How to Write an Outstanding Career Goals Essay

A step-by-step approach to conquering the most important part of your MBA application, with a full-length HBS essay example

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Part 1: Introduction

  • What is the career goals essay?

  • Why does the career goals essay matter?

  • The career goals essay vs. the personal statement

Part 2: How to define your career goals

  • The long-term goal

  • The short-term goal

Part 3: How to write your career goals essay

  • Introduction

  • Body paragraphs

  • Conclusion

Part 4: Essay outline

Part 5: Career goals essay example

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Part 1: Introduction

What is the career goals essay?

Just as your undergraduate admissions application most likely required you to write a personal statement, at the center of almost every MBA application packet is the career goals essay. It can take on many different forms through varying prompts and word count requirements, but the approach to this seminal portion of your MBA application remains the same. No matter which programs you’re applying to, the career goals essay is your chance to explain why you’re applying to business school in the first place, beyond what admissions committees can gather from your MBA resume.

More broadly, this is your chance to demonstrate passion. The dirty little secret to the career goals essay is that no one follows up with you in the future to see if you actually accomplished the goal you wrote about. Did you, for instance, really start that ethically sourced pants company? Did you successfully develop boutique exercise gyms? Start a niche media company? Whatever the goal, the most important aspect of your stated plan is that your choice proves you have a passion for a certain field, and that you’re dedicated to making big changes in that field.    

Most MBA programs encourage students to explore new avenues of interest; so, not only is it possible for your goal to change over the course of your MBA educational experience, it’s expected to.

Why does the career goals essay matter?

Admissions committees want to know that you’re passionate about something. They want to see how you think about the world, what problems you’ve identified in existing systems, and how you plan to solve them in order to effect long-lasting change. 

They want to see that you have set out to achieve a vision. The vision can change, but it’s imperative that you’re the type of person who has a vision in the first place. That’s the goal of this essay. Show your passion for accomplishing a vision. Show that your engine is revved–that there’s a fire under your feet. 

Take a look at a few of the ways top MBA programs word their career goals essay prompts below:

Harvard Essay 1: As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA program? (No word-limit)

This prompt seems frighteningly open-ended, but Harvard is being a little sneaky. The HBS admissions committee doesn’t want you to tell them just anything, as their one-and-only essay prompt might appear at first glance. They want to know why you’re applying, and your answer should center around your long-term goal.

Though there’s no word limit listed, based on our experience working with past successful applicants, you should aim for 750-1000 words. An essay over 1,000 words can bog down a reader, but an essay that’s fewer than 750 words–at least for the Harvard Business School (HBS) application, where this essay is the only chance you have to impress the admissions committee–risks not being robust enough to prove your case that you, amongst thousands of others, deserve a spot in the HBS class.  

With the exception of HBS, most schools don’t disguise their prompts as general personal essays. Most ask you explicitly about your goals. For example:

Columbia Essay 1: Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next 3-5 years and what, in your imagination, would be your long term dream job? (Word limit: 500 words)

NYU Stern Essay 1: What are your short and long-term career goals? How will the MBA help you achieve them? (500 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font)

Chicago Booth Essay 1: How will the Booth MBA help you achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA career goals? (250 word minimum)

LBS Essay 1: What are your post-MBA goals and how will your prior experience and the London Business School programme contribute towards these? (500-word limit)

U. Penn Wharton Essay 1: What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)

With these, your task is clear: Why are you applying? What is your goal?

Other top programs word their career goals essay prompts a little differently. Case in point:

Yale Essay 1: Describe the biggest commitment you have ever made. (500 words)

Stanford Essay 1: What matters most to you, and why? (750 words)

For each of these examples, although your approach might take a slightly different slant depending on the wording, one aspect should be absolutely clear: what do you want to achieve in your career, in the short and long term? The “biggest commitment you’ve ever made” absolutely must tie in with your long-term goal. The thing that “matters most to you” needs to be nearly inseparable from what you want to accomplish in the future. Don’t let the different wordings fool you: these are all career goals essay prompts.

There are a handful of exceptions. In their 2018 application, Duke’s Fuqua program, for example, did not ask its applicants about their goals, but instead asked for a more personality-driven “list” essay calling for 25 “fun facts” about yourself. The University of Michigan’s program only asked explicitly about applicants’ short-term goals. However, chances are, if you’re applying to more than one MBA program, you’re going to have to tackle the career goals essay.

In this article, we’re going to walk you through a step-by-step approach for acing your career goals essay. From identifying the “right goal” (because some goals aren’t the right ones to discuss on your MBA application) to breaking down the essay into its requisite components, to avoiding common pitfalls many applicants make, we’ll show you everything you need to know before you attempt to take a first stab at one of these prompts.

But before we begin, we want to lead with an important caveat. What follows will offer you an excellent, time-tested template for how to write a strong career goals essay. That said, the best essays don’t follow a formula. The absolute best-of-the-best essays find their own form that’s most suitable for the individual essay’s content.

What’s the difference between a career goals essay and a personal statement I’ve written for other applications?

A personal statement, by nature, is personal. It can take on a pretty amorphous shape, and oftentimes the more creative you make it, the better. A personal statement’s purpose is to allow an admissions officer to get to know you as a person.

And while admissions committees want to see who you are as a person, they also want to know who you are as a leader.

This is an important distinction. A personal statement can address whatever you want it to, as long as it allows the reader to get to know you more fully. But the career goals essay is far more pointed. In it, your primary job is to show where you’re headed professionally, why it matters (both to you and to the world) and why you’re the best person for the job.

Business schools want to know what kind of impact you’re going to make on the world. If you can work your personality into the mix while doing so, great, but the “personal” should always come secondary to the essay’s primary focus: your professional future, and the plan you have to achieve it. 

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Part 2: How to define your career goals

Look up “goal” in your nearest dictionary, and you’ll find a definition somewhere along the lines of “the end toward which effort is dedicated.” What does that mean? Who knows! That’s exactly our point. Forget Merriam Webster’s definition. An MBA application career goal is a totally different beast.

There are two distinct types of goals that the career goals essays ask for: the long-term goal and the short-term goal. Below, we’ll break down both goal types to help you identify the “right” goal for each.

The Long-term Goal

The long-term goal is your “big picture” vision. It’s what you see yourself accomplishing ten-plus years down the line from receiving your MBA. This should be the culmination of your life’s work, as you see it from your current vantage point.

There’s really no such thing as a long-term goal that’s “too big,” but there are long-term goals that are too general. You don’t want your long-term goal to be something as broad as “saving the world.” In what way will you save the world? What part of the world will you save? 

You want a long-term goal that has a big impact, sure, but your reader also needs to believe that you can achieve it. While you need to exhibit passion for a vision, the MBA admissions committee wants to see that you’re level-headed enough to be able to execute on that passion. They want to see that you’ve made a plan, and that an MBA is an essential next-step in accomplishing that plan.

