During my initial conversation with prospective clients, I am usually asked what I think about your chances. Are you targeting the right schools? What are your strengths and weaknesses, from an admissions standpoint? As a former Tuck Admissions Officer and the Founder of North Star Admissions, here is a glimpse into the framework that I use to help you understand your odds, and get into business school.
What do you really want to do after business school, both short and long term? How does this align with your current trajectory? Your goals are truly fundamental to your business school applications, and I enjoy helping people clarify and articulate what they really want to do. That being said, if you are currently a rock star and want to transition into investment banking you are going to have a harder time than some other applicants.
- Work Experience.
Speaking of work experience, business schools value rock stars as well as investment bankers. It’s great to bring different perspectives, and students from classic pre-MBA roles like consulting and product management are obviously also valued. When assessing your work experience, I consider progression, seniority and continuity. I also think about how your work experience ties together with your goals and the MBA degree, as well as the timing of your application. Are you at a good inflection point to go back to school?
- Academic and Testing Profile.
While important, in some ways this matters less than you think. I have worked with (and admitted) many exceptional candidates who had numbers that didn’t reflect their potential, and who still got into top schools, with scholarships. There are things that we can do to mitigate a less than stellar profile. Nevertheless, this is a competitive process, so I will ask about your grades, where you went to school and your test scores. If you want to go to Harvard and have a 1.6 and a 410 GMAT I will be honest with you about the fact that it’s a long-shot, but again – you can definitely get into even the most selective school with lower numbers if you have other compelling qualities.
- Personality and Life Experience.
Chief among these compelling qualities are your personality and your life experience. I will ask you what you do outside of work, about your family, and what motivates you. I will also ask what you are looking for in a school environment. These questions are designed to help me evaluate what it would be like to go to school with you or have you as part of the community – and a fantastic personality and interesting life experience counts a great deal, especially at certain schools.
Throughout our conversation, I will also be listening for clues that you are mature, humble and self-aware. Obviously, highly successful MBA students run the gamut from a personality standpoint, so these qualities are not required. However, I have found that the candidates who do the best in the application process are those with high emotional intelligence.
Anyone who tells you that they know exactly where you will get into business school is not being honest, since there are so many variables. Nevertheless, I do know how to give you an informed perspective, and there are always strategies that we can employ to maximize your odds. A conversation with a professional is a great place to start.
Karen Marks has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.
Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Wharton, Yale, Cornell, Dartmouth, Columbia, MIT, Duke, Georgetown, Northwestern, Booth, NYU, Ross, UVA, Haas and more. Clients have been awarded more than $10.2 million in scholarships, and more than 95% have gotten into at least one of their top-choice schools.