Article by Susan Clark, Photo by Peter Hellberg


MBA goals essays are one of the most common prompts for prospective b-school students, and some colleges are starting to ask about them as well. So you’d do well to start thinking about just what your goals are. Of course, knowing your goal is only part of a great essay. The rest … is grape juice.

There was this old TV ad that used to run all the time back when I was a kid, in the Dark Ages. It was a spot for carpet cleaner, featuring a toddler in a high chair in the middle of a pristine white room.  The mother hands the kid a sippy cup with grape juice, which the kid, predictably and immediately, tosses in the air.  Grape juice droplets fly in slow motion. Just before they splatter, everything freezes. “This mother isn’t afraid of grape juice!” the announcer says, “she has X!”  I never bought X, but I sure bought the ad! In one clear image, it created empathy and an understanding of the need for the product.

That’s why now, all my clients create a “Grape Juice Moment” (GJM) at the opening of their goals essay. And you can have one too, if you follow these simple instructions.


The constituent parts of a GJM are empathy, understanding, and need.  You (the applicant) must create a desire in the reader (an admissions officer) to support your future. Start with an evocative image drawn from memory that the reader can relate to (like the baby in the white room). There’s the empathy. Clearly state the problem/opportunity you see (the freeze frame of the grape juice), and you’re on your way to understanding. Then present your dynamite solution, and BAM! That school is going to NEED you in their world.



My family’s textile company in India was starved for power. Why? Because electric companies have a residence first policy for power distribution. When our power was cut off, orders went out late, threatening our reputation in the global marketplace.


I noticed that subsidies for creating wind generated power had been eliminated, and many windmills were being sold for less than it cost to build them. Sensing an opportunity, I led the initiative in my company to purchase windmills, solving our power dilemma.


This plan, I realized, could be expanded to help other Indian companies in a similar predicament. That’s why, after business school, I want to return to my family business, grow its holdings of renewable energy, and provide the first ever reliable source decentralized power for industrial use across India.  


This company failing to meet deadlines is the grape juice moment.  The nice thing about this writer’s solution is that it starts personal and scales national. That means he has the know-how to do what he says he’s going to do, PLUS, if the School supports him, they support all of India. Who wouldn’t want to get on board with that?  


You don’t need to save the world. The most important thing in any essay is connecting with your reader. It is much harder to turn down a person you know than a statistically defined stranger. So get to work on finding your grape (or it can be an orange, even a prune … I’m not picky!) juice moment. And if you want to know more about my ideas, hit me up!