Your long-term goal also needs to be achievable based on your experience. If you studied finance in college and worked as a banker for the past five years, your long-term goal in this essay should not be about curing cancer.

However, if you, our health-conscious banker, do want to move from finance into a cancer-related field, you might define your long-term goal as “optimizing the existing healthcare field using my business expertise.” You might therefore argue that an MBA can help you expand your existing knowledge base into the underlying business principles behind the healthcare field. In this way, the MBA becomes a crucial part of your plan. 

Below, we’re going to give you a check-list to work your way toward choosing a strong long-term goal, but first let’s understand what exactly a long-term goal should look like.

The easiest way to think about the long-term goal is to consider it a solution to a problem that you’re passionate about. That’s the crux of the formula. Let’s break this down into two general types of long-term goals:

1. Solve a problem that affects people through an innovation in a field

This is the long-term goal for the free thinking entrepreneurial type. If your ultimate goal is to start your own company, then this is probably the route you want to take. Let’s say you’re passionate about alleviating world hunger. Maybe you have a history with agriculture start-ups, and you’ve seen first-hand the negative effect poor crop yields have on sub-Saharan African farmers. You’ve gained conviction that creating an NGO focused on tool sharing amongst farmers could increase crop yields. Creating this organization would be an innovation that will solve a problem that you care about. In this case, it could be your long-term goal. 

2. Capitalize on an inefficiency in a field through existing means

Let’s say you don’t have a groundbreaking new idea. No big deal. Not every MBA applicant needs to start their own company. Instead, you could identify an inefficiency as a problem and propose a solution.

Perhaps you work in the tech industry, and you’re focused on semiconductors. You’ve noticed that your company’s manual engineering process is creating a lag-time for your business’s design cycle. Maybe you want to encourage companies like yours to adopt machine learning technology to free up engineers’ time and resources. That’s a way to solve a problem by addressing a current inefficiency. Facilitating the adoption of machine learning into semiconductor engineering could thereby be your long-term goal.

Notice that both of these “goal types” include solving a problem. Selecting a goal that solves a problem is the easiest and most effective approach to writing the career goals essay.

Let’s be real, though. Often, people apply for MBA programs because they want to make more money or change jobs. And here lies one of the most common mistakes applicants make in the career goals essay. Maybe you’re applying for an MBA to get promoted ahead-of-turn, transition out of your role, or get recruited at a bigger firm. That’s fair. But it’s not the “goal” you write about in this essay. 

If this describes you, consider this third approach to the career goals essay.

3. Create a narrative around your past experience  

If you don’t already have a big solution or problem in mind, you can reverse engineer one using what you’ve already done in the past.

Think about what you studied in college, the career you’ve had so far, your favorite work projects, any extra-professional activities you’ve devoted your free time to--what connects these experiences? If you followed that through-line all the way to fruition, what would your professional life look like? 

For example: let’s say you were premed in college but worked in finance afterward. Your longtime passion has been for science, but your work experience is in distressed debt. The through-line here might be that you enjoy solving problems, whether in the lab at school or on a spreadsheet at work.

A strong goal could therefore be going into healthcare administration, where you could combine your science knowledge with your financial training to make an impact in the field.

Through this approach, you take what you care about and what you’ve done so far and spin them together into a big-picture goal that makes sense for your future.

Stress test for choosing your long-term goal

If you’ve now got your long-term goal in mind, run it through our stress-test below to see if it holds water. If you don’t yet know your goal, try to work your way through this stress-test and see where you land.

The first test accounts for categories 1 and 2, innovation and optimization.

Stress Test 1

  1. Is there a real-world problem you care deeply about?

a.     What keeps you up at night?

b.     If you could change one thing about the world to make it a better place, what would that change be?

2. Does the problem relate to your professional history?

a.     If your answer is “YES,” you have the perfect set-up for your MBA goal. This is the problem you’re going to solve.

3. Can you dream up a solution?

a.     What job would allow you to work toward solving the problem above?

                  i. Starting your own company?

                  ii. Becoming the CEO of an existing company?

This job role = your Long-term Goal

If you breezed through that stress-test, you’re ready to move on. However, if not…

What if that test didn’t work?

If you snagged at some point in the above stress test, even if it was on the very first point, don’t fret. You can reverse engineer a strong career goals essay goal. Here’s how:

Stress Test 2

  1. Your area of interest. What field do you work in or hope to work in?

a. Can you genuinely talk about this field to show that it’s your passion?

b. Look back over the things you’ve done in your life, professionally and personally. Is there a through-line?

2. What’s the major problem facing your area of interest?

3. How might you solve that problem? Can you propose a solution?

a. Is there a job function that might allow you to work toward solving the major problem facing your area of interest?

          This job role = your Long-term Goal

To reiterate, the most important takeaway from this section is that your long-term goal isn’t just what you hope to do in the future. A strong long-term goal is a solution to a problem that you’re passionate about.

Before moving on to the short-term goal, let’s take a moment to look at how an example applicant approached this stress test. We’ll use her essay to illustrate many of the points we make throughout this guide. Check her out:

Katie (our example applicant) studied Classics during her undergraduate degree before pursuing a PhD in the field. In her PhD program, she began to feel her work wasn’t making a big enough impact. She realized that what initially drew her to the field of Classics was the interdisciplinary approach it fostered—she could use modern approaches to say something new about age-old texts—but this was seen as pedestrian in the ivory tower of a PhD program.

So, her interdisciplinary approach, coupled with her desire to see results, led her to hedge fund management, where she’s worked for the past three years. Having applied her interdisciplinary approach to investment for some time, Katie is ready to utilize the financial expertise she’s acquired from the hedge fund in order to make a humanitarian impact on education, her lifelong passion. 

How would Katie approach the stress-test in order to land on her ultimate goal? Take a look at her answers to the test below:

Stress Test 1

  1. Is there a real-world problem you care deeply about?

a. What keeps you up at night?

b. If you could change one thing about the world to make it a better place, what would that change be?

Access to education. Katie believes in higher education–it was the singular force that changed her life for the better–and she feels conviction in the idea that everyone deserves access to this type of education, even those who have to work full-time jobs. In fact, she thinks that working and education shouldn’t be mutually exclusive… surely there must be a way to get an education while also supporting yourself and your family and not going into a huge amount of debt… but how? Katie wants to democratize education, thereby ultimately helping to increase socio-economic mobility and help working class people achieve the same goals as the more privileged class through equal access to education.

2. Does problem relate to your professional history?

a. If you answer is “YES,” you have the perfect set-up for your MBA goal. This is the problem you’re going to solve.

YES! Katie not only has an extensive academic record, having pursued a PhD in Classics, but also financial wherewithal from years of hedge fund management to potentially figure out a finance-backed solution to the problem of equal access to education.

