Aim for the stars, but make sure you're not coming off as unrealistic, or worse yet, delusional, in your MBA application.
“I’ve just started working on my essays and I’m starting to second-guess my long-term goals. Are there any significant risks if your long-term goals are grand? Say, finding a treatment for AIDS or cancer, or, feeding the hungry in Africa?”
Wow, those are some big goals, dude. And some might say, unrealistic. Now, I don’t want to say that, because who am I to tell you that you won’t find a cure for cancer or feed the hungry in Africa? Gosh, I don’t even know you.
But… they’re a bit unrealistic. And as inspired and inspiring as those goals are, they aren’t going to cut it on your MBA application.
Business Schools Are Businesses
Here’s the deal: business schools are businesses. And businesses aim to make money. And business schools make money from alumni who go on to do great things and donate money, while also giving them a great success statistic to list on their site and lure in new students.
What all that means is that the schools are looking for students who are… well, going to go on and do great things. And while finding a treatment for AIDS is indeed a great thing (who’s gonna argue with that?!), it’s not the most realistic. And why would a school gamble on a guy with some huge (albeit, awesome) dreams, when they can accept the next guy who has a more realistic career path and the skills to get there?
Consider Dialing Lofty Long-Term Goals Back In Your MBA App
If your long-term goals are indeed to feed the hungry in Africa or rid the world of cancer, more power to you. The world can never have enough people like you. But for the sake of your application, dude, dial it back. Pick a long-term goal that is interesting and challenging, but still attainable.
Maybe that’s running a non-profit that raises money for cancer research. Or maybe it’s completely unrelated to those goals at all, and instead aligns quite nicely with whatever it is you’re doing now.
Remember, Actually Getting Accepted Is The First Step
You don’t HAVE to do what you say you’re gonna do when you apply to B-school. Getting in is a completely different game, and the way to win is to pick some career goals that make good, rational sense. Once you’re in, you can do whatever it is you want to do. But for the sake of GETTING in, I’d re-think those goals.