Top Four Popular Reasons for Pursuing an MBA

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TOP FOUR POPULAR REASONS FOR PURSUING AN MBA

Jumping on an MBA bandwagon will only hurt your admissions
chance. The same goes for applying simply because you have
lost your job. So what are the common rationales that are
acceptable for desiring an MBA? In this section, I will go over
the four most common reasons that drive MBA applicants’ deci-
sion for business school as well as how the MBA Board feels
about each of them.
Responses to why you want an MBA often fall into four cate-
gories: financial reward, intellectual challenge, personal devel-
opment, and professional advancement. Let’s examine each and
discuss how Admissions Boards view them.
Financial Reward
There is no doubt that the return on investment of an MBA
(especially for top MBA programs) is very high. A glance at
career brochures or websites of leading MBA programs reveals
that after graduating from business school the average starting salary for the newly minted MBA is about $100K. And these data do not include the bonuses that can often be in the tens of
thousands of dollars, depending on the industry. You don’t have
to be a math whiz to recognize that the MBA offers significant
financial reward that pays for itself. If this is your main reason
for pursuing an MBA, that’s fine—but I recommend keeping it
to yourself. The MBA Board already recognizes that financial
reward is one of the key reasons people choose to study for an
MBA. Stating this reason as your main driver for an MBA
communicates a superficiality that doesn’t help your candidacy.
You are better off focusing on a deeper reason like personal or
professional fulfillment. We will get to those shortly.
Intellectual Challenge
For many candidates, the draw of the MBA is the intellectual
stimulation and challenge that they will experience in the class-
room. Without a doubt, the MBA builds skills and equips
students with new insights to business issues. The joy of
learning new material and concepts makes the MBA attractive
to candidates who welcome the intellectual and invigorating
conversations inside and outside the classroom. Stretching
yourself intellectually is a fine rationale for why you want an
MBA. However, this rationale can raise flags for the MBA
Board if you have multiple graduate degrees but no work expe-
rience; candidates with this background can be seen as “degree
collectors” or “perpetual students.” Your comfort level oper-
ating in the real world may be called into question. So, regard-
less of what your background is, it is important to balance your
quest for knowledge with practical experience.
Personal Development
The personal development justification for the MBA is often
tied to professional benefits as well. The draw for many people
who chose to pursue the MBA is the personal confidence and
credentials that an MBA gives them. As an MBA alumna phrased it, “My MBA gave me the courage to think bigger, step farther, and pursue my lifelong dream…” The one thing that
most MBAs have in common is an ambitious spirit and a desire
to achieve something significant—the teacher who wants to
create charter schools across the nation, the cellist who plans
to transform her national music conservatory in Bulgaria, or
the business analyst who wants to run an emerging market
hedge fund. What all these individuals have in common is a
desire to have greater impact beyond where they are in their
lives. The confidence that an MBA provides allows many indi-
viduals to achieve significant goals, and this remains a major
driver for many who seek a graduate business education. One
can’t talk about the personal development impact of the MBA
without addressing the incredible social network that surrounds
the MBA experience. Through lifelong friendship and diverse
networks, many MBAs are able to achieve their goals. It is no
surprise that personal development is a popular rationale given
by many applicants for why they want an MBA. This rationale
makes complete sense to the Admissions Boards.
Professional Advancement
The majority of applicants indicate that they are seeking an
MBA for the career development benefits. More specifically,
they say that they want the MBA to increase their under-
standing of the business world. This is a popular and
compelling reason to give for why you want an MBA.
For some candidates, an MBA is a necessary next step to
jump-start a stalled career. For others, they have been
bypassed on promotions because they lack the degree. And
then there are those applicants who are ready for a significant
management role but who lack some fundamental skills that
would be necessary to succeed in the new position. Entrepre-
neurs also find the MBA environment to be a great value in
building their skill set and helping them refine their business

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THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS’ ADMISSIONS SECRETS
model, reposition their product, and learn more successful
ways to scale an already successful enterprise.
And of course, there are the career changers—I can’t talk
about the professional development benefit of the MBA
without discussing career changers. Many MBA candidates can
be characterized as career changers. In fact, more than 70
percent of MBA students change their industry or function after
attending business school. If you are a career changer, you
probably see the MBA as a bridge to enable you to transition
into a new industry or function. And indeed, that is one of the
major benefits of the MBA.
However, it is not enough to say you plan to use the MBA to
change your job. You must be able to show that you have made
a significant impact in your current career. It is also important
that you present strong evidence based on your brand that you
have what it takes to make a career switch. Regardless of
whether you will change careers or remain in your current
industry, it is acceptable to use professional development as
your justification for why you seek an MBA.

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