Advice gets a bad rap these days. Many people don’t really want it. Advice often requires them to take action and make changes. Chances are, they already know what they need to do. So why ask for it?
If you plan to apply to or start business school anytime soon, you can use all the advice you can get. As an anxious candidate wanting to get into a dream school, you’ll want to learn the ins and outs of the admissions process from someone who successfully got through it. As an incoming student, you’ll want to know how to balance the crushing weight of school work with an active social life and job hunting.
These are issues that MBAs in the graduating Class of 2017 know all too well. That’s one reason why Poets&Quants asked the Best & Brightest MBAs from the Class of 2017 for their advice to future MBA candidates. From crafting an application to stand out to choosing the right opportunities once you’re on campus, these graduates had plenty to say on carving out identities and prioritizing demands.
When it comes to applying to business school, the class has a clear and unambiguous message: Know who you are and what you want. That advice worked to perfection for UCLA’s Lynn Compton, who went from being a clinical nurse in an intensive care unit to a McKinsey consultant during her two years in business school. She was able to make this transition, she says, because she understood her strengths and hammered them home during the application process. “Everyone comes to business school with a different profile of strengths and weaknesses. Get really clear on what it is that you are 99th percentile at and leverage it. At the same time, surround yourself with people who are 99th percentile in your weaker areas and learn from them.”
When applying to Stanford, Federico Mossa applied a different tact: He emphasized what was unique about himself — a self-taught pianist, guitarist, and bassist who records his own music for fun. While quantifiable metrics inform adcoms, Mossa believes personality and vision ultimately sway them. “There’s something unique about you,” he emphasizes.” It’s not necessarily about the revenue you generated or the costs you saved in your previous job. It’s about what you are passionate about and, based on that, the impact you want to have on the world. Articulate that uniqueness with yourself, and then paint the picture of who you truly are to the admission office.”
BE UNIQUE…OR BE BOLD?
That said, MBA applicants are often competing against hundreds — sometimes thousands — of professional. As a result, being unique may not be enough. That’s why the University of Washington’s Vanessa Kritzer urges candidates to take the next step and be bold. “Share your boldest ambitions,” she implores. “The admissions team wants a diverse group of leaders who will enrich our community, so don’t hold back in sharing your dreams with them. However, make sure you’ve got some short-term ideas for how to get there.”
The University of Chicago’s Andrew Ward, a Muay Thai fighter ticketed to Bain & Company, echoes Kritzer’s sentiments, He argues that being “bold and original” is the true test of any MBA application. “Every candidate is smart and has great professional experiences,” he points out, “so in order to stand out make sure that you communicate exactly what makes you different from everyone else. In order to show this, you might have to stop telling everyone “what” you have done and dig a bit deeper into the “why.”