"Do I need an MBA Admissions Consultant?" That's a pretty common question. Well, we don’t think there’s a single applicant out there who couldn’t use a hand with their application – even if it’s just a second set of eyes looking over their essays or polishing up their resume. But when that help comes with a stiff price tag, we definitely understand why so many folks balk at getting professional help!
For most folks the answer is yes and that’s not just because we’re an admissions consulting firm. Sure, there’s a bit of bias there but, having worked with clients from every country and walk of life you can think of, getting professional help isn’t just for the clueless or ultra wealthy. Getting into a top MBA program has become a challenging and complex game that goes beyond your GMAT score, GPA, and years of work experience. As more people than ever from around the world apply for a limited number of seats at the top programs out there, we’re running into a serious supply and demand issue here. It works perfectly for the schools out there but not so much for the applicants – not so much for YOU. Some folks tend to get left holding the short stick!
It’s not that admissions committees are a discriminating bunch (they really aren’t!). There’s just an overabundance of similarly qualified applicants to choose from and the admissions committees of top MBA programs want to create a diverse and well balanced class to provide a wonderful learning experience for every student. Unfortunately, this means that even if you are qualified to be part of a top program, that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to get int!
As MBA admissions consultants, we get to see how different groups and MBA applicant profiles are reviewed and selected. Our conclusion is that life isn’t fair. Here are the three profiles that will have the most difficult time standing out among the pack. If you fall into any of these three profiles, a knowledgeable MBA admissions consultant can be invaluable partner in helping you successfully differentiate yourself!
Mr. IT from Asia
This applicant is an international male candidate from India or China. He has an engineering degree and has spent his professional career in some sort of a technology field. Their GMAT score, GPA, and work experience indicate they have the quant skills and intellectual horsepower to handle business school. Most likely their post MBA career goal involves getting into a top consulting firm or building a business back in their native country.
According to this 2011 article by Poets and Quants, a top 10 MBA program revealed that 20% of its applicants were from China and other Asian countries while 22% of its applicants were from India. Acceptance rates for these groups were 10% and 8% respectively while acceptance rates for US citizens was at 39%.
Applicants with this background typically have trouble standing out because they are overconfident in their test scores, GPA, and work experience carrying them in their applications. They’ve been raised in an environment where the best possible grades and scores are all that mattered. They’ve banked on those aspects of their profiles for their entire lives so why change things now?
So not enough time is spent highlighting the qualitative aspects of the applicant to bring out their personality, ability to manage conflict, talent to inspire and lead others, and passion in an area of interest. Admissions committees want interesting applicants that have people skills and emotional intelligence to become future leaders. Not smart robots that can process information and spit out an answer. Also, it’s common to find this group projecting career goals that are broad and uninspiring. Generic goals like becoming a partner at consulting firm in industry X because they are passionate about XYZ will quickly land them in the reject pile. Great career goals need to inspire the admissions committee and include a logical plan that gets them to their goals!
The Cookie Cutter Consulting or Finance Applicant
An applicant from this professional background should be a sure bet, right? They clearly have the business knowledge and skills as well as the credibility of a well-respected company backing their resume!
Unfortunately, consulting and finance are major feeders for the top MBA programs and this creates an oversupply of applicants with very similar work experiences and skills. In fact, 50% of last year’s applicants to Harvard Business School came from investment banking, consulting, or private equity! FIFTY PERCENT!
Distinguishing themselves is going to be very difficult. Minor shortcomings in any part of the application are magnified to a point of differentiation. Recommendations – which for many other applicants are critical – lose a bit of their shine as partners from competing firms and banks leverage what they’ve written in the past. Compounding the issue is most applicants from these two fields usually don’t want to do what they were doing post graduation. These are the folks who throw around words like “entrepreneurship”, “startups”, and “private equity” like they’re going out of style.
While these applicants might have an initial advantage in terms of experience or pedigree, these are also applicants on the margin throughout the application process. The smallest parts of their application can make a huge difference! Demonstrating why they’re better than every other consultant and banker out there for that particular program is an incredibly difficult spot to be in!
The Non-Business Background Applicant
It’s true that business schools love applicants from non-business backgrounds like non-profits, the military, and other unconventional careers. These applicants can really add diversity to the classroom with unique perspectives, experiences, and passions! The problem is that there are a lot of applicants that apply from these backgrounds. Incentives like the Post 9/11 GI Bill for MBA programs and feeder non-profit organizations like Teach for America supply some great applicants every year!
The greatest difficulty for applicants with non-business backgrounds is articulating why their unique experience is relevant to their future goals and why an MBA is necessary for them to accomplish their goals. Without experience in storytelling and the ability to link the past to the future, many applicants fall flat and fail to convince the admissions committee of their ambitions. While their unique backgrounds will surely catch the attention of the admissions committee and cause them to pay attention, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee an acceptance letter!
Another difficulty encountered by applicants from non-traditional backgrounds is demonstrating that they have the ability to handle the rigorous course load of an MBA program. Quantitative abilities and analytical skills are valued in an MBA program. However, for many applicants, there are limited opportunities in their professional experiences to demonstrate these qualifications outside of their GMAT score and undergraduate coursework. It gets especially difficult for applicants from non-business backgrounds to build their case given the recent trend of schools cutting down or eliminating essays from their application!
These are just the three most common profiles that have a difficult go of the application process. But applicants from other walks of life can find themselves on the wrong side of the adcom decision call just as easily!
If you fall into one of these groups, can you get into a top MBA program on your own? Of course! However, the odds aren’t exactly in your favor and you’ll really need to do some serious research and have access to great resources to help you along the way. Partnering with a knowledgeable MBA admissions consulting company is a great way to alleviate stress from this process and increase your odds of success. Go ahead and explore what we have to offer! What you’ll discover is that Critical Square can provide the right level of support you need to differentiate yourself from a crowded field of applicants whether it’s small tweaks to a solid application or completely building a new strategy from scratch. With a wide range of services and options, we can figure out a way for you to get the help you need without breaking the bank.
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