MBA Application Advice: the Essay

By Dan Jackson, MBA ’12

Why you have decided to pursue an MBA is one of the most common (and usually the first) question of the essay section within an MBA application. The main objective of this question seeks to understand an applicants’ reasoning behind his/her pursuit of a higher level business education, more importantly the question is aimed at getting candidates to show the MBA admissions committee that the program is the right fit at the right time. highlights a trend, and one primary reason that recent business graduates decided to pursue an MBA: a desire not only for a high-quality business education that will help them get to the next level within their careers, but also an opportunity to give back to the community through corporate social responsibility (CSR).  Now CSR can mean a lot different things to different people, but for the purpose of this post, I refer to it as the desire to give back to the community. summarizes a few key points from the 2010 Global Management Education Graduate Survey, in which recent MBA graduates “indicated that emphasis on community and inclusion was of great importance [when pursuing an MBA degree].”  This commitment to the community is not only true for business students, but also is what B-school programs are looking for in their candidates. MBA programs today are not looking for the next top richest business students, but instead want students who are passionate about giving back in a variety of different ways.

This reason for pursuing an MBA got me thinking about the various ways to address this first question when completing an application for MBA admission.  I’ll try to provide a bit of advice based on my experience working in the University of St. Thomas MBA admissions office. 

Before answering this question, take some time to ensure that you have thoroughly thought about the reason(s) that you are pursuing an MBA degree.

Don’t use short and simple responses, such as “I want to increase my net worth or I want to be able to make more money, negotiate a higher salary on my next job offer or to be the next big Wall Street tycoon.”  While these are worthy endeavors and can be added benefits of the MBA degree, these types of responses will not make you as a candidate look favorable to the admissions committee, and the committee will most likely not take you seriously.

Do find a way to combine and incorporate your background passion or experience along with the knowledge that will be gained in an MBA program.  Identifying a passion/experience and relating that to how the program will help you advance your passion will allow the committee to see that you have thought not only about the strengths of the program, but how the program can help you achieve your goals.  Students in MBA programs come from very diverse backgrounds.  Within the Full-time UST MBA program, about 50-60% of the incoming class every year does not have a background in business, so many of these students will use a current or previous experience to show how an MBA can enhance a particular area of their professional career.  Many of these applicants demonstrate that an MBA will allow them to give back to their community or contribute a social benefit to society in some capacity.

Now your entire response to this question does not have to focus on big ideas that will change the world, and it is still possible to include within your essay that you are interested in becoming a senior financial analyst, investment banker or marketing analyst (these are very logical transitions from an MBA), but keep in mind that many schools want to see students who will be able to apply their MBA skills in a variety of areas inside and outside the business world.  Try to focus on the big picture and think of how obtaining a higher education will not only add value to you as an individual, but will also add value to the community and those that surround you.