In fact, she’s recently taken on a lead role in her hedge fund’s initiative (Project Attainment) to partner the corporations her fund supports with local universities in order to provide corporate grants to employees who would like to attend these universities while continuing to work at the corporation.

3. Can you dream up a solution?

a. What job would allow you to work toward solving the problem above?

                i. Starting your own company?

                ii. Becoming the CEO of an existing company?

This job role = your Long-term Goal 

Katie’s work with Project Rise has made her confident that she can take this one initiative and expand it to a national scale. Her ultimate goal is to create her own venture connecting corporations with universities to provide alternatives to traditional four-year degrees, thereby allowing working class people to access higher education without taking on loads of debt, and continuing to provide for their families in the process.

And, with that, Katie has a problem that she is personally passionate about, has the experience to make her the one to solve it, and has a solution in terms of a future job function. Her long-term goal is therefore sound. She’s ready to move on to… 

The short-term goal

Your long-term goal should be big. It’s your big dream. You shouldn’t be able to accomplish your long-term goal right away. Even after your MBA, it should take years and years of professional development to reach your long-term goal. If you can achieve your long-term goal immediately after graduating from an MBA program, it’s not your long-term goal.

For example, say your goal is to alleviate poverty in sub-Saharan Africa by helping farmers access useful agricultural technologies. That’s not something you can do in a day. That’s a life’s work, and there will be many steps you’ll need to take to prepare for such a venture after receiving your MBA.

The thing you’ll do directly following your MBA is your short-term goal. Working at Goldman Sachs or McKinsey are fine short-term goals; so is taking a job at any existing company within your desired field in order to build up your skill set, or even launching a start-up venture that begins to address one aspect of your long-term goal.

The most important thing to consider when isolating your short-term goal is whether it tracks with the long-term goal. The purpose of the short-term goal in a career goals essay is to show that you can make a plan that gets you from point A to point D, where point A is all you’ve accomplished to-date, point B is your MBA, and point D is your long-term goal. That leaves you with point C: your short-term goal. 

You want to show through the short-term goal that you understand what it takes to pull off something big. MBA admissions committees aren’t looking for wayward dreamers; they’re looking for future leaders who have what it takes to accomplish something special, and what it takes, pretty much always, is a step-wise approach to professional growth.

The short-term goal showcases your follow-through, your ability to plan, and your ability to be precise about how you’ll position yourself to accomplish your long-term goal.

A helpful formula for thinking about your short-term goal might be:

The skills you gain from an MBA + the experience you gain from your short-term goal = strong preparation for your long-term goal.

Let’s go back to the world hunger example. If you say your long-term goal is to solve world hunger, but your short-term goal is to work at Goldman Sachs, it’s going to sound a little fishy. This is one of the biggest mistakes applicants make. They set awe-inspiring, impactful long-term goals, but then their short-term goal is to get recruited at top finance or consulting firm.

Let’s be clear: After an MBA, going into finance or consulting is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. In fact, the majority of MBA graduates do it. You’ve just paid a lot of money for a degree, so it’s fair that you want to earn it back. 

That said, you need to reconcile your short-term goal with your long term vision. So, you’ll need to specify the type of experience you intend to gain from Goldman that will help you alleviate hunger. Maybe you’ll work as an investment banker to learn the ins-and-outs of raising capital for new businesses, and one day apply this capital-raising expertise to your own developing business aimed at solving world hunger. That tracks. That’s a solid short-term goal.

However, you could strengthen it further by claiming that you aim to take up a position in Goldman’s nonprofit wing to specialize in raising capital for the types of businesses that you eventually want to start. Remember, it’s fine if your plans change. What’s important here is that you prove you have the follow-through required to complete any goal at all, and part of that means proving you’re the type of person who can form a step-wise, sensible plan.

The best way to think about your short-term goal is to consider it as part of your 10,000 hours of practice leading up to your long-term goal. In your MBA program, you’ll learn a lot of theory and study a lot of real-world business cases. The MBA should prepare you with the skills necessary to accomplish your long-term goal.

However, these skills won’t be fine-tuned or tested in real-world business scenarios. You’ll need to put the iron to the fire, and the “fire,” in this idiom, is your short-term goal. A well-chosen short-term goal allows you to put into practice what you’ve learned through your MBA in order to prepare you for your long-term goal.

Let’s refer back to our example applicant. Katie knows first-hand about education, and she also knows a lot about working for an investment fund. However, before Katie can make her own venture fund that connects universities with corporate support, she’ll need to gain management skills.

She has no idea how to start her own fund or manage workers, but that’s exactly what she can gain through her MBA. The MBA will connect her with resources and networks while also giving her management skills to start her own fund and assemble a team.

However, immediately following her MBA, she likely won’t be ready to execute her vision. She’ll need to practice the skills she’s learned in order to prepare for her long-term goal.

How could a future education innovator best prepare to tackle her vision? There are a few possibilities. She could join an education startup with similar aims as her own–perhaps one like Glimpse K12, which works with education finance, where she could learn best practices.

However, it’s important to note that she could do this without an MBA. So, if her short-term goal is joining Glimpse, she should argue that she’ll leverage her MBA skill set to expand Glimpse beyond their K12 platform and into the higher education space. That’s a strong short-term goal that makes use of her MBA.

Or, perhaps she prepares for her education finance venture by tackling the problem from the academic side–she could round out her financial background by joining a university’s administrative office in order to understand their needs and foresee potential problems associated with bringing corporations into the fold.

In this example, she could leverage the business skills she gained through her MBA to begin a trial run of her future vision with this one university, working to find corporate partnerships for that specific university in the hopes of, later, branching out into a national platform.

Yet another option would be to join a specific corporation and work the partnership from the corporate side. No matter the short-term goal, there’s one thing in common: she’s using her managerial skill-set to practice for her future long-term goal. Each option takes her one step closer to reaching her goal post-MBA.

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Part 3: How to write your career goals essay

Before you put pen to paper or open up that blank Word doc, make sure you’ve spent ample time brainstorming the above information. The hardest part of acing the career goals essay takes place before you ever start writing. Be certain that you have your long- and short-term goals solid and ready to go before you approach the actual writing of the essay. Take your time on the pre-writing preparation.

But once you’ve done all that, it’s time to write.

Below, we’ve devised an easy-to-digest strategy to help you convey your short- and long-term goals in a manner that will have the admissions committees begging you to join their programs. We’ve broken down the actual writing of the career goals essay into distinct components.

Though we encourage you to think of these components as key concepts to include in your essay, we don’t necessarily advise that you break these components out into distinct paragraphs like we’ve done below. We’re breaking them down into paragraphs to give you a solid template to work with, but again, the best essays will find their own forms that go beyond the high school five-paragraph essay.

In any case, every solid career goals essay should touch upon the below concepts in some manner, so following our structure below is a great way to churn out a first draft. The art, then, comes in revision.

