If you are a current or former consultant and are looking to pursue your MBA, you are likely not alone. As one of the most popular pre-MBA industries, consulting can be a competitive field for business school applicants.
While consulting is a great industry to begin your career and gain valuable experience, admissions committee members want diverse, well-rounded classes. Therefore, as a consultant, it will be key that you put in the work to develop stand-out MBA applications.
Founded by a former consultant who presents nationally at leading consulting firms, Personal MBA Coach is well-versed in helping both current and former consultants maximize their chances of success. Each year, Personal MBA Coach helps numerous applicants from consulting backgrounds gain admission to top business schools. Plus, many earn substantial scholarships as well!
Before we jump into our expert application advice, we would like to explore the business schools that admit the most consultants.
The MBA Landscape
At many leading full-time programs, consulting is reported as the #1 or #2 pre-MBA industry. However, the percentage of former consultants at these top schools varies considerably, as seen in the chart below.
Kellogg takes the lead, with consultants making up 26% of the class of 2022. Chicago Booth, Wharton, and Dartmouth Tuck also admitted a large number of consultants. Following close behind, Columbia Business School, Michigan Ross, MIT Sloan, and Berkeley Haas reported that consultants make up over 20% of the class.
Those considering NYU Stern, Harvard Business School, or Duke Fuqua may face even greater competition since consultants make up a smaller percentage of the student body at these programs.
Wondering how you can differentiate yourself from your peers?
Below, Personal MBA Coach shares our top five tips for consultant applicants. We frequently provide guidance for applicants from top consulting firms, such as McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, Bain & Company, Deloitte, and many other leading names.
1) Perfect your MBA resume
MBA resumes are a great way to stand out as an applicant. Though you might think you already have a resume on hand, an MBA resume differs significantly from a professional resume.
For one, rather than listing your work experience to date, an MBA resume will show many aspects of your profile. Business school admissions committee members are not interested in learning about every detail of your past and present roles, particularly if you are a former consultant. Thus, spotlighting your key accomplishments is a much better approach.
Your MBA resume should outline strong leadership experience and clear evidence that you have been successful. More specifically, aim to include clear, quantifiable results such as, “drove $2M in new business through X” or “increased performance 25% over the previous year.” These details will not only demonstrate your personal growth over time but your overall impact on business performance.
On top of professional achievements, strong MBA candidates are also involved in various extracurricular organizations. While quality takes precedent over quantity here, adding extracurriculars to your MBA resume will show another aspect of your candidacy and further set you apart from the crowd.
2) Showcase how you have exceeded the expectations for your role
Since a lot of consultants have worked on similar projects, you must accentuate your unique professional accomplishments. This requires you to be candid with yourself. For instance, if four of your friends also worked on a supply chain optimization project for a recent client, maybe you have something more unusual to discuss (even if it feels less substantial).
Unsure what you should showcase? Try to think back to projects in which you went above and beyond expectations and/or shared a new perspective. You will want to show admissions committee members how you have demonstrated leadership and implemented analytical and/or innovative thinking.
Have you mentored a junior colleague? Volunteered within the organization? Sought out or agreed to take on extra projects? Any additional measures you have taken that show your initiative will help you stand out amongst your fellow consultants.
3) Highlight what makes you unique
Many applicants make the mistake of writing what they think the admissions committee wants to read. However, doing so will not make a strong impression, and often leads to an unsuccessful application. Instead, highlighting what makes you unique will be one of your best selling points, particularly as a consultant.
Distinguishing skills, extracurricular leadership positions, volunteer work, or hobbies help show who you are and what kind of unique value you will bring to campus. While Personal MBA Coach does not recommend sharing every skill and extracurricular you have ever been involved in, noting one or two that cover multiple aspects of your profile will help to enhance your candidacy.
4) Cast a wide net
Although Personal MBA Coach frequently writes about the M7 business schools, there are many other top MBA programs rising in the MBA rankings. Additionally, the admissions process can be somewhat of a gamble at times. Even if you have a strong profile, it may be harder to stand out if there are too many qualified consultants from your particular country or region in a given year.
For this reason, our average client now applies to 5 to 8 schools each year, with many in the 6+ range. For some applicants, broadening their school list means selecting schools from a range of tiers. In other cases, this means applying to a greater number of top-tier programs.
Naturally, your target school list must align with your candidate profile. Along with casting a wide net, make sure that your school selections are attainable based on your GMAT/GRE score, GPA, and particular consulting background. At Personal MBA Coach, we offer candid feedback on your chances of success at any given program. While we want candidates to be ambitious, we also encourage them to be realistic and strategic.
5) Carefully select and prepare your recommenders
Selecting and preparing your recommenders requires time and consideration. Your recommender should complement the rest of your application and further distinguish you from your peers. Rather than choosing someone with the most impressive title, select someone who not only knows you well but will set aside the time to write a strong letter of recommendation.
As a consultant, you will want your recommender to be able to compare you to other applicants and demonstrate how you have successfully distinguished yourself from your peers.
Your recommender must be able to identify your strengths and weaknesses, career goals, and have a strong sense of your overall character and work ethic. A good letter of recommendation should enhance an already strong application, further defining who you are and what you have accomplished.
Scott Edinburgh is a Wharton MBA and MIT Sloan BS graduate and founded Personal MBA Coach 15 years ago with the goal of providing customized one-on-one support. Scott also serves on the Board of Directors for AIGAC, the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants, and is invited to speak at MBA Admissions events globally. Our clients have been accepted to all top schools globally with a 96% success rate. They received $6.5M+ in scholarships last cycle.