What MBA Admissions at Top Schools Look For In Applicants
It takes a lot to get into a top MBA, but experts say strong collaboration and communication skills are just as important as academic performance when it comes to admissions.
Ilana Kowarski, a reporter at US News, recently discussed some key traits that admissions officers look for in MBA applicants.
“Because business schools are professional schools designed to prepare students to thrive in the business world, these schools seek students with the leadership skills necessary to succeed in business,” Kowarski writes. “In addition to evaluating a student’s test scores and grades, a top MBA program will consider whether the student has a history of making meaningful contributions to the organizations where he or she has worked.”
Strong Communication and Collaboration Skills Valued
Communication and collaboration skills are also becoming more important in the business world.
It’s become most apparent in a new admissions requirement at many schools – the Emotional Intelligence (EQ) requirement.
“Research is showing that leadership is more than just management. It’s the ability to work with others and motivate others towards a shared set of goals,” Susan Cera, director of MBA admissions at admissions consultancy Stratus Admissions Counseling, tells P&Q. “And EQ is instrumental to being successful in working with and through others.”
Being a willing team player and having strong communications skills is now a pre-requisite for many admissions criteria at top MBA programs.
“This is not a purely academic program; it’s not a Ph.D. program,” Bruce DelMonico, assistant dean for admissions at the Yale School of Management, tells US News. “We are trying to bring in people who are going to have impact after they graduate.”
Acknowledging Your Weaknesses
No applicant is perfect and when it comes to MBA applications. Many times, it’s better to highlight your awareness of your weaknesses and demonstrate how you compensate for your deficits.
In fact, according to DelMonico, it’s better to admit to admissions officers a desire to grow professionally and personally at business school.
“We know that anyone who is applying to business school is looking to improve themselves,” he tells US News.
Demonstrated Experience is More Important Than Name-Brand
Having a respected employer on your resume can be helpful. But, according to experts, it’s more impressive when applicants can demonstrate that they’ve done high quality work.
Soojin Kwon, managing director of full-time MBA admissions and program at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business, tells US News that describing non-academic accomplishments and a history of high-quality work is more impressive than a name-brand employer on a resume.
“Leadership is not as narrowly defined as an applicant might think,” she tells US News.
Highlight Your Initiatives and Soft Skills
Soft skills are demonstrated outside the numbers of test scores and GPA. Experts say that having a drive and demonstrating soft skills outside of school can be impressive.
“Beyond good test scores, top MBA programs are looking for students who demonstrate initiative,” Vijay Koduri, an MBA alumnus of the Ross School of Business and co-founder of HashCut, a technology company, tells US News. “This can be entrepreneurial – have you started a company and scaled it up? It can be intrapreneurship – did you raise your hand and lead the way for a new product idea or new market in your company? It can also be social impact – are you passionate about a cause, and have you led significant change in your region or around the world to make a difference?”
Shaifali Aggarwal, an alumna of Harvard Business School and the founder and CEO of the admissions consulting firm Ivy Groupe, tells US News that demonstrating a desire and ability to innovate can be impressive to admissions officers.
“These students show that they are able to think outside of the box to come up with creative solutions, which is an extremely important quality to possess when solving business problems and leading organizations,” she tells US News.