Be SMART about your goals

Tips to tackle the common MBA essay question

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Be SMART about your goals

This all-time favorite MBA admissions question comes under many disguises –


  • INSEAD: Discuss your short and long term career aspirations with or without an MBA from INSEAD.
  • Wharton: What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA?
  • Cambridge Judge Business School: What are your short and long term career objectives and what skills/characteristics do you already have that will help you achieve them?
  • London Business School: What are your post-MBA goals and how will your prior experience and the London Business School programme contribute towards these?
  • Columbia Business School: What are your career goals over the next 3-5 years and what, in your imagination, would be your long-term dream job?

The underlying question is the same – Tell us your life plans and why you being part of our MBA cohort is good for your plans as well as worthwhile for the school.

After helping numerous candidates write memorable answers on this MBA question, we can tell you that you need to be SMART

  • SPECIFICDetails, Details, Details

Most MBAs help careers along 3 dimensions – Function, Sector, Country. Provide as much detail as possible down to stating a particular company or position.

For example, say, your initial answer to is “I want to be a top manager”

A specific version could be “I want to be the Retail Banking Country Head of Singapore for a global bank such as Citibank”

A word of caution – DO NOT make it up. We hear candidates ask – “I really don’t have any Martin Luther kind of big dream. What do I do?” If you cant think along the 3 dimensions, you goal could be to become an expert in a marketable skill – eg. marketing, problem solving etc. But it is absolutely important to be authentic.

  • MOTIVATION – Tell them why?

Explaining the “why” to showcase your personality is probably the most important component of all essays – Why are these goals important to you?

 In our previous example, a more specific goal with underlying motivation would be “I want to be the Retail Banking Country Head of Singapore for a global bank such as Citibank, driving innovation in client channels”.

Your essay could then elaborate why you have a passion for innovation in client channels and how becoming a country head would help drive it in your country etc.

  • ACTIONABLE – Do you know the way to get there?

Essentially, don’t tell the school that you are expecting the MBA by itself to change your life. Instead, link your current and past skill sets and experience with what you plan to do during and after your MBA for your goals

Even if you are looking for a complete career change, it is possible to align what you have done thus far with your future goals

For example, a possible connection from telecom to banking could be “I learnt how to use innovative thinking to deploy large scale retail solutions using increased mobile penetration in India. I wish to bring my experience with imeplementing such ground level innovation to revolutize the way banks approach financial payments penetration for retail customers.”

  • RELEVANCE – Your answer is for admission into that MBA school

Of course, lets not forget that we are answering a MBA question. So, include why you need an MBA to achieve your goals and also, a message to the particular school – Here’s how you (and only you) can help.

For example, “The consulting club bootcamps at xYZ B-School would help me structure my problem solving approach and the Finance club company treks would expose to me to multiple institutions and their practises”

  • TIME-BOUND – The question of now and the future

There are two aspects of time to be addressed –

Short term Vs Long term – It is a journey towards your long term goal and the short term goal ideally leads towards the longer vision. This reinforces that you have a plan which is detailed and realistic in terms of time too.

Why MBA Now – There are multiple reasons to do MBA such as networking, learning specific brainstorming or technical skills or access to specific opportunities etc. Answer why this is more important NOW rather than later

For example, “While my 5+ years of project management and problem solving skills are transferable from telecom to finance industry, my short term goal is to gain direct experience working in the strategy department of a retail bank. While at MBA, I can prepare myself for this transition through the strategy course as well as the internship opportunity. etc

Adopting our SMART methodology to articulate your career goals can help you ace this MBA question. Drop us a line at info@mba4India.in if you want expert help in drafting compelling and relevant goals for yourself. Our team of expert consultants represent various industries from consulting to financial services to technology and can help you think through this important element of application process.