other candidates competing for a spot at that school and that’s exactly what you want them to do.
To help you meet this challenge, we’ve created a simple rubric that you can use to predict how your career goals essay might be “graded” by the admissions committee. By grading your essay drafts on your own, you will be able to determine how to improve upon the quality of your essay.
|A+||Your career goals address a significant problem that you have the capabilities to solve, in a field that you are passionately interested, the career goals are personally meaningful, and the results are socially beneficial.|
|A||Your career goals address a significant problem that you have the capabilities to solve, in a field that you are passionately interested, the career goals are personally meaningful|
|B||Your career goals are aligned with some of your capabilities in a field that interests you.|
|C||Your career goals are aligned with some of your capabilities|
|F||Your career goals are unclear or misaligned with your capabilities and lack significance, passion, meaning, and social benefit.|
Let me be clear that writing a career goals essay that scores in the top 2% is not easy. The difference between an A an A+ is that the career path you are dedicated to will benefit others in a significant way. We are not suggesting that you need to write about starting a non-profit organization to get into business school. The world needs investment bankers, consultants, entrepreneurs, and corporate CEOs too, and business schools still have room in their classrooms for candidates with these kinds of ambitions. If it’s hard to make a case on social benefit, you just need to work that much harder to convey your passion for your career path and explain why your career goals are meaningful to you.
Nothing we’ve said here should imply that we are recommending that you manufacture an answer that is simply meant to hit the admissions committees’ hot-buttons. Remember that admissions officers read thousands of these essays and so they can tell the difference between aspirations that have integrity and those that are simply engineered for effect.
Creating an A+ answer to the career goals question will require hard work and soul searching on your part but can be very exciting once completed. You will have a coherent, logically structured set of career goals aligned with your abilities, deeper motivations, and sense of purpose. In essence, you will have a roadmap to guide your career journey from MBA school onwards.
(By Brand X Pictures)
Here in America, you are expected to figure out what you want to do with your life eventually. But you certainly don’t need to know by the time you graduate high school — or even college and grad school, for that matter. We have all heard the inspiring stories of 70-year-old science teachers who finally got their law degrees or a PhD in linguistics. It’s never too late.
Of course, there are some downsides to being so flexible. For instance, during college applications, you find yourself having to choose academic interests and intended careers from dropdown lists, then write about them in supplemental essays and talk about them in interviews. When the world is your oyster, you hate to pin yourself down and you definitely don’t want to fake a life plan … but it doesn’t feel like a selling point to admit that, unlike many other applicants, you haven’t yet managed to get it all figured out.
Here are a few tips on how to navigate when you really don’t know where you’re trying to go:
• Focus on what you have (options) rather than what you lack (direction)
In interviews and supplemental essays that require you to talk about your goals and plans, the angle you approach your indecision from really does matter. “I have no idea what I want to do” sounds bad. Are you apathetic? Unmotivated? Have you put no thought into the question? We can’t tell, but all three suspicions pop into our heads.
“I like a lot of different things, like art and biology, so I want to take a variety of classes to find out what I really want to do” sounds better. It’s still vague, but now we can at least see that you’re engaged with life.
Better still: “I love research and analysis, and I’m excited to find the best major to suit that passion.” A little bit of self-insight can go a long way toward convincing admissions committees that you’re flexible, not floundering.
• Love SOMETHING
As opposed to liking everything. (Or worse, not liking anything.) It could be research or analysis, as mentioned above, or writing, reading, performing, planning, advising, persuading or any other activity that’s not specifically aligned to one major or career. (Because if your passion is “studying chemicals,” you probably shouldn’t consider yourself undecided.) Pick a favorite, or at most connect two — but be sure you’re making one clear statement about what is important to you.
It can be incredibly hard to choose, but ultimately, people value discernment — everybody knows which friend to ask for movie recommendations, and it’s not the friend who thinks every movie ever is “pretty good.” Saying that your highest passion is reading does not mean you don’t love research. In fact, reading might be what you love about research. It tells your interviewer (or the admissions officer reading your essay) that you have looked in the mirror long enough to know what truly drives you, and that’s a lot more compelling than thinking everything is equally swell.
• Give a little thought to those dropdown lists
While very few colleges will significantly factor the academic or career interests you select on your application into your admission decision, many will use your answers to assign you an academic adviser if you eventually decide to attend. If you’re trying to decide between the arts and the social sciences, don’t put down “neurobiology” just because it sounds good (as the author of this article may or may not have done …) and then have to try and switch later when the school takes you seriously and gives you an adviser way outside your general area of interest.
• Take personality quizzes
Why? Because they’re fun and indirectly useful. You can find them online, in magazines (Psychology Today is a treasure trove), in books and through career search software, and they can help you narrow your interests down from a whole continent of possibilities to a handful of countries.
Should you trust a 10-question, multiple choice “What’s Your Dream Job?” quiz from quizlolz.com to actually tell you your dream job? Of course not. But if 10 quizzes show that all your answers seem to be trending toward a career in politics, that says something worth thinking about. And if a quiz tells you your inquisitive personality means research science is your best bet and your gut reaction is “no way,” that says something too. You can definitely achieve the same level of introspection through quiet contemplation — but if quiet contemplation isn’t your thing, start googling “What should I major in” quizzes instead and see what you can find.
Katherine Kendig, a Dartmouth College graduate, fell in love with writing at the tender age of seven and has been in a committed relationship with the passion ever since. Her oeuvre includes award-winning screenplays and fiction as well as professionally-commended creative nonfiction, a smattering of poetry, and a paper on character education programs. When not writing, Katherine helps aspiring college applicants with her fellow mentors at Admissionado, a boutique admissions consulting company that specializes in helping aspiring students navigate the undergraduate and graduate admissions process.
admissionado, choosing a college, Katherine Kendig, COLLEGE CHOICE