For those who aspire to attend a top-tier b-school, gearing up to apply means going the extra mile. Impressive GMAT scores, impactful essays, and refined interview skills are only part of the picture.
How can you get the edge on your competition? You need expert intel—admissions tips from the people who have the final say.
Here’s nine things admissions deans and directors from top US b-schools say competitive applicants should keep in mind this year.
1. Define Yourself
“We look for students who have both intellectual and emotional intelligence—what we call IQ + EQ. Last year, we refreshed our MBA application and now ask for an EQ endorsement from an advocate who can attest to an applicant’s ability to lead with empathy and communicate clearly.” Isser Gallogly, NYU Stern (pictured right)
“You have great strengths, and you also have growth areas—this is why you are pursuing a graduate management education. It’s tempting to highlight the strengths and downplay the growth areas, but that reveals only a portion of the complete person. Show us that you acknowledge and own both.” Luke Peña, Dartmouth Tuck
2. Know Your Goals
“Know the things that you will learn in an MBA program and how you will apply them. Candidates who deeply understand the MBA curriculum and developmental experience at a school will be able to communicate through their essays and interviews how the corresponding skill sets will help them progress in their careers and achieve their goals.” Stephanie Barbee Williams, UNC Kenan-Flagler
3. Get Face Time
“I strongly encourage candidates to visit the campus. Many programs offer several different options including class visits, meeting with students, professors, alumni, and admissions officials. During that time, you can get a strong sense of the school’s culture, student life, the admissions process, and more.” Alex Lawrence, UCLA Anderson
“Introduce yourself! Applicants often feel that they can't approach admissions officers unless they have a really profound question. Not true! It's perfectly fine to just come up, introduce yourself and say thank you for the presentation. We appreciate hearing what you enjoyed/learned and/or questions that you still have.” Morgan Bernstein, UC Berkeley Haas (pictured right)
4. Think and Act Globally
“Increasingly, business schools look at an applicant's global exposure. Look for international opportunities at work. If there are none, save your money to invest in a global adventure. It's fun, educational and will potentially make you a more competitive applicant.” Dawna Clark, UVA Darden
5. Go the Distance With References
“Your two letters of reference provide essential insight into your behaviors, impact, and personal qualities. That's why it's important to choose recommenders who have had significant, direct involvement with you within the past three years and can speak about you in a professional context. The goal is to identify people who will enthusiastically provide a recommendation for you filled with details and anecdotes.” Kirsten Moss, Stanford (pictured)
6. Demonstrate Depth of Leadership
“We are looking for people who are not just interested in solely their own success, but the success of others as well. Those are the types of folks we believe ultimately make the best leaders in business because they know how to harness the individual strengths of others collectively in a team to work toward a common goal.” Shari Hubert, Duke Fuqua
7. Nail the Interview
“What are the elements of a great interview? People who are relaxed—confident, but not cocky. Familiar with the application they submitted so they can reference it when appropriate, but also with additional stories to tell. Interviewees who clearly know our school and our program, but do not recite portions of the website word for word.” Dawna Levenson, MIT Sloan
8. Present the Total Package
“Applicants should think about their application holistically. Pursuing an MBA is a catalyst for personal and professional growth. What do you want to accomplished by pursuing an MBA? How have you grown in the past? How do you intend to grow? We also want to see how our applicants handle leadership and teamwork. How have you been a leader? What challenges did you face and how did you handle them?” Melissa Rapp, Northwestern Kellogg (pictured)
9. If at First You Don't Succeed….
“For any candidate who has been waitlisted or believes they may be waitlisted by their preferred school, I would encourage you to think and act proactively with regard to your next steps. Review your profile and determine where there is potential for improvement. Once you’ve identified the areas of potential concern, commit to improvement and communicate your steps to the Admissions Committee.
“Explore and seize all opportunities for feedback. It may be helpful to reconnect with trusted mentors as well as current students and alumni that you’ve met and engaged with throughout the admissions process.” Judi Byers, Cornell SC Johnson