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How do I build a stronger MBA application?

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MBA Admissions Consultant
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Schools: University of Chicago, Columbia, Wharton, Stanford, Harvard, Cornell, NYU, Duke, Indiana
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How do I build a stronger MBA application? [#permalink] New post 03 Jul 2010, 07:10
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"How do I build a stronger MBA application?"

As an MBA admissions consultant, I often get asked this question in our Free Initial Consultations. Hope this post helps answer the most common query across business school applicants.

My viewpoint comes from advising graduate applicants since 2004, my experience in both undergraduate and graduate admissions, and being admitted to multiple top business schools during my own MBA application process.

MBA applicants are viewed from three perspectives by a business school admissions committee - academic, professional and personal.

The academic part of your profile allows for the most transparent metrics with easy comparison to your competition. These include your GPA (both Bachelor's and from potentially another Master's degree) and GMAT score. If one of these is not within the average range at your target school, I would advise you to focus on making the other metric stronger. For example, I regularly come across clients who either have a low undergraduate GPA or aren't very strong standardized test takers, and end up with a low GMAT score. In this case, you can assuage doubts on your academic abilities and thus strengthen your application through a stronger GPA/GMAT, as applicable. If either of these is a concern in your application, we also offer a Transcript Review and GMAT Consultation as part of all our Business School Admissions Packages, wherein our advice on steps to improve your academic profile is tailored to the specific courses making up your GPA or sections of the GMAT.

The professional part of your profile is composed of all your pre-MBA work experience, including full-time, part-time and internships. The point of focus here is not just a summary list of all that you have done, but how this is applicable to your business school experience and your stated post-MBA ambitions. For example, I frequently advise engineering/IT clients to demonstrate soft skills and personal attributes such as teamwork and communication through their essays and resume, while those with more creative/entrepreneurial/non-traditional backgrounds would be well-advised to showcase their analytical and quantitative abilities. Not having enough leadership experience is frequently a concern, especially for younger clients. With our help, business school applications can be appropriately positioned to demonstrate this through a combination of project and title leadership. At My MBA Admit, we start our MBA Admissions Consulting packages with an extensive discussion of your experiences and how they might be best positioned to demonstrate your strengths and mitigate any weaknesses, especially in light of the specific requirements of a particular school.

Finally, your personal profile is a combination of all the activities that help set you apart, in terms of all your life experiences, volunteer involvement and extracurricular activities. In other words, this is the most flexible section to demonstrate your comparative advantage against your competition for everything that you have done outside the requirements of work and school. Examples that past clients have shown include backpacking through Europe, a stint in the military, a lifetime of volunteering activities and independently rising up from humble origins. I often have MBA application clients say, "but we don't have enough extracurricular experience." This is why the business school application consulting approach that I have developed includes Application Strategy, Examples Selection and Positioning Guidance. In this, we identify both your positives and opportunities, review your complete profile for appropriate examples, and help you position them to mitigate a weakness or highlight a strength.

All the best with your business school applications! An MBA is truly a life-changing experience.

If you like this post, do give us a Kudos (click on the +1 box on the left). Much appreciated!

For a Free Initial Consultation on your profile, check us out at My MBA Admit:MBA Admissions Consulting or email us at
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MBA Admissions Consultant
User avatar
Joined: 05 Jan 2010
Posts: 194
Location: New York
Schools: University of Chicago, Columbia, Wharton, Stanford, Harvard, Cornell, NYU, Duke, Indiana
Followers: 1

Kudos [?]: 94 [0], given: 0

Re: How do I build a stronger MBA application? [#permalink] New post 21 Jul 2010, 00:45
One of the main questions to build Stronger MBA applications:

"How do I draft a strong and compelling main MBA application essay?"

You have decided to apply for an MBA. Your GMAT score is in place, your college transcripts are on their way, and your recommenders are lined up with their letters. “All” that remains are your essays.

However, as defined by the experiences of scores of MBA applicants before you, including yours truly at University of Chicago Booth Graduate School of Business, it's the essays that can make or break your application. Before you even consider having someone else write them for you though – stop and consider. One, your essays are your story – your past experiences, present goals, and future ambitions. No one knows your story better. Two, your MBA will be a source of personal pride and professional advancement for the rest of your life – do you really want someone else taking away part of the credit for that achievement? Three, from a more pragmatic perspective, you can learn all the modeling and slide-building skills you want, but it's your communication and presentation skills that will truly be your universal success factors - during MBA, in your first post-MBA job and every switch after.

Those words of caution aside, let's tackle the main MBA application essay question – Why MBA, Why Now, and Why at this School? Any essay that fails to answer one or more of these impacts the applicant's competitiveness.

