Non-Traditional Background: Applying To Business School

Finance and technology are typical backgrounds for many MBA applicants. For applicants with non-traditional backgrounds — such as acting or teaching — starting business school can appear intimidating.

Jennifer Jackson, a senior MBA admissions counselor at Stratus Admissions Counseling, recently discussed how applicants with non-traditional backgrounds should approach applying to MBA programs and how they might even have an advantage.


Even if you’re applying to an MBA program with a non-traditional background, Jackson says, you can still highlight a number of skills that translate into business school.

“Consider the skills you’ve gained in the roles you’ve held since college and figure out how to highlight them in the most compelling way,” Jackson writes. “There’s a high likelihood that even if those skills don’t seem directly applicable to an MBA program, they are still useful and necessary, such as collaboration and project management skills.”


MBA admissions essays will typically include prompts that ask applicants why they want to pursue an MBA. Jackson says it’s important to align applicable skills with your career goals when writing your essay.

“For example, let’s say you’re working at a governmental healthcare agency now but want to move to healthcare consulting or a biotech organization, and perhaps in the long term, be a leader in healthcare or start your own company,” Jackson writes. “You can demonstrate that you need the leadership skills, cross-functional business skills, and entrepreneurship skills that only an MBA can offer to make that pivot.”


Non-traditional applicants may often feel as if they’re at a disadvantage in admissions. However, experts say that applicants who do not fit the mold of a typical MBA student are exactly the type of applicants that b-schools are looking to attract.

“Business schools are actively looking to create dynamic classes made up of individuals who bring something different to the table,” Padya Paramita, a Graduate Coach at InGenius Prep, writes. “They seek people with diverse personal and professional backgrounds in order to keep class discussions engaging and interesting. Being a non-traditional candidate can really be a positive at a time when admissions officers are making a concerted effort to admit people with varied experiences.”

Sources: Stratus Admissions Counseling, InGenius Prep

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