Second in my series, but it's pretty lame since it's the same information as what is out there. But I'm needing to get back on the horse to do applications for internships since I've been in Seattle all week for the first leg of B&T's West Coast Trek.
Why MBA? - the Why the MBA part
Admissions knows that your career goals will change at school. I came in all gung-ho about working on data accuracy, information systems, and consulting. As soon as I got admitted, I started to talk about operations. At the beginning of BaseCamp, it was management consulting. Now, it's a heavy lean towards product management at a high tech firm (but that's because I'm on the West Coast trek methinks :)).
But, there was never any question about whether I should get my MBA or not. I lie, I did contemplate going to a PhD program, but I think that's in my 20-year plan. What I'm trying to say here is that be certain, completely and absolutely, that you want an MBA. It's OK to be uncertain about what you're going to do with the MBA.
BUT: Don't show that uncertainty in your essays. Or in the interview.
I've noticed that it's pretty common for Americans to be uncertain about getting an MBA. It's been one of the things that have caused me to raise an eyebrow in disbelief. I don't know if it's common in other cultures either, but I'm pretty sure I think I know the source of this uncertainty. It's the undergraduate university system. Americans apply to a college, "find themselves" for a couple of years, then do the upper-level coursework for their particular degree. Australians - we apply directly to the program of the university. No finding ourselves. No building of general skills (these skills are assumed to be already learned by the student through highschool). I applied to business; I did pure business. So when I was assessing my life after a personal shakeup, it was always, to me, a matter of "heck yeah, get MBA". However, I understand others don't have that.
If you don't have certainty on getting your MBA, get it fast or don't bother. just my 2 cents. It's difficult to fake wanting an MBA when you don't know if you do. And trust me, your classmates pick up on it.
What are you going to do with the MBA part
This is easy. Tie in your interests or your background to a short-term and long-term goal that makes sense and have a little belief in thinking this is something you do want to do. Whether it be consulting, general management, finance, whatever. To me, it seems as if this part just says that you are capable of making goals that you're working towards.
One of the first things Admissions said to us was that 80% or so will change their career goals dramatically from what was put in their essay. So they know it's going to happen. So don't stress it. Do some research, find something you would like to do that requires an MBA, and be prepared to talk about it in the interview.
Or, in the words of an alum - Fake it until you believe it. Convince yourself that it IS your ultimate dream in life, squash all doubt, then revisit it as soon as you're admitted.
The Why Now? part
I had the most difficulties with this question, because it didn't seem obvious to me. Just saying "I've always wanted an MBA but I wanted to build real-world experience" didn't seem enough. I felt I needed some statement saying "Oh, I've reached the pinnacle of my current career" or "the angels cried out in an immaculate chorus". Something really meaty. But the fact of the matter was just the simple answer - I felt I had built enough experience to make my education valuable. I also threw in there that my goals were more clearly defined and now capable for me to follow through on... but we both know that was a BS answer too :)
I believe I also mentioned in my interview that I was just emerging out of a personal situation which presented a great opportunity to pursue my dream. But I'm talking essay here.
I'm going to caveat this entire paragraph and say that this may not have been the best tactic. Who knows, I might have needed to say I had an immaculate chorus. I feel that my certainty on getting an MBA really bolstered the other two aspects I talked about here. To me, that's the most important thing - truly believing you want an MBA.