Why MBA? – How to Answer This Common Question


Nearly all applications will feature a question that asks about your reasons for wanting to obtain an MBA at this stage of your career. Some will explicitly ask you to tie these reasons into your background and your goals. Even for schools that don’t offer this specific direction, you should plan on such a discussion of past and future, as it provides essential context.

“Why MBA?” is often the first question asked and without a doubt the most important essay you will write. It includes essential information about whether you’re qualified, whether you’re prepared, and where you’re headed. The other essays fill in details about these fundamental points, but a strong answer about, for example, how you overcame a failure will not revive a candidacy that failed based on a lack of career focus.

Every answer should contain the following elements, unless the application has separate questions addressing them individually:

  1. Your long- and short-term goals.
  2. Your relevant past experience.
  3. An assessment of your strengths and the gaps in your experience/education.
  4. How an MBA program will bridge your past and future and fill in those gaps.
  5. Why this particular MBA program is a good match for your needs.

Occasionally there will be overlap with other answers, and you will have to use your judgment on the extent to which you should reiterate important ideas. For example, some schools will ask about your goals in separate questions. In that case, the bulk of your discussion should fall under the goals question, but you will have to bring over key points from that answer to establish context for your reasons for obtaining an MBA.

There are no groundbreaking reasons for pursuing an MBA. This is not a place to aim for bold originality. Rather, you should focus on articulating detailed reasons that are specific to your situation. Moreover, there is plenty of room to distinguish yourself when discussing past experience and future goals; it’s just the reasons themselves that come from a more limited set. That said, you should not try to drop buzzwords for their own sake. Make sure you tie your specific objectives to other aspects of your application.

This applicant details a unique background in environmental science and a focused interest in becoming an entrepreneur within this field. Thus he paints a clear picture of past and future before making the following transition: “In order to accomplish this goal, however, I must deepen my knowledge of the field. Despite my experience, I still lack some important knowledge and management skills, especially in finance, marketing, and entrepreneurship. I am also aware that my knowledge of American environmental issues is insufficient. Since dealing with aspects of international business will be an integral part of my job as an entrepreneur, it is essential that I fill in these gaps.” Only after he has established sufficient context about his personal situation does he attempt to assert his reasons for pursuing an MBA. This approach ensures that you’re not simply stating the obvious, generic reasons without personal insight.

Note that the writer goes on to add depth to his reasons by focusing on entrepreneurship, the area that encompasses his main interests. Finally, note that he cites specific programs that show he has researched the school carefully and can identify unique aspects that fit his objectives.

This applicant begins with an extensive discussion of Brazil’s political situation and a specific industry, before going on to describe the background that makes him qualified to pursue his vision. Thus, in contrast to the previous applicant, he discusses goals prior to history. Either approach can work effectively; your best bet would be to start with and highlight what makes you unique, whether it’s a vision you have or a past accomplishment. After that, the important thing is to ensure that everything is coherently focused.

Note that this applicant also places his reasons for pursuing an MBA at the end. He does, however, include the following in the fourth paragraph: “Through Columbia‘s MBA program, I plan to further build on this foundation by leveraging the experience in engineering and international management I have accumulated both in Brazil and in the United States.” This kind of statement can be helpful to remind the reader of where you’re headed. Some writers will even articulate their basic reasons in the introduction, but the full discussion is best reserved for after you have established full context.

Writing that you need an MBA degree because it’s prestigious is a big mistake. You won’t be able to stand out using this approach. It’s a common mistake every applicant makes. Almost each MBA essay review we make implies that editors need to transform the way the ideas are conveyed. Don’t worry, and we won’t destroy your unique style.

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