Before moving on, be sure you can answer yes to both questions below: 

1. Is your long-term goal a solution to a problem that you’re passionate about?

2. Is your short-term goal a stepping stone between your MBA and your long-term goal?

If both answers are “yes,” then let’s get to writing. 

As with any essay, the career goals essay should have a beginning, middle, and end. You’ll need an introduction that presents an argument (your long-term goal is your argument, as you’ll see) a body that substantiates your position on the argument, and a conclusion that reminds us why it matters in the first place.

For the purpose of this breakdown, we’re going to assume we’re working with the HBS essay prompt, as their word-count of around 1,000 words is the most daunting. Even for a shorter essay, though, you’ll want to aim to cover most of these points, but you’ll do it in a more condensed fashion.

Remember the goal of the career goals essay. Demonstrate a passion for a problem, and convince the admissions committee that you are the type of person who can solve it. You can show off that passion in 1,000 words or 250 words. No matter the essay’s length, the heart of your approach is the same.

The introduction 

Part 1: the problem. 

In 2018, HBS reportedly received about 10,000 applications. Though HBS is one of the largest MBA programs, with almost 1,000 people per class, the sheer number of applicants means that 90% of all those who applied were rejected. 

In other words, your essay is going to be read alongside 9,999 other essays. 

So, how do you hook a reader at the start of your essay? What gets your attention when you’re reading a news article or a novel, watching a movie, or listening to someone else recount a real-life anecdote?

Oftentimes, what hooks us is a problem. If you can turn your reader’s attention to a problem with real-world effects, they’ll likely want to read more. Think back to your long-term goal. You’re planning to solve a major problem, right? 

If that’s the case (and it should be) then your first couple of sentences needs to establish the problem. Do this in as compelling a way as possible. Set the scene. Dramatize. Paint the picture. Give us stakes to sink our teeth into. The reader has to feel that this problem needs to be solved. And problems need to be solved when they have a negative impact, so try to state clearly exactly what’s wrong.

An important caveat: you’re not just trying to prove that your chosen problem matters in general. You need to argue why it matters to you. In other words, why do you care? Do you have a connection to the problem? Has the problem affected you negatively either in your personal or professional life? Establish this connection as early as possible.

The problem’s connection to you can be as personal as you’d like to make it. Our banker applicant could have been inspired to go into the healthcare industry because he saw first-hand how the business operations of the healthcare industry failed someone he cared about, and he’s been inspired to use his business skills to help fix it. That would be an extremely personal, human response to a problem.

However, your connection to the problem doesn’t need to be touchy-feely, and you shouldn’t try to force a deeply personal connection if the problem doesn’t warrant it.

For example, our software engineering example probably doesn’t have a deeply personal reason to care about increasing semiconductor design efficiency, but it is her business to do so. If she’s an engineer who’s personally felt the adverse effects of manual semiconductor design and knows how much more she and other engineers like her could do if she optimized the process via machine learning, then there’s a problem that she cares about.

In this example, the software engineer would begin her essay with the problem–explaining what the current design process is like and how that’s affecting the company and industry. She’d use statistics and projections to substantiate her claims.

Then, she’d argue why it matters to her. She’s devoted the past five years of her life to semiconductor engineering, many more if you count her educational years–that means she’s spent countless hours doing something that could be facilitated by machine learning!

The problem affects her directly through her past work experiences, and it affects the industry at large, too. She’s felt this problem’s affects firsthand and cares about it because it’s what she does for a living. Placing herself at the center of the problem makes the problem personal. Making the problem personal is essential to arguing that she is the best person to solve it.

In the first half of your introduction, you should aim to accomplish two things:

1. Establish the problem and convince your reader it needs to be solved. Set the stakes.

2. Argue that YOU are the one to solve it. Why do you care?

After you’ve established the problem and placed yourself at the forefront of the issue, you’re ready to move on to the second part of the introduction: the solution.

Part 2: the solution.

Remember, your long-term goal is the solution to the problem above. Once you’ve established the problem and demonstrated why you’re passionate about solving it, it’s time to dive into how you plan to solve it. Here’s how to do that.

1. What is currently being done to address the problem? 

Chances are, you’re not the first person who’s noticed this problem. In fact, if the problem is big enough, you shouldn’t be the only person who knows about it. Crop yields in sub-Saharan Africa? People know that’s a problem. 

What’s currently underway to solve for it? What’s needed? How has the industry attempted, and failed, to solve the problem in the past? We need to get a sense that this problem is not easy to solve. If it’s easy, why would you need to devote your life’s work to solving it? Why would you need an MBA? Complex problems require complex solutions, and we need to feel the complexity at play in order to understand why it’s your long-term goal. 

2. What do YOU bring to the table that others don’t?

So, you’ve identified a problem that matters to you, and you’ve discussed its complexity. What makes you think that YOU can solve it? Others have tried, but they’re missing some important component that you’ll be able to bring to the issue based on your unique expertise. What is your unique expertise?

3. Your solution

Now’s the time to propose your solution. If you’ve successfully argued points 1 and 2 above, then you’ll have the reader on the edge of her seat awaiting how you plan to fix it. Frame your solution in terms of your expertise.

You want to bring your knowledge of machine learning into a field that doesn’t currently utilize it. You want to use your entrepreneurial prowess to start a tool-sharing organization for farmers. You want to leverage your financial background to streamline cancer research funding. How do you plan to attack the problem you laid out above to solve it?

4. To accomplish this solution, what business role will you take?

This is your long-term goal. In order to solve XX problem through YY means, you’ll do ZZ business role. The long-term goal is ZZ, the job. The job will allow you to solve the problem above. 

It’s not enough to state the problem and a solution. The career goals essay requires you to frame that solution within a job function. Maybe you want to start your own company. Maybe you want to be CFO of an existing company. Maybe you want to invent a new job in an existing field.

The possibilities are endless, but you need to end your introduction by assigning a job title to your future that will allow you to accomplish the above. An admissions committee doesn’t want a solution that’s floating around as an idea. Ground your solution in a job function.

An optional finish: as icing on the cake, to cap off your introduction, tie in the MBA. You’ll cover the “why MBA” portion of your argument more extensively in the essay’s body paragraphs, but for now, just hint at it. You want to solve this important problem by becoming this job function, but first, you need an MBA. This way, the adcom gets a strong sense of what’s coming in the next few paragraphs.

And, with that, you’ll have a solid introduction that hooks the reader and keeps them invested in both this essay and your application as a whole. To recap:

  1. The problem

  2. Why it matters to you

  3. What’s been done / what’s needed?

  4. How your particular expertise can contribute

  5. Your solution in terms of a job function 

This might seem like a lot for an introduction, but you can cover many of these components in a sentence or two, if they’re strong. For a 1,000-word essay, plan on devoting around 250-300 words on your intro.

