This essay is critical because it tells your story to the admissions committee. The adcom needs to understand this equation:
Your future goals and aspirations = your past education + your past experience + THEIR MBA PROGRAM
There can be no leakage from this equation and it must all add up. Your “Why an MBA” essay is the first and best chance to narrate your life path in a way that illustrates every aspect of this equation. You are in charge of their first impression, and often the essay is where it is formed.
The writing specifications for this kind of essay are to tell a coherent story, with a defined start, middle, and end. You must show that the unique experiences and education of that school’s MBA program will help you achieve your career goals. Directors and deans of admission can easily understand that a candidate has no grasp of why they want an MBA if they fail to articulate it.
Remember it is ok to say that it is culturally expected, and that you plan to explore a few different functional careers or industries while in the program. You don’t have to have everything figured out to the last little detail, but you do need to be able to identify a small option set that is a great fit with the school you are applying to. If you explain those potential choices well, you still show a good fit. Granted, you are not as sure of your plans as other candidates, but at most MBA programs it doesn’t matter.
I was working with a client a few months ago (a new bachelor’s graduate) and our analysis of his career goals showed that the best thing he could do now is to get some work experience. We surveyed over 40 people in his ideal company and industry to learn that over 65% indicated the graduate degree was not necessary at this stage of his career. I recommended that we terminate our engagement for graduate school admissions and focus on career development instead. Culturally, that was never an option for him. He acknowledges the validity of the advice, but he could never skip grad school or wait until later – it just isn’t acceptable in his family. So we worked on finding and applying to the right schools to move him toward that career objective and he ended up getting into several of his dream schools. The essay key is to show that you need the school’s specific set of skills, that now is the right time, and that the experience will help you achieve your career goals.