Round 1 MBA essays are taking shape: but why have many applicants turned into monks and saints?

It’s busy season, so I have to blog short, but here’s what I have to say today as MBA application Round 1 deadlines approach — and this is to my clients as much as anyone else out there (although the clients have heard it before):

“You are not applying to join a holy order. You are not applying to Amnesty International. You are not applying to save the rainforests or unmelt the ice caps or feed the starving or create Middle-East peace.

“You are applying to business school.”

At business school, yes there will be electives around well-meaning things, but by far the main agenda is to present you with and test you on classic curriculum stuff to do with finance and operations and marketing and strategy and so on. They will not teach you to weave sisal or wash Aids babies.

Now of course you are a good human being. And you should certainly communicate to Adcom (with evidence) that you are a good human being, which includes being concerned about major domestic or world problems. And not just concerned: wanting to play your part in fixing them too. It’s fine to want to and plan to improve social welfare at home or abroad.

But you are applying to business school.

So the material question is: how will you make a business or take a business in the direction of social welfare and human development? How and why do you need business and management skills to make the difference you plan to make?

Here’s a clue to hitting the right note: one person or a group of well-meaning people can make a little difference somewhere. But a business, or a large organization innovatively led, professionally managed, properly financed and running at optimum efficiency can make a whopping difference. We’re talking “order of magnitude.”

Best of all, your MBA application will retain its credibility. If you say you want to run an education business in Ho Chi Minh City, Adcom will believe you. If you say you want to teach long-division to Vietnamese orphans, they won’t.