Kellogg | Mr. Latino Tier 2 Consultant
GMAT 690, GPA 3.7
NYU Stern | Mr. Low WE
GMAT 730, GPA 3.43
Columbia | Ms. Asian LGBT
GMAT 700, GPA 3.85
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Finance Life Sciences
GMAT 700, GPA 3.73
Stanford GSB | Ms. Vietnamese Fintech Girl
GMAT 650, GPA 3.84
Tepper | Mr. Early Career
GMAT 700, GPA 3.74
Yale | Mr. Small Towner
GMAT Not yet taken - testing @ 700, GPA 3.7
Stanford GSB | Ms. Young Multi-Startup Girl
GMAT 650, GPA 3.6
Harvard | Mr. Future Hedge Fund Manager
GMAT 520, GPA 2.75
Stanford GSB | Mr. Young Investor
GMAT 740, GPA 3.4
Stanford GSB | Ms. Consultant To Social Entrepreneur
GRE 329, GPA 3.16
Wharton | Mr. PE To Startup
GMAT 760, GPA 3.75
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Banking To Consulting
GMAT 700, GPA 3.3
MIT Sloan | Mr. Trader Turned Tech
GMAT 760, GPA 3.76
Ross | Mr. DS
GMAT 760, GPA 4
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Hanging By A Thread
GMAT 710, GPA 3.8
Harvard | Mr. FAANG PM
GMAT 740, GPA 2.6
Kenan-Flagler | Mr. Part-Time Prospect
GMAT 640 (estimate), GPA 3.7
Foster School of Business | Mr. Mediocre Scores Great WE
GRE 309, GPA 2.7
MIT Sloan | Ms. International Technologist
GMAT 740, GPA 3.5
MIT Sloan | Mr. Canadian Banker
GMAT 720, GPA 3.7
Harvard | Mr. IVY MBB Dreamer
GMAT Will be around 760 or +, GPA 4
Georgetown McDonough | Mr. CPG Loyalty Builder
GMAT 710, GPA 3.4
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Government Engineer
GRE 312, GPA 3.74
Wharton | Mr. Aussie Mining Strategist
GMAT 780, GPA 3.7
IU Kelley | Ms. Data Scientist
GMAT 710 - will retake, GPA 3.6
Tepper | Mr. Midwest or Bust
GMAT 740, GPA 3.2

Are You The Perfect MBA Candidate?

Do you have a 4.0 from Harvard, an 800 GMAT, international experience with McKinsey and your own charity, which you started in your garage while also building your social impact tech start-up? If so, you are the perfect MBA candidate!

Just kidding. Actually, MBA candidates who look stereotypically “perfect” on paper (and there is no singular definition of perfect, obviously) frequently don’t get in to their top choice schools. Although it is important to be qualified, these factors matter a whole lot more.

  • Personality.

For real, business schools want students who can get along with people and who have interests outside of work. This creates a more dynamic and engaged MBA community, and interpersonal skills are highly correlated with future personal and professional success. B schools are therefore looking for interesting people who play well with others – these students are more likely to excel (reflecting well on the program throughout their careers) and to stay engaged with their peers and the institution.

  • Goal clarity.

You need to tell a compelling story about what you want to do when graduate, short and long term. These goals need to be the sort of thing that your target schools can actually help you achieve. You also need to articulate how your prior experience has helped prepare you, and why you need an MBA to fill in the gaps. Your goals need to make sense, and you need to demonstrate that you can sell yourself to future employers – in part by selling these goals in your application. Goal clarity is non-negotiable, and usually the first thing I work on with my clients.

  • School fit.

Such an amorphous concept. When business schools talk about fit, they mean a couple of things. Will your professional and academic goals be well-served by their program? Can you articulate why and how? (Do you understand the school?) Finally, and most important, what will you contribute? Will you sit silently in class and then go home, or will you organize the international lunch after leading class discussion? Similar to the personality point above, MBA programs want to admit students who will participate and be happy. It creates a better experience for everyone, fosters alumni loyalty and helps them in certain rankings, since student and alumni satisfaction are criteria.

Business schools ask a lot of questions about what you did in college. They also ask you (and your recommenders) about growth. The admissions committee is looking for clues about your character – can you handle setbacks? Do you have a history of taking risks and driving change? Do you improve organizations and are you able to innovate and pivot? Again, these traits are highly correlated with success in business school and beyond, so be sure to offer specific examples throughout your application.

So, are you a “perfect” MBA candidate? Whether or not you have sparkling credentials on paper, your grit, tenacity, goals and ability to contribute matter as much if not more.


Karen has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and to 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, Yale, Wharton, MIT, Tuck, Columbia, Kellogg, Booth, Haas, Duke, Cornell, Ross, NYU, UNC, UCLA, Georgetown and more. Over the last three years, clients have been awarded more than 14.6 million dollars in scholarships, and more than 95% have gotten into one of their top choice schools.

 

MORE FROM KAREN:  Should You Settle For Your Second Choice Business School?, Admissions Advice That Might Surprise You, Ready For Your Business School Interview?