Chicago Booth – Essay 1 (2009)

Why are you pursuing an MBA at this point in your career?

750 words-ish. Don’t overthink it. And, for the moment, treat this as if it’s the first MBA application essay question you’ve EVER seen. The trick I love–and think is absurdly helpful–is first to hear this question spoken by an interviewer. Smart-looking guy/gal in glasses is sitting behind a desk, perusing what you fear is your resume, and looks up and cuts right to the chase and says “Why are you pursuing an MBA at this point in your career?”

Well? Now what.

Simple. Answer his question. Not another one you’ve prepared a response to. No, you answer the question he JUST asked you. It would be rude not to!

Let’s break it down: (1) WHY ARE YOU PURSUING AN MBA (2) AT THIS POINT IN YOUR CAREER

We’ll take the SECOND piece first this time: “at this point in your career?”

This question (like many others) is predicated on a few CRITICAL assumptions:

(A) You have a goal but…
(B) Can’t reach it in your current state…
(C) Because in order to escalate your position, you need skills you don’t have yet.

This is true for a seven year old who knows she wants to be a real estate mogul, say. But it’s not time for her to get her MBA yet, right? Because she hasn’t maxed out a bunch of other stuff. She’ll go to high school and then college and then work for a few years, always pushing herself “upward” but at some point she will hit a ceiling.

She has “reached that point in her career.” A point where, on her path toward her goal, she is no longer able (with her current skill set) to advance. Now what?

Here’s where the FIRST piece of the question comes in: “Why are you pursuing an MBA?”

She first identifies what areas she is weak in, or doesn’t know much about, or knows about but really needs to hone… and through a bit of research and investigation learns that an MBA program will be this missing piece of the puzzle and help LAUNCH her toward her ultimate goals.

She was on her way, got stuck and now she needs help. She didn’t go after a LAW degree. She didn’t go out and buy $50,000 worth of books on business. She’s applying to an MBA program. And she has to make her case WHY. Everyone has their own reason for wanting to attend. And this is precisely what the schools want to hear about. Because this is going to reveal to them something about your personal needs and desires that will help individuate you from the pack. Get them to know you better.

Always START by addressing as succinctly as possible the exact question they’re asking you. Don’t just cram another essay you’ve perfected into this one because some of the words mostly match. You can keep much of the ESSENCE of that other essay, but just reshape it so it answers this question.

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