For MBA applicants, the most important thing to keep in mind is that your application must stand out. Every year, Personal MBA Coach hears post-mortem from applicants with 750+ GMAT scores, high GPAs and leading employers on their resumes who were rejected from their targets schools on their first attempt.
There is generally one reason for this; their applications did not stand out! Nearly every top business school could fill their classes with only former investment bankers and consultants from top undergraduate schools. However, MBA students learn almost as much (if not more) from their classmates as they do from their professors. Therefore, top business schools need well rounded classes filled with candidates across demographics, industries and backgrounds. Applying as a consultant from a top firm with a 780 GMAT alone will not secure an acceptance. Schools can only take so many of these applicants in each class.
Depending on your perspective, this is either good or bad news!
For those of you with such a profile, you still have your work cut out for you. Your application must show how you have performed better than your peers, how you will add a unique point of view to class discussions and how you plan to make your distinctive mark after graduation.
Your application should show what you have done above and beyond expectations in your role. Think about projects where you have gone the extra mile and/or added an innovative point of view. Similarly, your career aspirations should be more explicit than returning to a specific industry or function. Instead, they should depict a particular area of focus or a new perspective you hope to bring to an issue or field. For example, if you plan to return to consulting, add some details on where you hope to focus. If you hope to become a CFO, let the reader in on what your management philosophy might be. Of course, no one will hold you to these goals, but you need to think about how you will stand out. After all, this will be just as important as you begin the post-MBA recruiting process.
Conversely, this presents an opportunity for those of you that do not fit the mythical “ideal mold.”
For example, if your GPA is less than ideal, be sure that you call out other evidence of your analytical abilities or other academic successes. Perhaps you have been a top performer at work or have taken classes since graduation. These are some options for showing that you have the potential to handle the academic rigor of an MBA program.
For applicants coming from less traditional careers, be sure that your essays, resumes and LORs call attention to both unique AND transferable skills. Whether you are a dancer, a coach or a scientist, many of the same skills are essential for success. Be sure to show how you have stood out as a leader and how you have leveraged analytical and/or out of the box thinking in these roles.
Finally, regardless of your background, show the reader who you are as a person and be sure to cover multiple aspects of your profile. Unique skills, hobbies, extra-curricular leadership roles, volunteer work and language skills will all work together to paint a picture for admissions committee members of who you are and what unique value you have to add.
Scott Edinburgh is a Wharton MBA and MIT Sloan BS graduate and the Founder of Personal MBA Coach. As a boutique MBA admissions consulting and tutoring firm, we have been helping clients for over 10 years with a 96% success rate. Last year we helped applicants receive over $4.5M in fellowships. If you would like individual and personal support with any aspect of the MBA application process, find out more about Personal MBA Coach and our 5-star rating.
MORE FROM SCOTT: 4 Guiding Principles For All MBA Application Essays