This is a guest post by Maureen Spain, a professional GMAT tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from Northwestern University and received her MBA from Duke University.
The admissions process at Top Business Schools across the country has become increasingly competitive. For those applicants who are former Olympic athletes, founders of orphanages in India, or inventors of a medical device that saves millions of lives, you shouldn’t have much trouble securing admission to the b-school of your choice, and you may breeze through MBA Admission.
But what if you didn’t do any of those things? Don’t fret—even if your life story isn’t fodder for a Hollywood movie, there are still techniques to ensure you stand out from the crowd of applicants.
Have a story
Business school is not a path you should select on a whim, and institutions seek students who will put their degrees to good use. Be prepared to tell admissions committees what you wish to do and why you need this degree to do it. Additionally, consider the qualities that you would like to highlight for prospective programs and weave demonstrations of those qualities throughout your application.
Admissions committees love when you can demonstrate to them how you recognize problems and solve them. Feel free to utilize examples from your work life or your personal life. You organized your company’s first diversity committee? Perfect. You lobbied your local government to create a compost service? Fantastic. You can also show how you plan to take initiative once you begin school. Do you love wine? Did you note the lack of a wine club at your university of choice? Tell them that you are looking forward to starting one when you arrive on campus.
Demonstrate your ability to work on a team
The business world entails working with a diverse array of people on different sorts of teams, and many business school projects attempt to simulate this reality. It will help your application tremendously if you can demonstrate that you’re already a team player. Your team skills can be highlighted through sharing your experiences on work projects, but if you don’t have a job where teamwork is emphasized, a personal or volunteer experience will be just fine.
It’s not all about you
Technically, it does concern you alone, but take care to avoid a one-sided application. Instead of solely focusing on what this school may do for you and your career, make sure to mention what you are going to do for the classroom, the community, and/or your peers. You are excited about being a leader in the real estate club, you are looking forward to using your entrepreneurial skills to help local high school students, or you can’t wait to cheer on the football team; whatever it is that you are excited to contribute to the community, make sure you mention it.
Visit the school
There is a multitude of information that you find out when you visit that you simply cannot read in a brochure. You should incorporate those tidbits that you learned from your campus visit into your application. Admissions officers are also likely to take your campus visit as a sign that you are truly interested. Obviously, not everyone is going to be able to visit every school. If that’s the case for you, do your best to make contact with current students and find out what makes those individuals proud to be a part of their institution.
Use different essays for each school
Do not, under any circumstances, take an essay you wrote for one school and simply perform a “find and replace” for the name of the second institution. Besides the fact that you may make a mistake, the real reason this won’t work is because the school-specific essays should really be school-specific! If you write an essay for why you want to attend School #1 and honestly believe you can send the same essay for School #2, then you are not delving deep enough. Also, don’t forget to spellcheck! You don’t want your application to stand out for the wrong reasons.
Overall, try to enjoy the business school application process. Although you may despise it while you’re living it, you will probably appreciate the opportunity for introspection when you submit that final admissions packet.