No matter the length of the essay, plan to devote a solid quarter of your available word-count to introducing your take on the problem at-hand. Your introduction is the most important part of the essay, so don’t skimp. 

At the end of this article, we’ve posted a full-length HBS essay example to show our advice in practice, but for now, take a look at that essay’s introduction to see how one applicant utilized our advice to demonstrate passion for a problem and hook the readers. Below, you’ll find our Sarah’s introduction followed by a breakdown of how and why it works: 

Due to financial constraints and familial obligations, neither of my older brothers were able to attend college. Instead, after graduating high school, they joined the corporate workforce, and to this day my brothers mark their biggest regret as not having been afforded the same opportunity for educational advancement as I was given. Unlike my brothers, a string of strong test scores allowed me to leave my rural hometown for the Ivory halls of Harvard University, where need-based financial aid provided the chance to study thousand-year-old texts in the Classics department.

Throughout my studies, I became enthralled by the challenge of attempting to say something original about age-old texts by making connections to a wide body of disciplines, such as using Homer’s Achilles as a lens for PTSD suffered by Vietnam Vets. I loved going deep in one area, but the real thrill was applying Classics to new and unexpected fields, and this type of interdisciplinary approach to problem-solving has transformed the way I think and operate in the world–a frame of mind that was not afforded to my brothers and so many like them due to the steep financial costs associated with most avenues of higher education. 

My life was forever changed by higher education, and I believe that everyone–even those who must join the workforce to support themselves and their families–should have the option to better themselves through education.

It’s no secret that my generation is plagued with student loans, and the fear of compounding interest rates deters many from post-high-school education. Having pursued a PhD at Oxford before joining a hedge fund where I applied my interdisciplinary approach to investment strategy, I’ve become well-versed in both the advantages provided by higher education and the ways in which financial institutions can bolster humanitarian efforts, and I believe that, through combining education with the private sector via corporate partnerships with universities, we can democratize higher education and provide powerful alternatives to education finance for those, like my brothers, who were forced to choose work over college.

My goal is to leverage my financial background and passion for education in order to create an innovative fund that partners corporations with local universities to provide subsidized higher education to corporate employees. 

Through her introduction, Katie provided the admissions committee with a personal problem that she is both passionate about and uniquely positioned to solve. Let’s break down her introduction into the outline we laid out above:

1. The problem

Katie believes in higher education, but tuition and interest rates on student loans are prohibitive to many.

2. Why it matters to you.

Katie’s life has been forever changed by studying Classics–she approaches problems differently than she would have without going to college, and that has paid off in her hedge fund job. Her brothers (making it personal to her own lived experience) didn’t get this life-changing opportunity because they had to go to work after high school, and she wants to change the education finance landscape in order to allow future students like her brothers to have access to higher ed.

3. What’s been done / what’s needed?

She mentions student loans as the only viable option, but also points out how compounding interest rates make this option less than ideal. There’s a void to be filled.

4. How your particular expertise can contribute.

She demonstrates her passion for education and also includes the financial expertise she’s gained through her hedge fund work (which the admissions committee will see on her resume)–these two attributes (education and finance) uniquely position her to make moves in the future of education finance.

5. Your solution in terms of a job function.

Katie states that she will start a fund that works to partner universities with corporations, thereby creating an alternative means of education finance that would solve the problem her brothers experienced. Her job function would be “fund manager,” and it could certainly solve her problem.

With that, Katie has followed our outline and constructed a compelling introduction to her essay. 

The body paragraphs

With a strong enough introduction, you’ll have your reader locked into the rest of the essay. So, what now? Below, we’ve broken down the body paragraphs of your “goals essay” into distinct units. Take a look:

Body paragraph 1: what you’ve done so far

In the first body paragraph of your essay, you have one task: establish yourself as the expert.  You’ve hinted at this in the “why you” component of your intro, but now’s the time to set it in stone.

Think of your first body paragraph as your audition for the role of your long-term goal. You obviously haven’t tried to tackle your long-term vision yet, and you won’t for many, many years to come; so, here, you want to use what you have already tackled in the past as proof that you’ll be perfectly able to keep hacking away at your long-term goal. Here’s the process: 

Step 1: Review your resume. Know it inside and out. You’ll be pulling from this document a lot while fleshing out this first paragraph.

Step 2: Ask yourself: what have you done already to help prepare you for your long-term goal? If you made it through our stress-test above, then your long-term goal should be intrinsically tied to your field of interest and current profession. Therefore, all of your accomplishments to-date are fair game for this “audition.”

Step 3: Skills. Your resume is a list of accomplishments. The admissions committee will read your resume. They’ll know all about the great things you’ve done for your past places of business.

What we need to focus on here are the skills beneath those accomplishments. Professional accomplishments are one-offs, but the skills it took to accomplish those feats are transferable. These skills will prove to the admissions committee that you can successfully realize your long-term goal. 

In this paragraph, you’re trying to prove to the admissions committee that you’re prepared to do what you’ve set out to do. You can begin this paragraph with a transition from your introduction—something like, “I’ve already begun working toward this goal.”

From that launching pad, show your reader how. What did you study in undergrad? What really got your gears turning? How did you move from your studies to your first place of work? Why? What skills did you gain from that first position? Did you use those skills to accomplish something great in your next job?

Build this accumulation of skills until the reader understands that you’re the expert for the goal you want to accomplish. They should get the sense that you’re uniquely positioned to take on this long-term goal based on your passions, interests, skills and experiences.

The biggest pitfall applicants stumble into in this first paragraph is simply listing off their resume. Do not list accomplishments or jobs. Instead, map what skills you’ve gained while facing certain problems in the past, and showcase the types of groundbreaking, brag-worthy solutions those skills led you to.

Take a look at Katie’s example essay’s first body paragraph below:

I’ve already begun working toward this goal by launching an initiative called Project Attainment at the Black Water Fund. While I continued my day-to-day work of pitching investment options to the fund’s managers–drawing from a variety of sources and interpreting them with an interdisciplinary frame of mind, a process that felt eerily similar to my Classics tutorials–I also decided to lead an education venture using funds the organization had set aside for philanthropic works. 

The goal of my venture–Project Attainment–was to facilitate a partnership between The Rise Fund and a large public university to create a tuition assistance model for corporate employees to attain higher education while continuing their professional growth. I began by recruiting three analysts at the hedge fund to volunteer their time to canvas local corporations and drum up interest.

From there, I utilized the interdisciplinary skill set I gained from my Classics studies to facilitating productive dialogue between the university’s non-profit mindset and the for-profit aims of our partnering corporations. I tasked myself with conducting due diligence with our counterparts over multiple, day-long meetings, and I embraced the challenge of finding a common language between the wildly different parties by asking balanced, pointed, financial questions while assuaging the university’s fear that quality of education would be compromised by corporate interests.

