Essays Career Goals

Below are some common scholarship essay questions.  You can use these as a great starting point for a pesonal statement.  Some of these essay questions are used in the Maricopa Scholarship Database.

  • What life experiences have shaped who you are today and what challenges have you overcome in achieving your education (i.e. financial, personal, medical, etc.)?
  • Explain why you need financial assistance.
  • Describe your academic and career goals and your plans to achieve them and discuss any of your extracurricular/volunteer activities (both on and off campus) that you may perform.
  • Describe an event in which you took a leadership role and what you learned about yourself.

This is a sample essay to help guide you when you are writing essays for scholarships. Keep in mind that all scholarship applications are different, so you may have to design your essay to meet those specific requirements. 

Paragraph I
(State an overview of what you are going to talk about in the essay. If the essay is about you, give a brief description of your experiences, goals, aspirations, family background, etc. Touch on why you want the scholarship.)

For as long as I could remember, I have wanted to be a veterinarian. I have been responsible for the care and feeding of pets ever since I was in the second grade. In high school, I participated in the 4-H club as well as the Junior Humane society. To reach my goals, I realize that I must pursue an eight year college education which will begin with the Fall 2010 semester. I am very excited about my future and feel that with the opportunity your scholarship will provide, I can help many animals.

Paragraph II & III
(Go into more detail on one of the topics listed in paragraph I. For example, elaborate on your previous experiences, family and financial situation, volunteer work, employment, academic career, future goals, college plans, etc.)

My love for animals has been encouraged by my family and friends. I have had the opportunity to volunteer with the local animal shelter and provide basic care to the stray animals. With the help of my biology teacher, I was able to start a 4-H club on campus. Many of the other students on campus developed an interest in the animals and now our club has 100 members. My family also has many animals for which I provide care, including basic needs as well as first aid. I find that I enjoy that aspect of pet ownership best. Unfortunately, my family cannot afford to pay for my entire education, so I hope to use my skills and love of animals to help me pay for college.

Paragraph IV
(Conclude your essay with a wrap-up of why you should be considered for the scholarship; how do your goals match those of the organization, etc.)

Your organization stands for what I believe in. Like your organization, I hope to help animals for the rest of my life. To reach my goals, I need as much help as possible. I already have the moral support of my family and friends, but that is not quite enough to make my dream come true. I hope that your organization can help me reach this dream by awarding me your scholarship.

Make no mistake. Of all the essays you’ll write for your business school application, the goals essay is the most important.

It’s the one essay in which schools most explicitly ask you to answer the central question that underlies your entire application—why exactly do you need an MBA? Not surprisingly, it’s also the essay that schools give applicants the most space to answer (up to 1,000 words for some schools).

Yet despite its importance, when admissions officials are asked, “What’s the most common mistake applicants make?” failure to describe MBA-justifying goals is frequently the answer. In fact, poor execution on the goals essay has been said to account for more than half of all dings.

The goals essay is key because—surprise—adcoms want to know what motivates you to go to all the trouble, expense, and opportunity cost of earning an MBA. No matter how staggering your qualifications, if you don’t provide a clear reason for needing an MBA, your application stands an excellent chance of losing out to those that do. Business schools use the goals essay to do a reality check on your maturity and career savvy. Do you really have a career plan that extends beyond your next promotion?

If you do, is the MBA really an essential tool for advancing toward that goal (maybe you just need more work experience or perhaps a master’s in a specialized functional skill)? Schools know all too well that many applicants seek MBAs for the “wrong” reasons—as a desperate measure to escape a lousy job or looming pink slip or to gain a promotion or bigger salary—not because the MBA really prepares them to do something they could not do without it. A goals essay that implies you need the MBA for purely instrumental reasons or that has the aura of credential-collecting will be viewed dimly. Demanding well-defined goals is business schools’ way of policing the focus and legitimacy of their applicants’ aspirations.

