MBA Programs

Lesson One: Why MBA?

The Admissions Essay Prep Leader shares essay writing strategies and samples that will help you gain entrance to your first choice business school. For more free essay writing advice and for help with your admissions essay, visit
Business School Statement Strategies
Why MBA?
Contribution and Diversity
Hobbies and Interests
Role Models and Influence
Ethical Dilemma
Getting Personal
Wait-list Follow-up
Transfer Essays

Why MBA?

Discuss the factors that influenced your career decisions to date. Please describe your professional goals for the future. How will the M.B.A. experience influence your ability to achieve your goals? (Wharton)

Discuss your career progression to date. Why do you want an M.B.A.? How do you envision your career progressing after receiving the M.B.A.? (Tuck)

Specifically address your post-M.B.A. short- and long-term professional goals. How will Darden assist you in attaining these goals?

Briefly assess your career progress to date. Elaborate on your future career plans and your motivation for pursuing a graduate degree at Kellogg.

What are your post-M.B.A. career plans? (Harvard)

This is the most common type of essay question, asked on virtually every business school application. This question asks you to present, clearly and coherently, your all too familiar reasons for wanting an M.B.A. The questions usually consist of a few distinct parts. Most will ask about your past (How has your career progressed to date? What has motivated you thus far?), your future (How do you envision your career progressing? What are your goals for the future?), or both. All of them expect you to relate the information to your present desire to attain an M.B.A.

Since this is usually the first question asked, this essay will be the first one the officers see when they get your file. Let it create your first impression. It is similar to the moment in an interview when you shake the interviewer’s hand and smile. Similarly, your first essay needs to be confident, direct, and to the point. The admissions committee uses this question to ascertain your motivation, maturity, and focus. While undergraduate application essays are understandably fuzzy about career choices and goals, graduate essays should, in contrast, be crystal clear. If you have vague reasons for pursuing an M.B.A., you need to reconsider your decision to apply. Giving a vague response to this question is akin to having a weak handshake and not looking the interviewer in the eye.

You must accomplish a lot in this essay, so pay special attention to structure. You can tackle the question by dividing your answer into three separate pieces. The first can be about your past professional experience. The second can discuss your future career goals. The third can be about the school’s particular program. At each step, demonstrate why and how these experiences, goals, or attributes motivate you to get your M.B.A.

Limiting yourself to one career goal is best, if it is general. If you have a couple of different jobs in mind, that is all right, too. However, your reasons for them should be easily inferred or specifically stated. If you are truly unsure of what your goals are (and we cannot talk you out of applying) always admit so honestly rather than make up something. At the very least, though, give credible reasons for your indecision, and explain why you believe that this school’s program will help you overcome your ambivalence.

Even if the question does not specifically ask for it, articulate why the particular program makes sense for you given your unique professional and personal goals. To do this well, you must spend the necessary time in introspection and also research the school. When you understand the school’s program and positioning, use what you have uncovered only if you can apply it to yourself. Do not write what you think they want to hear. Admissions officers can spot this kind of insincerity from a mile away. They also seek a heterogeneous mix of backgrounds and experiences. Therefore, trying to fashion yourself after your conception of a typical applicant can hurt you even if you do it well. The truer you are to your real motivations and desires, the better your essay will be.


Note: This essay appears unedited for instructional purposes. Essays edited by EssayEdge are substantially improved. For samples of EssayEdge editing, please visit

Discuss the factors that influenced your career decisions to date. Please describe your professional goals for the future. How will the M.B.A. experience influence your ability to achieve your goals? (Wharton)

“Stop foolin’ around, old boy. How would an M.B.A. help you? Better get on with your career.” That’s what they say. Friends, colleagues, others.

I ‘ve heard it all before. “If I were you, I would not do it. Don’t waste your time, get ahead with your studies as quickly as possible”, my professor for experimental physics told me. That was back in ’88, and of course he was not talking about my M.B.A., but about my intention to go to China: Take a special scholarship and go-for a year, to study Chinese, and physics, in China. Get in line, professor. He was just one of many who did not approve of my idea.

But for me, my plan clearly was: A chance, a challenge, and a choice. A chance to open my intellectual door to the world Europeans consider the (psychologically) most distant one from Western culture, and to broaden my view well beyond the usual. A challenge to learn a language Westerners see as one of the most difficult in a compressed timeframe and to adapt to a completely unfamiliar environment-while not letting this impact my overall physics studies timeline. A choice to diverge from the mainstream path to exclusive specialization in a single intellectual realm, not just on a spare time basis-but with serious commitment.

Looking back after seven years, I could not feel more assured that at that time, I made the right choice. My unusual combination of experiences sets me worlds apart from my physics-only ex-fellow students. Working for (Big Consulting Company), (so far) exclusively on international assignments in high tech industries, is the kind of job I had envisioned at that time. I could not have come here without that choice I made back then.

Now I am-on a higher playing field, though-back to square one: Once again, about to make an academic detour form the prescribed path. An unnecessary delay for my career progression.

But stop! Is that at all true? Getting an M.B.A. makes perfect sense for a consultant-after all, most consultants are M.B.A.s. Getting an M.B.A. makes even more sense in my particular case: it is the perfect academic supplement to my physics background-the one I need to become a leading edge high tech consultant. Detailed technology understanding plus profound business and group skills, that is a rare combination which really gets the career rocket roaring. This is certainly true for me, and I think that this is one of my most important and convincing reasons for an M.B.A.