My approach allowed me to bring creative solutions to pivotal negotiations where others saw impasse and importantly build trust with our partners, to the extent that the CEO of Project Rise asked me to join his team as we set up the business.

Let’s break down Katie’s first body paragraph to explain how it’s working:

1. Establish yourself as the expert. 

Most of Katie’s work at the hedge fund involves pitching investment opportunities, but that day-to-day function doesn’t necessarily align with her long-term goal in education.

So, she notes her regular job role in one sentence (“While I continued my day-to-day work of pitching investment options to the fund’s managers…”) and focused the paragraph on the one professional experience that best positions her as an expert in the field of alternative finance routes for higher education: her own initiative, Project Attainment.

Through this, she shows she’s passionate about her goal and has unique leadership experience in the field.  

2. Skills.

Katie doesn’t list off accomplishments–instead, she focuses on the skills she used. She notes that she managed a team of three, that she negotiated between divergent counterparties, and that she used her core leadership trait (her interdisciplinary approach) to bridge divides and find mutually beneficial solutions. All of these showcase that she’s the type of person who has the potential to become a BUSINESS LEADER of the future.

Body paragraph 2: skill gaps

After you argue for the skills you have, it’s time to discuss the skills you need. Let’s say you absolutely nail the first body paragraph. Great. You’ve convinced your reader that you’re the person for the job. 

That leaves one major question, though. If you already have all these skills, why don’t you just go ahead and tackle your long-term goal? Or why not stay on your current track? Tons of business leaders reached their long-term goals without MBAs. Why do you need one?

There are tons of reasons one might apply for an MBA: a higher paying job, a career transition, an ahead-of-time promotion, social cache, you name it. However, as far as the career goals essay is concerned, there’s only one good reason for your application: you currently lack skills that you need to reach your long-term goal. That’s it. For the purpose of this essay, you’re applying because of a specific skill gap that you can only fill through an MBA education.

To be one of the lucky few chosen to enter the esteemed halls of a top MBA program, you need to prove that an MBA is the essential and inevitable next step at this stage of your career. That means you’ll need to demonstrate that you’ve gone as far as you can go along your current trajectory, turned over every available stone, and now you need to gain other skills before continuing to strive toward achieving your goal.

How do you accomplish this in your essay? Simple: focus on broader skills.

In most cases, one can gain all the necessary technical skills on-the-job. That’s what jobs are for–to help you master one thing. If you work in distressed debt at an investment bank, you’re going to know everything there is to know about leveraged buyouts. 

But if you’ve mastered the skills associated with your job role, and you need to, say, start your own company in order to accomplish your long-term goal, then you have an excellent reason to apply to an MBA—because there are skills involved with managing an organization that you simply can’t gain from the technical parameters of your current job. 

In your first paragraph, you might list the skills that demonstrate that you’re an expert in a specific field. In this second paragraph, you’ll want to broaden those skills to the leadership, management, structural and organizational skills that make up the bread-and-butter of a top MBA program.

The MBA is designed to take experts with potential and help them to see that potential through to its fruition by turning them into business leaders. Therefore, you might need softer skills associated with the growing responsibility of leadership and management. Try to drill into those overarching skills in this paragraph of your “goals essay.”

Here’s how Katie succinctly included her skill gaps:

Though my work with Project Attainment is still underway, I’ve learned through the process that, in order to tackle alternative educational finance on a broader scope, I’ll need to gain managerial and strategy skills through an MBA. Working between for-profit and non-profit institutions will require managing teams of experts on both fronts, and creating my own fund will require organizational and strategic planning that I can’t attain from my current job function as a hedge fund analyst. Therefore, I’m applying to HBS’s managerial program to best prepare me for my future as a leader in alternative education financing.  

In these few sentences, Katie completed the necessary task of convincing the admissions committee that she can’t complete her long-term goal by staying the course in her current job. 

Sure, she has experience partnering one university with a corporation, but if she’s going to go national with her venture, she’s going to need leadership and management training that she can only attain through an MBA.

Katie has established a problem she’s passionate about solving, proven that she’s an expert in the field, and made the case that she needs an MBA to gain the overarching skills needed to expand her vision. All of the work she’s done thus far will remain consistent with every “goals essay” she writes. From this point on, the essay will be different for every program she applies to.

Body paragraph 3: Why an MBA? Why this MBA?

By this point, you’re about two-thirds through your essay. You’ve established an important problem, argued a solution, explained how you’ve mastered certain skills that will propel you toward providing that solution, and noted the skill-gaps you need to fill before you can continue down the road of your long-term goal. 

Now, it’s time to look ahead at the MBA. You need to argue that an MBA–and, importantly, how a particular MBA program–will allow you mend the above-noted skill gap and launch you into your future success.

This is the “why MBA” portion of your essay. Brace yourself, because it requires research. 

Depending on the skills you say you need in order to accomplish your long-term goal, this paragraph may take on different forms. Here’s the key: focus on the particular offerings of the specific program. While the contents of your introduction and first couple of body paragraphs can easily be repurposed for all of your “goals essays,” if the “why MBA” paragraph looks the same for one program as it does for another, you’re doing something wrong.

The truth is that most MBA programs offer the same kinds of skill-based training as every other MBA program, but that’s not what the admissions committees want to hear from you. 

Consider this paragraph like a first date with an MBA program. It doesn’t matter that you’re also going on first dates with a handful of other programs this week. If you want this first date to go well, you’ve got to make your date feel special. Getting to know the program you’re applying to and being specific about how its independent offerings are particularly appealing to mending your skill-gap will go a long way.

Let’s get into the weeds a bit more on writing this paragraph.

1. Why get an MBA? 

You can start this paragraph by transitioning from the discussion of your skills and skill gaps into why you need an MBA in general. If you’re short on words, you can skip straight to getting particular about a specific program, but if you have the space, a light touch on this will do. Simply stress that an MBA is the right next step, explain why taking a break from work to go back to school is the right choice right now, and then move on to discussing the program you’re applying to.

2. Why this MBA?

Take the skills you lack in the paragraph above and scour the internet for any information you can find on the specific program’s particular offerings that relate to those skills. You want to argue that an MBA from this program will allow you to mend your skill gaps. A few ways to approach this:

a. Courses.

Investigate their course catalogue, focusing on higher level electives in the field of your long-term goal. Remember, every MBA will offer “Introduction to Management” in some capacity, so skip those generics. You want to isolate a few specific classes that pique your interest and align with the skills you need to develop.

b. Faculty

Is there someone at the program who’s done research into the problem you want to solve? Could you get guidance from them? Have you read any pertinent books published by a faculty member? How will you utilize this program’s esteemed faculty to help you mend your skill gaps and learn more about your long-term goal?

c. Extracurricular activities

Outside the classroom, what’s available to you? Every MBA program has a consulting club, but is there something specific about Stanford’s consulting club that is uniquely beneficial to you? Is there a student run organization that expressly focuses on honing the types of skills you need for your long-term goal?

d. Location

Does the program’s proximity or connectedness to your particular area of interest help you in reaching your long-term goal? Do they have strong relationships with nearby companies in your desired field? For instance, Boston is a hub for pharmaceuticals. New York is the financial capital of the world. Duke has access to agriculture. Can you use a program’s location to your benefit?

e. Alumni network

Every MBA program boasts about their extensive alumni network, but is there something particular about one program’s network that could help you? Is there a specific alum who is working toward your long-term goal who you would want to collaborate with or seek advice from in the future?