But there are other, less obvious reasons for exerting extra effort on your goals essays. First, the goals essay is almost always the first essay question in each school’s essay set, and first impressions do matter. Anything less than a compelling initial essay will put you in a hole that your subsequent essays, no matter how brilliantly executed, may never dig you out of. Start strong.

Second, admissions officers have a weakness for applicants who are, in the well-traveled term, “passionate”—burning with the right Promethean fire to pursue their dreams. It’s only human to respond to enthusiasm. And projecting a well-defined reason for the MBA makes your enthusiasm much more credible and personal. “I need an MBA to advance my career and deepen my skills” won’t generate much excitement, but a detailed, elaborated paragraph in place of this sentence could. If you can’t define your goals well, you will also be unable to define why a particular school is the best fit for you. The crucial link between your goals and the school resources that support them will be missing.

LOOKING FOR A READ ON YOUR MIND AND THOUGHT PROCESSES.

Third, schools use goals essays to make an indirect read on the quality of your mind and thought processes. Do you think seriously about the problems in your company or industry? Are you a realistic person or a vague or flaky dreamer? Can you craft a compelling case in prose that links your past, your goals, and the school you’re applying to? Finally, the goals essay gives you the least freedom of any business school essay for “creative” responses. This is because (1) you usually need to cover so much ground (career progress, short-and long-term goals, why an MBA, why our school) and (2) your goals themselves need to be grounded and savvy.

For all that, a secondary purpose of the goals essay is to learn about you as a person—that is, the distinctive experiences, values, and traits that make you unique. In other words, it’s quite possible to submit a goals essay that is too factual, impersonal, or boring—that succeeds in answering all the school’s goals questions but fails to introduce you as a person the reader would want to know better.

PUT YOURSELF ON THE COUCH.

Use the following questions to interrogate explore the goals that now motivate you to earn an MBA. If they survive intact, congratulate yourself—you’ve done your homework:

1. Is your post-MBA career the same thing you would do if you were independently wealthy? Is it the same thing you currently do as a hobby?

2. Recall the evolution of your interest in your post-MBA industry. How did you learn about it? Imagine that the person or experience that made you aware of this career were radically somehow different—would that change affect your interest in this goal?

3. Are the aspects of your current job that you enjoy more likely to be found in your post-MBA career? Are the aspects of your current job that you’re best at more likely to be found in your post-MBA career? Think about the most unpleasant task in your current position. How likely is your post-MBA position to regularly present you with this or similar tasks?

4. To what extent will your post-MBA career make it easier or more difficult for you to enjoy the things you consider essential to your happiness outside of work?

5. To what extent are your post-MBA goals associated with a specific lifestyle or geographical location? If your post-MBA career were not associated with that lifestyle or location would you still be attracted to it?

6. Have you confirmed that your short-term goals are logical stepping-stones to your long-term goals? How many of the informational interviews or due diligence conversations you’ve had about your post-MBA career confirmed your plan for transitioning from your short- to your long-term goals?

7. How satisfied are you that you have sufficiently done due diligence on your post-MBA goal? If you drew up a list of the impressions and responsibilities of this field as described by your informational interviewers, would a consistent picture emerge?

8. If everyone you respected told you that your post-MBA goals were ludicrous or unworthy, would you still want to pursue them?

9. If anyone you trust has questioned your post-MBA goals, have you systematically addressed each of their concerns to their or your own satisfaction?

10. What is your Plan B if your post-MBA goals are not, for whatever reason, achievable? What is your Plan B for achieving your post-MBA goals if your primary path toward them becomes blocked or unavailable?

Paul Bodine is the author of “Great Applications for Business School“ and an MBA admissions consultant based in San Diego. This is the third in a series of excerpts from Paul’s newly revised edition of ”Great Applications,” which is on our bookshelf as essential reading for all MBA applicants. The first three articles: “MBA Essays: 10 Crucial Things You Should Never Do,” “MBA Essays: Making a Lasting Impression” and “MBA Essays: Data Mining Your Life” The fifth excerpt will appear next week. You also can follow Paul on Twitter and Facebook.

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