Crafting Crisp, Focused Answers To Questions About Why You Want An MBA (Part 2)

This is part two of a four-part series covering how to answer the common, yet essential questions about WHY you want to pursue an MBA.

Why MBA?

If you read the first post in this series you’ll remember that we’re focusing on learning how to navigate through the various permutations of:

  1. Why do you want an MBA… AT ALL?
  3. How will OUR SCHOOL… help… YOU?
  4. Of all the B-Schools on earth, why are you interested in US?

In part one, we discussed why you’re gunning for an MBA degree versus… no degree, or… “another” degree. Why. MBA. Period.

Today, we’re adding a twist that you’ll often see:


Notice, they’re not asking about your interest in their school. There is PLENTY of meat to deliver here, and we see it far to often, folks load this section up with stuff about why they’re attracted to the school. Missed opportunity, friends.

The answer to this question, when done right, can tell us a LOT about what you’re all about.

Two KEY points to communicate here:

1. If you were a fruit, now is the moment when you are at your “ripest.”

2. You have thought through you career in a logical way.

Let’s go one by one.

1. Ripeness

One of the best things you can do here is play out three scenarios. (And when I say three… I don’t just mean nod and say, sure that makes sense… I’m actually suggesting that you close your eyes and play each one out.)

Scenario 1 — Imagine you’d applied to your MBA two to three years ago. Then imagine where (and how) your career would have evolved.

Scenario 2 — Imagine you put away the application and remained at your job for another two to three YEARS. And THEN apply to an MBA program. You’re now:

(a) two or three years older,
(b) you’ve either been promoted or not at your current place of work, and
(c) you’ve either learned a lot or haven’t, with respect to pushing your overall plan forward.

Scenario 3 — You apply TODAY for your MBA. Map it.

Now, the hope is… Scenario 1 ends up scoring somewhere around 84% and Scenario 2 somewhere around 76%. And Scenario 3 blows them out of the water, in at 100%. It makes way more sense… but why?

If you can capture the answer to that, you will likely CRUSH this question. The answer will likely have something to do with why your work experience thus far has illuminated certain key things that have helped shape and refine your goals. WITHOUT those years, you’d have squandered away your MBA education because you wouldn’t have had a good enough rudder.

It will also suggest that you’ve reached some sort of perfect “checkpoint” where… sticking around will yield diminishing returns. You will stagnate or somehow MISS an opportunity that is “now.” We all know what they recommend to do when the iron is hot.

So then, “now” makes a ton of sense. For you.

There’s another interpretation of this question which can sometimes have merit as well, which is “why now” in the industry-climate sense. Is there something happening in your industry which makes “now” a unique opportunity, that might go away in a few years? This is something you can always ADD to your argument, but typically, the anchor to this piece should be “why now” with respect to your own career timeline.

2. Woman/Man with the Plan

This isn’t something you attack dead on, but is something you’ll communicate in your response. It’s all about seeing how this step, the MBA, fits into your overall plan. Please indulge me as I dip into a “cooking analogy.”

Two Scenarios for the SAME GOAL: grilling steaks, check’em out.

Scenario 1 — Place oven-safe serving plates into a 275 degree oven. Start outdoor grill, turn burners to high, let it heat up. Let meat come to room temperature, then after grill grates are hot, scrub clean, oil grates, then generously season meat with salt and pepper and olive oil and place onto piping hot grill and close lid. Turn after three to four minutes, or when a deep crust has formed. Cover and periodically check for doneness with finger pokes, pulling meat when one or two degrees LESS cooked than what you’re ultimately aiming for. Remove hot plates from oven, transfer meat to plates, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for seven minutes. Serve and enjoy the heaven you’ve just entered.

Scenario 2 — Place oven-safe serving plates into a 275 degree oven. Since your steak will continue cooking on these plates, it is okay (and imperative) to pull your steaks off the grill 10-15 degrees LESS than your goal temp. Start outdoor grill, blahhhhhhhh…. and on and on.

Now, this was an incredibly roundabout way to make a point, but Scenario 2 immediately has a better sense of a plan, by hinting at the significance of that random, dish-warming first step. Now, as I read on, I can see that many of the decisions about when to turn, when to pull off, etc., have been put into place with the END RESULT in mind at all times.

In Scenario 1, each step seems to be part of a mechanical set of instructions. These typically make for “bad recipes” because amateur chefs don’t understand the context of what they’re doing. Scenario 2, however, by stitching together why one step relates to a future step, the reader all of a sudden has context and can not only follow along, but trust that the author has a crystal clear sense of how all the elements fit together.

When you’re making your case for Why MBA NOW, don’t just give us the Scenario 1 recipe. Step 1, into Step 2, into Step 3, into Step 4, etc. That’ll do the job (to be sure), but it may wow your reader.

Think about the way in which all the elements in your career interact with and need one another. When you’re thinking about your long term goal, there will be gaps in your current tool kit that demand either or both an MBA or pieces from your short term goal. The short term goal will similarly play a crucial role between your MBA and your ultimate aspirations. And of course, most important for this section, the MBA will be the pivotal piece tying it ALL together—the stuff you’ve already done, and the stuff you’re GONNA do. Thinking about them together, proving that you understand “the dish,” will make us salivate more than a lifeless step-by-step walkthrough of how it’s gonna go.

Read the next post in this series about articulating why a specific school has the right program for you.

Crafting Crisp, Focused Answers To Questions About Why You Want An MBA (Part 1)