What Kellogg Looks For In MBA Applicants


Stacy Blackman is the founder and managing director of Stacy Blackman Consulting

Stacy Blackman is the founder and managing director of Stacy Blackman Consulting

How to Position Your Academic Strengths

“I carried a 3.9 GPA in Psychology, making the dean’s seven consecutive times and graduating summa cum laude. “

Try saying that to an interviewer after being out of school for four years. They’re bound to yawn. Sure, you excelled in writing papers and taking tests. But the big-bad world is a whole different game. They don’t care if you can read. They want to know if you can lead. They don’t care about your GPA. They want to see if you can produce every day.

After a few years, your track record is all that really matters. What can you do? Have you posted big numbers? Who have you worked with? How fast did you move up? Obviously, business schools also value such criteria. However, your academic record is also very important to them. Aside from intellect, your GPA reflects the discipline and commitment needed to excel in a two year program. While a high GMAT score can cover some undergraduate sins, your undergrad GPA – and the types of courses you took – provides adcoms with a window into whether you’d make a valued addition to your class.

This week, Stacy Blackman, who operates an MBA admissions advisory firm, addresses academic performance in her latest U.S. News & World Report column. First, Blackman cautions readers not to worry about a lack of quant courses. While financial and statistical acumen are key to business school, a liberal arts background is not considered a drawback by most adcoms.

“The emphasis on diversity of thought means the schools are working hard to attract applicants from a wider variety of academic backgrounds. Often candidates coming from the humanities such as sociology, psychology or political science, are more attractive to the admissions committee than the typical business background peer.”

To bolster their candidacies, Blackman suggests that applicants show how their courses built off of each other and helped shape their ambitions. “For example, Blackman writes, “perhaps a history class sparked an interest in a different part of the world, which led to international business pursuits…Dig a little and you may be surprised at how the connections fall into place.”

Another strategy: Connect your extracurriculars to your academic performance and your goals. “Applicants who participated in several extracurricular activities while in college and still managed to maintain a high GPA exhibited excellent time management skills and a dedicated work ethic,” Blackman emphasizes.  “And, if a candidate held a leadership position in any of those activities, that shows initiative with a long leadership track record. Admissions committees are impressed if you can commit to something over a long period of time, no matter if it’s a sport or hobby.”

Finally, Blackman urges applicants to tout their global background. “MBA admissions committees are​ on the lookout for candidates who are fluent in a second or third language, or who have had study-abroad experiences.”

Bottom line, according to Blackman, “You never know [what might be]…the ticket to creating a standout application.” So keep an open mind – and look behind your experiences to figure out what you truly learned – and how it applies today.


Source: U.S. News & World Report

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