How to Make Your MBA Application Stand Out
MBA admissions is a numbers game. Year after year, many talented, well-qualified applicants will get rejected by their top choice. Yet, there are a number of ways you can ensure your application gets noticed out of the thousands of others.
Becky Raspe, a staff reporter at Cleveland Jewish News, recently spoke to a number of experts who discussed how applicants can get their application noticed by admissions officers.
“We’re hoping as they put their application together that they are thinking strategically,” Deborah Bibb, assistant dean of admissions at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, tells Cleveland Jewish News “How can they show their best self? Then also be honest about what they want to do so we can help get them there. It’s about using that real estate to demonstrate who they are and what skills they have. The schools want to know that you want to be there and will go through the process.”
The number one advice admission officers seem to give about how to stand out is to know yourself as an applicant.
Caroline Diarte Edwards is a director at MBA admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions and former Director of MBA Admissions at INSEAD. Edwards says applicants need to take the time to self-reflect when crafting their application.
“Having reviewed thousands of applications during my career in business school admissions, including as head of Admissions at INSEAD, I believe that the single most important action you can take is to spend significant time on self-reflection,” Edwards writes in a post for P&Q. “Business schools don’t just want to hear about your academic excellence and professional triumphs. They want to know who you are, what you care about and what makes you unique.”
Here is a list of helpful questions Edwards put together for applicants to ask themselves when writing their application.
- What have been the defining moments, or turning points, in my life?
- What are my strengths and weaknesses?
- What are my core values?
- What have I learned about myself from times when I’ve failed and from times I have excelled?
- What am I passionate about, and what experiences or perspectives have shaped this passion?
- What do I want from my career – international experience, wealth, high status, work-life balance, power, meaning, brilliant colleagues?
- What do I need to learn, and what are my main reasons for seeking an MBA?
- On the day I retire, what do I want to have accomplished in my career?
Asking yourself these types of questions, Edwards says, can help you focus your application and solidify why an MBA education will be an important next step in your life.
Test Scores and Grades Only Say So Much
Test scores and grades are only part of the picture when it comes to the MBA application. While they certainly are important, a better way to look at them is to view them as merely a credential. Plenty of other students will have the same scores and grades, so it’s important to know how to stand out from the pool.
“What makes you stand out is when you’re able to connect your experience to what you want to study,” Sanjay Putrevu, dean of the Monte Ahuja College of Business at Cleveland State University, tells Cleveland Jewish News. “We’re looking for someone who has a rich experience in the workplace, how that connects to the MBA program and how they want to take it to the next step. That can be shown in how they highlight their experiences and in what they write in their personal statement. It’s not fluff – we’re looking for why they want to study and pursue their MBA. We want to help students connect the dots.”
One easy way to stand out? Seek out programs that fit your interests, Putrevu says.
“You want to look for a program that gives you broad business knowledge,” Putrevu tells Cleveland Jewish News. “You want to look at the specific concentrations or tract that are offered in an MBA program. That might be something of interest that not all schools offer. You want to consider if you’re a good match before you even apply.”