Having spent considerable time and energy studying Chinese and traveling in Asia (and the rest of the world), an exclusively German career certainly is the opposite of what I am interested in. No cozy, warm place in an easy, totally predictable environment. Guaranteed career progression when the guy above me retires. Getting a dog at 35 and the BMW and house that go with it. No thanks.

So what is it I am interested in? I want to be where the guerilla wars of business are fought (the shoestring traveller resurfaces). Where global language and intercultural/personal skills make the difference. Where intelligence translates into quantum leaps (courtesy of the physicist). This is where I can make my best contribution. In short, I want to be where the action and the challenges are.

For the late 20th and early 21st century, this means, in terms of topic, clearly one industry: High Tech (just watch the stock market). I am well equipped for this with my physics background. In terms of region, it clearly means Asia. Through language study and travel exposure, I have come a long way in getting myself prepared. In terms of function, it clearly means strategy consulting. If there is any place better for this than (Big Consulting Company), please let me know.

Thus the reasons why I want to go back to university and do a dual degree in business and East Asian studies are: Get myself a thorough business background to put all the pieces of case experience I have accumulated during my (Big Consulting Company), life in their right places and understand their context. Do the same with all my pieces of Asian studies and travel experiences. Get ready for the real action I want to be a part and a driver of-and satisfy academic ambitions lurking beneath the surface of the “hands-on” consultant.

The knowledge I will gain should help facilitate a career change. After extensive work in European High Tech industry, I want to transfer to Asia. Completion of my desired academic program should give me perfect preparation, some initial contacts, and, through a summer internship in Asia, a clear idea of what to expect from working there (in contrast to studying and traveling).

Of at least equal importance, the Lauder/Wharton dual degree program will also give me a clear view on all the options that I have with my very special combination of skills. While I currently cannot imagine going anywhere else but to one of the Asian offices of (Big Consulting Company), after my graduation, I am also realistic enough to understand that there certainly is a number of other opportunities out there which I would be attracted to, but just know nothing about at this time. I am a firm believer in having many options and in exploring quite a few in detail-whatever position you’re in, there may always be one which is an even better fit with your ambitions and capabilities.

I think it is obvious why I apply to the Wharton School. Among all the leading business schools, Lauder/Wharton is one of the very few offering a serious joint-degree program that makes sense. With its strong international orientation, Lauder/Wharton offers the type of courses I am looking for. With my diverse set of unusual ideas, experiences and capabilities, I would make a most valuable and colorful addition to the student body of Wharton.

So what are my concrete plans for the time after my graduation? Where in Asia can I be a driver the way described above? One extremely attractive option for me would be helping to set up the (Big Consulting Company), office in (Asian Capital). Or one in (Other Asian Capital). Or in Saigon (Cantonese and Vietnamese are no more different than Swedish and German). But frankly, these are just a few options I can pinpoint now-and I am sure that many more will become apparent during my Wharton experience.

After all, my desire to come to Wharton is just another manifestation of the characteristics that made me go to China a couple of years ago: Take the chance to widen your scope. Accept the challenge that goes with replacing narrow security by broad uncertainty. Make the choice to put all your effort into fully developing and playing out your talents.

So I am not going to take my friends’ advice. They have their dogs already, and the BMW is ordered. Sorry-I am not ready for that.


The writer of this essay begins painting a picture of himself by discussing his trip to China. The fact that he took the trip instead of heeding all the advice others gave him shows determination, maturity, and character without him ever having to say the words. He clearly demonstrates why an M.B.A. makes sense for him generally (as a consultant) and specifically (to supplement his technical background). He pointedly bucks the usual stereotype of, “Getting a dog at 35 and the BMW and house that go with it.” Instead, the essayist makes his reasons personal and unique by relating them directly to his professional goal of high-tech consulting in Asia. He then spends a paragraph specifically addressing the Wharton program. To demonstrate the sincerity and focused nature of his goals further, he lists a few very specific options that will be available to him once he graduates.

Certainly, his background and experience make him unusual. However, his style makes him stand out. The essayist consistently uses questions to transition to each new point without being distracting. He begins with a question. “Stop foolin’ around, old boy. How would an M.B.A. help you?” Then he carries the theme throughout, “But stop! Is this all true?” and “So what is it I am interested in?” Finally, he writes, “So what are my concrete plans for the time after my graduation? Where in Asia can I be a driver the way described above?” To every question he asks he gives a succinct and pointed answer. He concludes by subtly reiterating his main points of chance, challenge, and choice. His last sentence adds the final stylistic touch by referring back to the question posed in the first sentence. In doing this, he effectively nails down the impression we have formed about his character-without him ever having to espouse his own virtues directly.


From ESSAYS THAT WILL GET YOU INTO BUSINESS SCHOOL, by Amy Burnham, Daniel Kaufman, and Chris Dowhan.  Copyright 1998 by Dan Kaufman.  Reprinted by arrangement with Barron's Educational Series, Inc.


© Copyright 2002-2017 MBA Programs - All Rights Reserved

MBA programs

School Rankings
Admissions Essays
Study Tips