The above list contains just a handful of ideas to convince the admissions committee that you can get what you need from their program. The more you know about a given program, the more compelling examples you’ll find.

To reiterate, the biggest mistake applicants make in this section is being too general. If something you list exists at all MBA programs, it doesn’t belong here, or at least you need to argue that there’s something unique about this program’s variation on that offering that piques your interest, specifically.

Take a look at how Katie approached this section for her HBS essay below:

To gain the skills needed to launch my education finance fund, I’ll utilize the HBS curriculum’s emphasis on experiential learning through interactive case studies. In courses such as “Startup Garage,” I’ll build the skill set to launch a venture from scratch, and I’ll refine my mission and learn how to measure its potential impact through HBS’s “Social Ventures Practicum.” “Disruptions in Education” will be critical as I develop my understanding of where key opportunities and challenges exist in higher education. My conversations with Miriam Petri and Ingrid Patel showed me how I can leverage the resources of the HBS Impact Fund to get firsthand experience leading impact investments in early-stage companies eager to disrupt higher education.

Beyond coursework, HBS has an inimitable ethos embodied by its students who are passionate, driven, and eager to effect change. I’ll learn from these peers by taking part in the HBS Education Club, where I’ll contribute my financial expertise to the club’s ongoing collaboration with the School of Education’s joint initiative to increase access to education for low-income individuals. I also look forward to utilizing HBS’s extensive alumni network to seek out mentorship and advice as I embark on my education finance venture in the future.

In these paragraphs, Katie gets specific, and these specifics work to her advantage as they prove that she has done her homework on HBS and understands how their curricular and extracurricular offerings can help her reach her goal. Notice how she names specific courses and clubs, and even talks about branching out to other schools within Harvard’s educational ecosystem. She mentions specific conversations with alumni and ends with a nod to the alumni network–all good marks showing how she’ll make the most of her time at the program.

Body paragraph 4: short-term goal 

You’re almost done with your body paragraphs, but first, do you remember that short-term goal we had you think up before starting work on the essay? Here’s where that comes into play. If your long-term goal is big enough—and it should be—then you won’t be ready to tackle it for some time after completing your MBA. 

So, what will you do immediately following your graduation?

Remember what you’ve just argued above. You’ve just said you lack certain skills that you’ll gain from a particular MBA program, and you’ve discussed how you’ll go about gaining those skills over the course of the program. Following that logic, you’ll want to carry those skills you just gained into your professional life post-MBA. 

Your proposed career move after your MBA should line up with the skills you will gain through courses, extracurricular activities, networking, etc.. Frame your short-term career goals as a test-case for these skills.

Let’s return to the example of someone who wants to alleviate poverty amongst sub-Saharan African farmers. She could argue that, at HBS, she’d learn the managerial skills necessary to start her own company that brings up-to-date agriculture technologies to this underserved community.

A strong short-term goal could therefore be to work in the agricultural practice of a foundation like Gates or Rockefeller, whose wide purview in development could help her better understand agricultural best practices in international development. In this example, the skills she gained from HBS were general skills that would help any entrepreneur succeed, and her short-term goal provided specific practice utilizing those skills within her long-term field.

Though the short-term goal needs to be a solid choice that exhibits follow-through and shows how you can form a plan, you don’t actually need to devote a great deal of your precious word-count to discussing it. It’s an essential puzzle piece of a successful career goals essay, but you can likely cover it in a couple of sentences, especially in a shorter iteration of the essay. 

Take a look at Katie’s approach below: 

In order to put into practice the skills I’ll gain at HBS before taking on my long-term goal, directly following my MBA I’ll join an education start-up like Glimpse K12 and employ my managerial and strategic expertise to pioneer the expansion of their platform into the higher education space. Learning the best practices of an education fund in its earliest iteration will help prepare me for the trials I’ll face when working to increase access to education through university-to-corporate partnerships.

This is a short segment goes a long way in showing the admissions committee that Katie has formed a plan–her long-term goal isn’t just a dream floating in the distance; she’s ready to tackle it step-by-step, and her first step is gaining the necessary skills from an MBA. 

Notice that, in the full-length version below, this section runs directly into her conclusion. If your short-term goal requires more information, you might want to give it its own paragraph. Otherwise, feel free to allow this short-term goal to segue your essay into its final push.

The conclusion

Your conclusion can be short and sweet, but it needs to accomplish two things:

1. Circle back to the problem you laid out in the introduction.

We’ve learned a lot about you throughout the essay, and so there’s a good chance we forgot the problem you were so passionate about solving to begin with. This problem is what hooked the admissions committee in the first place, and it will be what they remember when they decide to admit you, provided you remind them about it in your concluding move.

Try to hit the following points regarding your problem:

a. Remind us why it matters.

b. Remind us that you’ve devoted your professional life to taking steps toward solving it.

c. Remind us that YOU are the one to solve it, and that you’ll do so through your long-term goal.

2. Make your final claim: only with an MBA from this particular program can you accomplish your long-term goal.

The conclusion is your final case to the admissions committee that they should admit you into their program. Remind them what you care about and how hard you’ve worked up to this point, and then hit them with the idea that, only with their help, can you accomplish this amazing, important life goal.

By the end of your essay, you want the admissions committee to feel as though, if they don’t accept you, they’ll be culpable for this problem never being solved. Of course, that’s a bit of a stretch, but you get the idea. Leave them rooting for you, and you’ll be well on your way to hanging that fancy MBA diploma on your office wall. 

Here's Katie’s conclusion, including the short-term goal above:

In order to put into practice the skills I’ll gain at HBS before taking on my long-term goal, directly following my MBA I’ll join an education start-up like Glimpse K12 and employ my managerial and strategic expertise to pioneer the expansion of their platform into the higher education space. Learning the best practices of an education fund in its earliest iteration will help prepare me for the trials I’ll face when working to increase access to education through university-to-corporate partnerships.

Ultimately, I feel passionate about education and the innumerable, lifelong benefits it can yield. I use the interdisciplinary turn of mind I learned through studying Classics on a daily basis at Black Water Fund, and I want to help everyone–no matter their financial situation–to undergo such a transformative educational experience.

