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I'm An Entrepreneur—How Do I Compare To An MBA Applicant With A Corporate Background?

Jason Garner, director of admissions at Kogod School of Business, answers your applicant question of the week

Thu Sep 20 2018

It's that time of the week again—the BusinessBecause Applicant Question of the Week!

Every week, we give you the chance to ask an admissions expert anything you'd like to know about applying to business school. We choose one question each week to be put to our featured admissions expert!

This week, our question comes from Maharshi Simlai.

Maharshi is the founder of a tech startup in India, working with global companies in the Defence, Nuclear, Maritime and Automation industries. 

Now, Maharshi is wondering if an MBA might be the next step for him. He's considering MBA programs at top-10 institutions in the US, as well as London Business School, Oxford Saïd, and INSEAD.

His question is answered by Jason Garner, director of admissions at the American University's Kogod School of Business since May 2017, and previously director of MBA admissions at The George Washington University School of Business.

Applicant Question of the Week:

Hi BusinessBecause,

I'm an entrepreneur and have already founded a successful company—I would like to know how my profile stacks up against a candidate working in a Fortune 500 company, working in big teams and obviously crunching big numbers.

The Answer:

There’s a lot that entrepreneurs can bring to an MBA classroom!  Often working for a start-up, family business, or small company will require someone to wear multiple hats and serve multiple functions within an organization. The role can be part-manager, lawyer, accountant, marketer, administrator, and more. As such, these candidates have a tremendous amount of experience to bring into the classroom. While this experience may look different from their corporate counterparts, it can certainly still be a value-add to the MBA experience.  

Many entrepreneurs will approach the MBA to formalize their business education and to grow their professional networks.  Entrepreneurs will also use their MBA to round out their skill sets, fill any gaps with a formal education, and add credibility to their resumes. Post-MBA, some may transition out of the start-up sector, and others may use their newfound education and network to launch or leverage additional entrepreneurial opportunities.

The application process may look a bit different for these candidates. For example, who should you ask for a letter of recommendation? It is common for these applicants to ask a former manager, mentor, client, or vendor for a recommendation if they do not have a direct supervisor. 

If you work for a family business, we typically do not recommend that a family member write your letter of recommendation. Most admissions committees would prefer to see a letter from another source.  While this is very common for entrepreneurs, it cannot hurt to explain your reference in an optional essay.

Ask an Admissions Expert a Question!

Next week, we're giving you the chance to ask admissions-pro Paul Bodine your applicant question.


Paul has been helping students with their applications since 1997 and has since founded his own admissions consulting firm. He is also the author of six books on admissions and is a member of Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC), the National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals (NAGAP), and the MBA Career Services Council. 

To ask Paul a question, head to our Twitter or Facebook pages or post your question in the comments box below!