December 19, 2018

London Business School Masters in Finance

London Business School

Full-time Masters in Finance


Q1. What are your career objectives and what steps are you taking to achieve them? What alternatives are you considering? What geographical region do you hope to work in? (maximum 500 words)

One word: Juggernaut. You guys familiar with that idea? To essentialize it: “unstoppable force.” Something that has a kind of momentum that seems to have a will of its own. That’s what we want here. The sense, through the way you articulate your objectives, and the action you’ve taken and are taking, that you’re not just ideas and words, but you’re a runaway train, barreling toward your objective. For many folks in life, graduate school is a fallback plan. An expensive “reset” button because real life wasn’t catapulting them toward fame and wealth as they’d hoped. They don’t want that guy. They want the guy for whom this program IS the catapult. The guy for whom the plans for “fame and wealth” or “whatever else compels them” requires a Masters in Finance as a key missing piece. That final piece of track connecting one side of the bridge to the other, so that your runaway train can sail forward smoothly.

Above all else, your plan needs to make a ton of sense. The best way to gut-check this is to run it by actual “finance” people. Colleagues, bosses, mentors, folks who are in “the know” and know exactly how people “on the inside” think, and behave. If your plan makes sense in a theoretical world, but doesn’t scan in “the real world,” admissions committees will know that you’re more dreamer than doer. If you’ve cut your teeth in this universe though, and kinda have a sense for how it all works, how people maneuver within a company, between companies, progress in the industry, advance their careers toward bigger and better things, it’ll show in the way you lay out your plan. Now is NOT the time to get creative, and force the admissions committee to have to imagine that your plan MAY be viable. It needs to be bulletproof. And it should read like a military operation, with every step making perfect logical sense with respect to the one before and after it.

In fact, in keeping with that analogy, your plan (like any good one), must have some viable alternatives. Assume your “A” plan hits an unforeseeable bump. You’re not gonna pack it in and go home and sulk, right? You’re gonna find another pathway toward your goal. Walk us through it. And then do it again. Show us that whatever curveball life throws your way, you’re poised to make an adjustment and swat the ball into play, somewhere.

As for geography, this will have everything to do with your specific goals. Again, it will benefit you to have spoken with an expert in this area, who knows exactly how the industry works, and whether the language you use to articulate your plan jibes with how THEY on the other side experience it. That guy/gal has a better chance of succeeding than the one who simply has [1] the wherewithal, and [2] an excellent plan in THEORY, that doesn’t quite sit perfectly with the game on the ground.

As structure, let’s break it down:

  1. Explain quickly where it’s headed, big-picture. And why. Without getting side-tracked, SELL us on this larger vision you have for yourself. It’ll make your shorter-term battle plan stick better if we’ve bought into the idea that you have a solid RUDDER. [75-100 words]
  2. Now, take us through a very PRACTICAL battle plan for, say, 3-5 years after your Masters. Where are you headed within that time frame, and what are all the utterly logical steps between you and that goal? More important than your actual plan, is that you convey here that you “are the type who will always have a smart plan.” So, this is where you can EXPOSE some of the calculations BEHIND your decisions, don’t just zoom to all the conclusions. We wanna see how you GOT there, because therein lies the window into your ANALYTICAL NERVE CENTER. Hit us with Plan A first. [125-150 words]
  3. Now, wow us with your alternative plans, but more so than simply tick the box that you “have a backup plan,” find a way to convince your “investor” that come hell or high water, you’re gonna find a way to get it done. See the difference? It isn’t to sell us on the strength of your backup plan(s). Rather, it’s to fill us with confidence that if you were to stumble 99 times, you still have plenty of gears to go to in order to succeed, because SUCCESS is etched into your DNA. You can achieve this by exposing “just how much thought you’ve given this,” addressing viable bumps that may await you. And to do it with confidence, and steadiness. [125 words]
  4. Finally, hit us with the geography piece, fleshing out even in more detail, why you wish to end up where you hope to end up. Explain this in two ways: [1] in a way that makes professional sense, of course, but also [2] in a way that fits in with your personal wants and tastes, enough to convince us that you are likely to THRIVE within this setting. Sell us on it. Don’t force the issue, but convince us that your “plant” will “thrive” in this environment. Is there evidence of it in your past that’ll help us see it? Great, bring it. [100 words]
  5. Now, they haven’t explicitly asked for it, but it may help your case to explain quickly why you aren’t just lunging at this plan right now. What’s missing in your skillset? Why spend the time earning a degree? If you do this right, your inevitability for success should leap off the page, such that LBS will want to ENABLE you, thus doing THEMSELVES a favor. In other words, try not to be beseeching when explaining what you need. Posture more like “listen, I’m gonna get this missing piece no matter what. It’ll be in YOUR best interest that it happen under your roof.” [50 words or so, either at the end here, or organically earlier, when discussing your short-term plans.]

