Applying for an MBA with a Nonprofit Background (Part 1)

If you come from a nonprofit background, applying to MBA programs can be intimidating.

Applicants that come from “traditional” MBA roles such as banking and consulting often have access to MBA alums to help them through the admissions process. If you come from a “non-traditional” role, you might not have easy access to that inside scoop. So we’re here to share it with you in a two-part series!

Part 1: Career Goals

An MBA application is an exercise in marketing your authentic self to admissions. One of the most effective places you can do that is in your essays. A critical aspect of any MBA application is your career goals.

Here are three tips to help you craft your career goals and aspirations:

Be passionate but also grounded

You might be passionate about changing the world, and that is a fantastic trait! Your passion is likely to be the driving force in your career. The key is being able to communicate your passion while also coming across as grounded and focused. Your goal needs to be feasible.

For example, “I want to change the world through business,” is going to be less effective than, “I want to lead a large consumer product good company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) department so that I can ensure we support the communities that enable the business.”

Focus your goal

You’ll notice how specific I get in the example above. Even if you’re not exactly sure what you want to do, and let’s be honest, you probably aren’t, you still need to pick one goal to focus on for your MBA applications. Decide between social entrepreneurship and corporate social responsibility, or between nonprofit management and multilateral institutions. And then hone in on what exactly your role could be after you graduate and what your path will be after that.

For example, perhaps you were in the Peace Corps in Ghana and, after you graduate with your MBA, you would like to be a manager at the Gates Foundation because you’re passionate about public health solutions. Eventually, you hope to start your own public health social enterprise back in Ghana. All of these goals are specific, feasible, demonstrate your passion, and line up with your past experience to form a coherent career path.

Be bold

Put yourself in the shoes of the admissions committee. How amazing would you feel if you helped bring in a student who will go on to make a huge positive impact in the world? With your career goal, you can show them that you will be the next Muhammad Yunus. Don’t be scared to make a big, bold career goal (as long as it’s specific).

Boldness is especially effective when it’s tied to solving a problem that you have identified. Do you see flaws in energy sector that could be solved with renewable energy? Are you passionate about fixing a broken healthcare system? Whatever it is. Identify the problem and be bold in your goal to solve it.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where we’ll give you tips for how to effectively highlight your work experience in your essays!