I’ve devoted a large portion of my professional career in hedge fund investing toward employing for-profit techniques in order to enhance access to education, and I feel confident that, once I’m equipped with the leadership skills I’ll gain from HBS, I can make sure that even those people like my brothers, who were forced to join the workforce directly out of high school, can still pursue higher education without crushing financial stress. Through partnering corporations and universities via my educational fund, I can provide an alternative route to higher education and ultimately help improve socio-economic mobility on a national scale.

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Part 4: Career Goals Essay Outline

We’ve covered a ton of ground in this article, and if your head is spinning, we don’t blame you. To help, we’ll end with a recap of all we’ve discussed. Below, find a bare-bones outline of the structure for a solid career goals essay.

  1. Introduction

a.     Establish the problem.

b.     Why does it matter?

c.     Why is it complex?

d.     Why are you the one to solve it?

e.     Propose a solution.

f.      Long-term goal = business role that will allow you to solve this problem.

2. Body

a.     What skills have you gained working toward this goal?

                 i. Focus on transferable skills.

b.     What skills do you need?

                 i. These skills should be able to be gained from an MBA.

c.     How will you gain these skills at an MBA?

                 i. Get specific: this MBA.

d.     Short-term goal = How you will use these MBA skills post-MBA.

3. Conclusion

a.     Remind us of your passion for the problem.

b.     Final plea for admission: only with an MBA from this institution can you solve this important problem.

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Part 5: Career goals essay example

Due to financial constraints and familial obligations, neither of my older brothers were able to attend college. Instead, after graduating high school, they joined the corporate workforce, and to this day my brothers mark their biggest regret as not having been afforded the same opportunity for educational advancement as I was given.

Unlike my brothers, a string of strong test scores allowed me to leave my rural hometown for the Ivory halls of Harvard University, where need-based financial aid provided the chance to study thousand-year-old texts in the Classics department. Throughout my studies, I became enthralled by the challenge of attempting to say something original about age-old texts by making connections to a wide body of disciplines, such as using Homer’s Achilles as a lens for PTSD suffered by Vietnam Vets. I loved going deep in one area, but the real thrill was applying Classics to new and unexpected fields, and this type of interdisciplinary approach to problem-solving has transformed the way I think and operate in the world–a frame of mind that was not afforded to my brothers and so many like them due to the steep financial costs associated with most avenues of higher education. 

My life was forever changed by higher education, and I believe that everyone–even those who must join the workforce to support themselves and their families–should have the option to better themselves through education. It’s no secret that my generation is plagued with student loans, and the fear of compounding interest rates deters many from post-high-school education. 

Having pursued a PhD at Oxford before joining a hedge fund where I applied my interdisciplinary approach to investment strategy, I’ve become well-versed in both the advantages provided by higher education and the ways in which financial institutions can bolster humanitarian efforts, and I believe that, through combining education with the private sector via corporate partnerships with universities, we can democratize higher education and provide powerful alternatives to education finance for those, like my brothers, who were forced to choose work over college.

My goal is to leverage my financial background and passion for education in order to create an innovative fund that partners corporations with local universities to provide subsidized higher education to corporate employees.

I’ve already begun working toward this goal by launching an initiative called Project Attainment at Black Water Fund. While I continued my day-to-day work of pitching investment options to the fund’s managers–drawing from a variety of sources and interpreting them with an interdisciplinary frame of mind, a process that felt eerily similar to my Classics tutorials–I also decided to lead an education venture using funds the organization had set aside for philanthropic works.

The goal of my venture–Project Attainment–was to facilitate a partnership between The Rise Fund and a large public university to create a tuition assistance model for corporate employees to attain higher education while continuing their professional growth. I began by recruiting three analysts at the hedge fund to volunteer their time to canvas local corporations and drum up interest. 

From there, I utilized the interdisciplinary skill set I gained from my Classics studies to facilitating productive dialogue between the university’s non-profit mindset and the for-profit aims of our partnering corporations. I tasked myself with conducting due diligence with our counterparts over multiple, day-long meetings, and I embraced the challenge of finding a common language between the wildly different parties by asking balanced, pointed, financial questions while assuaging the university’s fear that quality of education would be compromised by corporate interests. My approach allowed me to bring creative solutions to pivotal negotiations where others saw impasse and importantly build trust with our partners, to the extent that the CEO of Project Rise asked me to join his team as we set up the business. 

Though my work with Project Attainment is still underway, I’ve learned through the process that, in order to tackle alternative educational finance on a broader scope, I’ll need to gain managerial and strategy skills through an MBA. Working between for-profit and non-profit institutions will require managing teams of experts on both fronts, and creating my own fund will require organizational and strategic planning that I can’t attain from my current job function as a hedge fund analyst. Therefore, I’m applying to HBS’s managerial program to best prepare me for my future as a leader in alternative education financing. 

To gain the skills needed to launch my education finance fund, I’ll utilize the HBS curriculum’s emphasis on experiential learning through interactive case studies. In courses such as “Startup Garage,” I’ll build the skill set to launch a venture from scratch, and I’ll refine my mission and learn how to measure its potential impact through HBS’s “Social Ventures Practicum.” “Disruptions in Education” will be critical as I develop my understanding of where key opportunities and challenges exist in higher education. My conversations with Miriam Petri and Ingrid Patel showed me how I can leverage the resources of the HBS Impact Fund to get firsthand experience leading impact investments in early-stage companies eager to disrupt higher education.

Beyond coursework, HBS has an inimitable ethos embodied by its students who are passionate, driven, and eager to effect change. I’ll learn from these peers by taking part in the HBS Education Club, where I’ll contribute my financial expertise to the club’s ongoing collaboration with the School of Education’s joint initiative to increase access to education for low-income individuals. I also look forward to utilizing HBS’s extensive alumni network to seek out mentorship and advice as I embark on my education finance venture in the future.

In order to put into practice the skills I’ll gain at HBS before taking on my long-term goal, directly following my MBA I’ll join an education start-up like Glimpse K12 and employ my managerial and strategic expertise to pioneer the expansion of their platform into the higher education space. Learning the best practices of an education fund in its earliest iteration will help prepare me for the trials I’ll face when working to increase access to education through university-to-corporate partnerships. 

Ultimately, I feel passionate about education and the innumerable, lifelong benefits it can yield. I use the interdisciplinary turn of mind I learned through studying Classics on a daily basis at Black Water Fund, and I want to help everyone–no matter their financial situation–to undergo such a transformative educational experience.

I’ve devoted a large portion of my professional career in hedge fund investing toward employing for-profit techniques in order to enhance access to education, and I feel confident that, once I’m equipped with the leadership skills I’ll gain from HBS, I can make sure that even those people like my brothers, who were forced to join the workforce directly out of high school, can still  pursue higher education without crushing financial stress. Through partnering corporations and universities via my educational fund, I can provide an alternative route to higher education and ultimately help improve socio-economic mobility on a national scale.