Q2. What specific areas of London Business School life are you most excited about getting involved in and where do you believe you will add value to the School Community? (maximum 300 words)

Adding value. Hm. In order to hit this precisely, it helps to imagine the DELTA between this program [1] Without You, compared to the program [2] With You. The difference between those two things needs to (a) exist (ha!), but (b) be. . . meaningful. Enough for someone on the other side to say, well, we much prefer Scenario 2 over Scenario 1 because we’re clearly better off in Scenario 2. Now, “clearly” doesn’t always mean measurably. And that’s where it gets challenging. But that’s where you need to SELL like a champ, and persuade.

Start by getting a bit real. Say to yourself (even if it hurts a bit) that the difference between you and most of your competition isn’t really all that great. The stuff that any single individual brings to the table. . . I mean, how much impact on a program can one guy make, right? It’s not gonna be a big thing, in all likelihood. It may be a little thing. A subtle thing. Something you’ve experienced at work that few others have, the insider experience of which, when shared, can add value. But value, how? Be able to articulate it. Or perhaps there’s an aspect to your upbringing/childhood/schooling/work experience (cultural, geographic, other such influences) that makes your approach to something that’s otherwise conventional… somehow different. And in that difference, lies that competitive edge that makes you more likely to add value than the guy without that background. Whatever your angle is, it will help your case to be able to illustrate the precise way in which it has made a difference in YOUR life, and therefore, how that might have a ripple effect when introduced to others pursuing the same general field.

Another neat trick here is to invert the question entirely, and to think back to a moment when you have personally benefitted from the influence of a colleague, or peer, or superior, or subordinate. Identify what that “learning” was. Now, find an analog trait that YOU possess (or some kind of unique perspective through background or experience, whatever) that you believe can similarly impact someone else, or a community of folks. You may never need to draw upon the initial example, but it can help kickstart the juices.

Now, apply that to specific areas of the program that you feel you’ll be able to impact the most. Part of this will be that “thing” you’ve identified above, the source of the value you have to contribute. But that’s gonna be worthless unless it’s accompanied by the WILL to wanna share it. This is where you need to sell us on your enthusiasm for LBS, and specific opportunities that you cannot WAIT to engage with. Prove to us that this isn’t just the thing you say in an application, but “the opportunity you’ve been waiting for.” Don’t just name-drop clubs and activities and programs. Show us that you know way more about than what’s listed on a website. Show us that you’ve dug deep, talked to alums, explored it in surprisingly aggressive ways; show us you mean business!


  1. A great way to attack an essay like this is to explain what you’re looking for in “an ideal program.” Leave LBS out of it for now. Just imagine you’re being asked to “paint” the ideal program on a magical canvas. Explain why THESE opportunities at this ideal place “bring out the best in you.” Cite evidence from your past. This is an important stage-setting maneuver. [100-125 words]
  2. Now, explain how SPECIFIC OPPORTUNITIES A B and C (maybe two or three examples max) at LBS map perfectly to whatever you laid out in Section 1. Walk us through your plan for engaging, explaining how your interaction here may go beyond the casual applicant’s. Sell us on the impact/value you’re planning on dropping. [150-175 words]

Learn more and explore each step of LBS’s Masters in Finance application process here.

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