Crafting Crisp, Focused Answers To Questions About Why You Want An MBA (Part 4)

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


Part four is our final post in this series about navigating through the various permutations of questions like these:

  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?

Everyone’s favorite by far. And the one people tend to answer, regardless of what the question ACTUALLY states. Haas asks “what factors have influenced your decision to apply?” Kellogg asks for “… your motivation for pursuing a graduate degree at Kellogg.” Ross asks “What and/or who influenced your decision to apply to Ross?”

This can be the trickiest of the bunch because at some level, a rose is a rose is a rose. Or, for my money… pizza = pizza = pizza. Is there REALLY such a thing as a bad pizza? Mayyybe the stuff they served you in the cafeteria in 3rd grade at a public school. Maybe. But at the end of the day, pizza just works.

B-schools are no different. They’re all the same. Of course that’s not true literally, but in one sense… they will ALL expose you to teamwork, leadership, finance… “business-ness.”

All of em.

Yeah, some have rockin’ reputations, some make it onto that highly anticipated top 10 list. But functionally, they’re all MORE or LESS the same.

Let’s exaggerate the point to help make it stick. Let’s say you’re buying a brand new car. And you’ve decided on a new four door sedan. I’m gonna present you with TEN options.

Ten Toyota Camrys.

That’s right. Exact same make, model, year, dealership. And their all BLUE. Every last one of them. The ONLY thing that’s different—-let me repeat—-> The ONLY thing that’s different, is the SHADE of blue. They are arranged in front of you from darkest to lightest. On the left hand side you have a deep midnight blue. And all the way to the right you have something of a sky blue. There is not a single other thing that’s different. Got it?

So… which car do you pick?

Why, number 6 of course. Fair enough. It called your name. You felt something, fine great. Now, as you’re signing the papers, the dealer asks “Hey so lemme ask you, why did you pick #6?”

Here are examples of TERRIBLE responses:

  • Because I enjoyed the way it handled the road
  • It had four really sturdy wheels
  • I loved the look of the dashboard
  • Excellent trunk space
  • Etc.

No, you picked it because aside from all the other factors that were SHARED BY EVERY SINGLE OTHER CAR… this one came in the color you wanted.

That’s it. That’s where the decision begins and ends. That was the ONLY deciding factor, yes?

Now, let’s bring it back to B-school apps. We see it with just about every single application… time wasted on “excellent trunk space” and “wonderful rear view mirror.” Fellas and fellases… do NOT waste words on stuff shared by other schools. Think about the SHADE OF BLUE that drew you to Harvard. Or Ross. Or Kellogg. Wherever. You’re gonna get Finance not only from Wharton, but guess what, Stanford too. You’ll get entrepreneurship from NOT JUST STANFORD, but….. “lots of other places.” B-schools share a lot. They share four wheels, they all have steering wheels, leather seats, all that jazz. The only thing they don’t share is the shade of paint on their exteriors.

How does that manifest? Could be a specific CULTURE or PHILOSOPHY that they take very seriously. Don’t just mention that you LIKE that philosophy, DEMONSTRATE that you’re all about it, and then support your claim that this particular school embodies it as well. If it’s a certain club or program that calls out to you, make sure it’s UNIQUE in some way. Figure out a way to describe the way SKY BLUE is different from ROYAL BLUE. What’s different about it? Why is that difference appealing to you? We’ve covered that kind of argumentation elsewhere… the only point I want to make here is that with that silly scenario presented above, you need to THINK about the differences carefully. And NOT cite the reason for wanting car number 6 on anything OTHER than what was actually relevant in your decision-making process. In THIS case, it was one thing that was different… how could you argue that anything else factored in?

Figure out where those difference in SHADES are and write exclusively about THEM. Cut to the chase. They squeeze you on words specifically to PROMOTE cutting to the chase.

Hope this helps, y’all.

Crafting Crisp, Focused Answers To Questions About Why You Want An MBA (Part 3)