Why Get an MBA Now?
In the next few months we’ll be addressing major application essay topics that, as an MBA applicant to a top business school, you’ll likely encounter. These posts will help you write essays asking the classic “Why get an MBA now?” question (that will be the topic of this post), approach creative/off-beat essays, respond to the criticism essay question, and answer the “weakness” essay. We will also provide tips on the goals essay, the leadership essay, and the reapplicant essay. Check back with us every week to stay up-to-date on our more current MBA essay tips!
The question, “Why do you want to get an MBA now?” generally follows the question “Why do you want to get an MBA?” and you usually can’t answer one without the other. After all, if you don’t know why you want to go to b-school, then you certainly won’t be able to answer the when question. The rest of this post assumes you have nailed the “why.”
Before you draft an answer to this question, you’ll need to do some solid introspection on your own. Use the questions below to guide you in determining whether you should apply to business school this coming fall.
- Is the quality and quantity of your work experience comparable to that of accepted applicants to your target program? Check the recent class profile for this information. If it’s far from the mean, either quantitatively or qualitatively, consider a different program or a different time.
- Has your career progression plateaued? Is your learning curve looking like the US growth rate for the last two years? If so, you have an indication that now is a good time to obtain an MBA. Alternatively, if you are looking forward to growth, promotion, leadership, and increased responsibility, you might be wiser to wait.
- Do you have a solid post-MBA goal? (Hating your current job doesn’t cut it.) If you don’t, it’s not the right time to pursue an MBA. If you do have clear direction and purpose, then you have another indication that now is the time for your MBA.
- Are personal factors — significant other, family needs, health factors, finances — supportive of an MBA now?
Once you’ve answered these questions for yourself, then you’ll have an easier time putting your thoughts into words. The adcoms will be scouring your essay for hints of your maturity and focus, as well as a sense of purpose. Let your readers know that you are prime b-school material, and that your MBA dreams can’t be put on hold for another moment. Now is the time.
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In the ideal world, if you have decided to do an MBA, you should have complete clarity on the what, when, where and how. But then, we all know that the world is far from ideal. Many MBA aspirants start off from scratch and only have a vague sense on these interrogative words.
We’ve already written about how to choose the right post-MBA career goal. Even before that, comes the question of Why MBA in the first place and we’ve tackled that too.
In our experience, most candidates (thankfully) have a reasonable sense of this. The one question where several stumble in giving a strong rationale, is why pursue an MBA at this stage in your life, whether it is about articulating it in a written essay or during the interview.
While universal solution set could be huge, we present 3 illustrative reasons that may work in many cases.
Why MBA Now question in business school essays and interviews
3 potential ways to tackle the question
- You have the ‘magic’ work experience years count. As per some research we’ve done in the past, most GMAT based MBA programs have an average experience range of 4-5 years, give or take (at the time of joining the program).
So, if you are near this average, then the explaining required is a tad easier. Having these many years of experience by itself is of course not going to magically work by itself. You still have to spell it out and reason out the why of it.
After all, not everyone in the world with this experience range applies for an MBA or is even eligible. In this context, it might be important to understand why MBA programs even care for work experience in the first place. Once you being to comprehend that, it gets easier to build the story thereafter.
- You just reached a career milestone or are about to. This can be a potent one if explained well. Say you are a mechanical engineer in a core field and are trying to answer Why MBA now after engineering.
One of the ways to justify the switch is to explain a career milestone you’ve reached (say an engineering manager) and juxtaposing it with the rationale for giving a different direction to your career.
Yes, I know it sounds a bit complicated and it is a bit. But at the heart of it, is the logic that if you have to change something in your career, why wait for another milestone. The milestone can work as both an achievement and a good pivot point.
- It is a logical next step. Remember, the Why Now question can hardly ever be de-linked with Why MBA and goals questions/narrative. This particular storyline works in case the degree of change you are seeking through an MBA is not huge.
Let’s consider an example. If you are in the proverbial IT pool and are a developer. You are already a star performer and the ‘logical’ next step for you, in the business world (as opposed to the tech world), is to become a Product Manager.
The MBA can then work as a fine next step. Bear in mind however that MBA is not a must do for becoming a Product Manager.
Some others argue, especially for those doing it a bit late in their careers, that it is a matter of financial stability. A slightly weak argument (the materialistic answer hardly ever is strong, philosophically speaking) but can fly.
It is important to bear in mind that the actual response is hardly ever one of the above and more likely to be a layered one. Because of its intimate relationship with Why MBA and Goals questions, it is tough to provide a clear guideline on this one; the answer as they say is, complicated.
We hope that this gives you a starting point though and enough ideas to build your own story. We’d love to hear if you have a different narrative which might help the other readers – feel free to share it in the comments section below.