McCombs School of Business | Ms. Registered Nurse Entrepreneur
GMAT 630, GPA 3.59
Kellogg | Mr. Hopeful Engineer
GMAT 720, GPA 7.95/10 (College follows relative grading; Avg. estimate around 7-7.3)
Wharton | Mr. Rates Trader
GMAT 750, GPA 7.6/10
Stanford GSB | Mr. Former SEC Athlete
GMAT 620, GPA 3.8
Tuck | Mr. Army To MBB
GMAT 740, GPA 2.97
Columbia | Mr. Forbes 30 Under 30
GMAT 730, GPA 3.4
Stanford GSB | Mr. MBB Advanced Analytics
GMAT 750, GPA 3.1
Stanford GSB | Mr. Impactful Consultant
GMAT 730, GPA 3.7
Chicago Booth | Mr. Banker To CPG Leader
GMAT 760, GPA 7.36/10
Ross | Mr. Leading-Edge Family Business
GMAT 740, GPA 2.89
Darden | Mr. Logistics Guy
GRE Not taken Yet, GPA 3.1
Chicago Booth | Mr. Desi Boy
GMAT 740, GPA 3.0
Kellogg | Mr. Stylist & Actor
GMAT 760 , GPA 9.5
Columbia | Mr. Ambitious Chemical Salesman
GMAT 720, GPA 3.3
Tepper | Ms. Coding Tech Leader
GMAT 680, GPA 2.9
Harvard | Mr. Irish Biotech Entrepreneur
GMAT 730, GPA 3.2
Stanford GSB | Mr. Cricketer Turned Engineer
GMAT 770, GPA 7.15/10
Wharton | Mr. Planes And Laws
GRE 328, GPA 3.8
McCombs School of Business | Mr. Refrad
GMAT 700, GPA 3.94
Harvard | Mr. Supply Chain Photographer
GMAT 700, GPA 3.3
Chicago Booth | Mr. Space Launch
GMAT 710, GPA 3.0
Kellogg | Ms. Product Strategist
GMAT 700, GPA 7.3/10
Columbia | Mr. MBB Consultant
GRE 339, GPA 8.28
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Avocado Farmer
GMAT 750, GPA 3.08
Georgetown McDonough | Mr. International Development Consultant
Columbia | Mr. Wannabe Grad
GMAT 710, GPA 3.56
Kellogg | Ms. Indian Entrepreneur
GMAT 750, GPA 3.3

Maximizing The Minimalist MBA App

essay-writing-2You should view your MBA application as the admissions committees do: as a holistic package of documents that work together to provide a comprehensive and cohesive introduction to you. Think of it as a puzzle with different pieces fitting together to create a full picture. The different components of the application each play a different role in adding to this complete picture:

  • Test scores and grades: This data offers straightforward facts about your academic capabilities. They separate the academic brains from the academic bottoms.
  • Resume: Your resume or CV (or job history on the application) highlights your professional accomplishments and contributions. The key word here is “accomplishments.” Focus on achievements and successes and not just descriptions of your responsibilities.
  • Non-professional activities list: Similarly, this part of the application showcases non-professional achievements, initiatives, and commitments. Remember: MBA programs want multi-dimensional students who take initiative and prudent risks. They do not want nerds, automatons, or grinds. They want contributors with impact.
  • Essays: The essays in your application puzzle reveal your motivations, character, and insights. They offer the adcom a window into your subjective perspective. They provide you with an opportunity to dive deep into a few specific, seminal experiences.
  • Short answer and optional questions: These supplement and complement the above material (which should, in turn, complement each other) with minimal duplication. Make the most of them! They are opportunities, not throw-aways!

When you’re dealing with a relatively short application, each element is weighed more heavily than in a longer application. Don’t ever neglect one section in the hope that a stronger other section will make up for your sloppiness or lack of detail. Each component must be thorough and complete, for without even a small part of one section, the adcoms will miss out on an integral part of your personal puzzle. They won’t receive the full introduction and will therefore be more likely to pass on your fragmented introduction in favor of another applicant’s incisive portrait.

Pay attention to detail; make sure you address each component in its entirety; and work to provide the most vibrant and accurate puzzle pieces for the admissions committee to put together as they meet you through your application.

By Linda Abraham, CEO and founder of and co-author of MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.  Linda has been helping MBA applicants gain acceptance to top MBA programs since 1994.