One Question, Five Parts

Wharton Question 1:
Describe your career progress to date and your future short-term and long-term career goals. How do you expect an MBA from Wharton to help you achieve these goals and why now?
Kellogg Question 1:
Briefly assess your career progress to date. Elaborate on your future career plans and your motivation for pursuing a graduate degree at the Kellogg School.
Harvard Question 6:
What are your career aspirations and how can an MBA help you to reach them? Why now?
Columbia Question 1:
What are your short-term and long-term post-MBA goals? How will Columbia Business School help you achieve these goals?

All of these questions ask for the same general information, and yet all of them are very specific regarding what they want to know. Most questions in the career goals/why MBA category have several parts to them. Consider the Wharton question above: five questions in one.
1) Describe your career progress to date
2) Describe your future short term goals
3) Describe your future long term goals
4) How do you expect an MBA from Wharton to help you achieve these goals
5) Why now

The seemingly obvious rule of answering all parts of the question is often overlooked. In fact, I rarely read a Wharton draft that clearly answers, “Why now?”. On the flip side, I frequently review Harvard drafts that spend far too much time explaining, “Why Harvard”. Harvard asks why you want an MBA, but not specifically from Harvard.

A far too easy way to lose points on these essays is to not follow directions. When you neglect to answer parts of the question or when you answer pieces that are not there, you are not providing the information that is specifically being requested. Big mistake. Resist your urge to recycle identical essays from school to school (admissions can tell when you do that!) and make sure that you are tailoring your answers to the question being asked. As you approach an essay question, go through this simple exercise: break down the question as I have above. As you formulate ideas for the essay, check off which portion of the question is being answered. Make sure all parts are checked off in the end, and if your answer does not tie to the specific question, leave it out!

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