Why MBA – whether the question explicitly mentions it or not, this should discuss both your short-term and long-term goals. Further, there should be a thread of credibility linking your past achievements with your future ambitions. For those getting an MBA as career enhancers, meeting this requirement is relatively easy – you have done X before MBA, and you are going to business school to continuing doing X, but at a higher level. However, the majority of full-time MBA students are career switchers. In this case, identifying your relevant skills, attributes and experiences that can help you, in conjunction with an MBA, to meet your short-term and long-term goals is crucial. This is where the ACE (Aim, Create and Elevate) process at My MBA Admit/Admit World comes in. We develop a business school admissions strategy, and ensure its adherence through every application component. Throughout the process, every plan and goal put forth in the essay is assessed for innate believability, depth of research, time line adherence and fit to your personal profile. We even offer brainstorming sessions that are geared specifically towards identifying and expanding upon your Why MBA reasons – whether your past experience was in IT, engineering, medicine or music, there is always a way to present your short-term and long-term goals for maximum impact to an admissions committee.

Why Now – if the previous section is done right, this should be a cinch. Inherently, citing long-term and short-term goals involves doing it citing on a time line. The reasoning used here should be geared at convincing an AdCom that since you want to achieve A (long-term goal) in 5 years, you need to do B (short-term goal) before, for which you need an MBA now. For example, many applicants go to business school with the aim of eventually starting their own business (long-term). To start your business, particularly in a field in which you have little experience, it makes sense to work for another firm in that field first (short-term). And to get into such a firm, you need an MBA now (direct answer to question).

Why this School - Finally, it is very important to couch every goal from the point of view of the school. As in citing specific programs, classes and specializations that will help you achieve your goals, to make it clear to the AdCom that this isn't a generic Why MBA essay, but a product of your research that offers a sound reasoning for Why MBA from this School in particular. Whether as a business school interviewer or an MBA admissions consultant, it's always this last factor that makes me give a “Go” on the application.

If you like this post, do give us a Kudos (click on the +1 box on the left). Much appreciated!

Check out our MBA Application Services and Packages at My MBA Admit.
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Joined: 05 Jan 2010
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Schools: University of Chicago, Columbia, Wharton, Stanford, Harvard, Cornell, NYU, Duke, Indiana
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Re: How do I build a stronger MBA application? [#permalink] New post 22 Jul 2010, 01:46
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The Business School Application resume – what, how long and why?

Our latest installment on Strong MBA Applications focuses on the resume. While business school essays provide the inside story on one of your achievements in the professional, personal or academic arenas, a business school application resume should ideally provide a bird's-eye view of all your achievements together.

Let's cover some of the common concerns of an MBA application resume.

What should it cover?

The major difference between a MBA and a job resume is the audience.

The employer is interested in how relevant your past experience and skills are for a particular position. However, the business school AdCom is interested in the bigger picture – the versatility of your profile to judge your fit, and its suitability to contribute to the diversity of the incoming class.

Things to include in a MBA resume, besides the traditional professional resume, would be an emphasis on soft skills, extracurricular and community activities, personal interests and a broader description of your profile and/or company, if not well-known.

Things to avoid would be industry-specific jargon, as well as listing certifications that are not as well-known without elaboration.

How long should it be?

From my experiences in academic/corporate interviewing and guiding graduate applicants since 2004, I am inclined to look at resumes with a naturally critical eye. In my experience, resumes that are 1-1.5 pages long tend to be the most engaging. Shorter than that, you run the risk of focusing on just the professional achievements. Longer than that, you are discussing more tasks (routine activities) than star achievements.

Besides, most MBA applicants have an average of 5 years of experience. For this level, a one-page resume is the one most commonly prescribed. Keep it to about 1.5 pages to include all your achievements outside the workplace for the MBA AdCom.

Why is this exercise important?

Giving your resume its due attention in the application stage will also make it easier to cut it down to 1 page when you start applying for summer internships pretty soon after you start the program. You will have enough on your plate then – wouldn't it be nice to have one thing less to worry about?

An additional benefit is that the work you put in will give you a clearer idea of your past accomplishments and help to better position yourself for future career goals. This exercise will help you hit the ground running for your internship search once you are in the MBA program.

As competition in MBA programs grows more intense, business school admissions committees scrutinize every aspect of the MBA application to a greater extent. This includes resumes. A precise, well-written resume will help to attest a candidate's credibility much more than one that needs to be completely reworked. This is why all the Business School Admissions Consulting packages (Elite, Complete or Essential) at My MBA Admit/Admit World were designed to include a comprehensive Resume Review. In addition, Resume Reviews are also available as a stand-alone service in both their Standard and Advanced versions.

If you like this post, do give us a Kudos (the +1 box on the left). Much appreciated!

Want us to cover something else? Reply to this thread.

Check out our services at My MBA Admit or email us at for a Free Initial Consultation.
Re: How do I build a stronger MBA application?   [#permalink] 22 Jul 2010, 01:46
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How do I build a stronger MBA application?

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