Mission Admission: Backup Goals? Really?

Mission Admission is a series of MBA admission tips; a new one is posted each Tuesday.

For many years, one of the ineluctable truths of applying to business school has been “MBA candidates must present very well-defined goals to the admissions committees.” Well, change seems to be in the air. Harvard Business School, for one, does not require applicants to discuss goals, but asks instead about a broader “career vision,” and this vision need not be addressed in the candidates’ essays, because the two required essay questions ask about past experiences. Now, no fewer than six top admissions officers, with whom mbaMission has spoken directly, have shown an openness to candidates discussing primary and secondary short-term goals, especially if the candidate is proposing to enter a field that is not hiring because of a poor job market, or if the candidate is a career changer who may have trouble making the switch.

So, if you are planning to write about making the leap into investment banking during a significant downturn, for example, you might want to also offer a reasonable backup plan that will provide the same or even different but nonetheless applicable skills that will still lead you to your long-term goals. During tough economic times, the schools want to know that you are employable, and part of your message might be that you are flexible and have truly considered your options if your Plan A does not work out. Yesterday’s heresy is today’s reality.

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