4 Tips For Consultants Applying For MBAs

Andrea Coulis, a consultant-turned-Oxford MBA, tells you how to escape the consultant label in your application

By Andrea Coulis

Because consulting is one of the few fields that still often requires an MBA to move up the ranks, it’s no surprise that an enormous number of b-school applicants hail from a consulting background each year.

As one of those consultants hoping to advance your career via an MBA program, it can be daunting to try to figure out how to differentiate yourself from the others.

Here’s four tips for consultants applying for MBAs:


1. Focus on your expertise

While outsiders may view consultants as an army of framework-wielding clones, we consultants know this couldn’t be further from the truth: the emphases, industries, and specific skill sets of consultants are extremely diverse.

Litigation consultants are able to bridge the gap between ‘legalese’ and traditional business vocabulary, while transaction advisory consultants understand the nuances of M&A, for example.

Odds are you’ve developed some sort of specialization or have worked in an impressive, unique, or exciting niche of consulting during your work experience. Instead of regurgitating the frameworks and other ‘consultant-esque’ knowledge your competition has also mastered, highlight what makes your experience different.

Don’t forget to communicate how your unique experience has affected you and how you will translate your learnings into success both during and after your MBA program.


2. Show what’s in it for them

As much as an application is about expressing how much you want to be a part of the next MBA cohort, how it will help you achieve your lifelong goals, and so forth, it should also focus on flipping the perspective to illustrate what you have to give in return.

How will your experience be helpful to your classmates? Do you have an inimitable skill set or expertise that would be immensely valuable to others in your graduating class? Do you have a vast or deep network that would provide employment opportunity to classmates post-graduation? Do you have an incredible business idea you’re looking to launch with brilliant MBAs who have complimentary skill sets? You get the idea.


3. Capitalize on your communication skills

Consultants truly have a way of selling ideas in a compelling yet organized manner. If you’ve been a consultant for even a few years, you likely have a knack for structured presentation that surpasses many of your non-consultant competition.

Use these honed skills to assemble a standout application by showcasing that vivid yet concise language, drawing upon that big-picture perspective, and showing off that attention to detail. However, there’s one small caveat to flaunting your consultant background…


4. Steer clear of consulting jargon

Consultants often weave their jargon into everyday speech. If you’re considering using phrases such as ‘boil the ocean’, ‘MECE’, ‘move the needle’, or anything you have heard your colleagues (but oddly never anyone outside the consultant landscape) use on a daily basis, please think twice! There are few things that can cause your reader to roll his eyes and toss your application out of sight faster than seeing those phrases over and over throughout his application review process.

Fear not, consultants. There may be thousands of you applying to business school each year, but with these four tweaks to your application, you’ll be able to shine among thousands of impressive, yet cookie-cutter applicants and show admissions how uniquely valuable you can be to the next class of rising stars.


Andrea Coulis is a senior tutor with MyGuru, a provider of in-person and online GMAT tutoring. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Indiana University's Kelley School of Business and an MBA from the University of Oxford, Saïd School of Business. 

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