Have you already decided why you need an MBA and researched schools to find your best fit? Now you’ll want to put that intel into service for your written materials and interviews. Admissions committee members love to see applicants who have done their homework to learn about the unique aspects of their programs. Why do you want an MBA specifically from Stanford, Wharton, or Chicago Booth? Some programs straight-up ask this question in their essays. But even if they don’t, you should still look for ways to address that unspoken question in your applications to those dream B-schools.
Always think, “How can I show my knowledge of the school in a way that blends naturally into my essay response or my interview answer?” To spark inspiration, consider the following tactical ways you can convey that you’ve done your research.
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Business Schools Offer Career Benefits In and Outside the Classroom
We constantly remind applicants that they don’t have to be “perfect” candidates to get into an elite MBA program. After all, the primary reason for returning to B-school is to fill in the knowledge gaps that will propel your career forward. In your essays and interviews, mention specific courses you want to take that would expose you to a function you haven’t yet experienced.
Say you want to start your own company one day, but your background is heavy in marketing and light on finance—or vice versa. Name-check the essential classes each program offers that will expand your tool kit and prepare you to scratch that entrepreneurial itch.
Go beyond the course catalog to explore other aspects of MBA programs that can bolster your functional knowledge.
For example, the Wharton School has hosted a Private Equity and Venture Capital Conference for over 25 years. CMU Tepper School of Business has an Energy & CleanTech Club that prepares students for careers in the energy and cleantech industries. You may be fascinated by the world of high-end retail. In that case, the NYU Stern Luxury and Retail Club is a place to explore everything related to the luxury, retail, hospitality, and spirits industries.
Offerings such as finance clubs, marketing conferences, new venture competitions, etc., can help students deepen their expertise in a specific industry. Mention these kinds of program details whenever you’re talking about your career goals. For instance, you could talk about how being in the PE VC club will help you build your network in that area. Likewise, hearing industry leaders who come to speak on campus will allow you to grow your knowledge of the latest trends and insights.
Dust Off Your Passport
Another area where you might have a gap is international experience. Whether your future goals revolve around an industry that’s global or you have a passion for expanding your horizons, make sure you investigate what kind of international experiences are available at the programs you’re interested in.
For example, Kellogg School of Management has KWEST, a pre-matriculation global experience planned by and for students. Incoming students in Kellogg’s full-time MBA program come together before classes start to travel to nearly 40 countries under the leadership of second-year students, who spend almost a year planning and training for the experience.
Over at Harvard Business School, you’ll find the Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development (FIELD) course. This required first-year class includes an action-oriented global immersion in an emerging market.
Meanwhile, Stanford Graduate School of Business has many global experiences in the MBA program. STEP, the Stanford-Tsinghua Exchange Program between the GSB and the Tsinghua School of Economics in Beijing, China, is worth a special mention. This cross-cultural learning program offers students from both schools “a more nuanced understanding of doing business in China” as they form long-lasting relationships.
Whether it’s a school-sponsored offering or a spring break trip organized by classmates eager to show off their home countries, the travel possibilities you’ll encounter at B-school are life-changing.
Become a Name Dropper
After you dig into the industry-specific electives, clubs, conferences, and learning opportunities that await at your dream B-schools, here are a few more ways to show you really want to be in their program. You could name-drop a specific professor known for groundbreaking research in the area that interests you. How cool would it be to study under them or pick their brain on an idea you’ve been mulling over?
Mentioning current students you’ve talked to is a savvy way to show that you have thoroughly researched the school. But don’t just say, “I talked to Claire Thomas, a second-year student, about her experience.”
Instead, incorporate a specific detail about the school that the person mentioned. So a better sentence would be, “After talking with second-year student Claire Thomas about my future goals, she said I should plan to take Digital Media Strategies with Professor Weinstein.” That way, you not only mention somebody there; you now have a specific idea of something you want to do because of their recommendation.
And similarly, remember those alums! Say you’re keen on ed tech. You can research where executives or senior managers of various ed tech firms went to school. If any of them graduated from one of your dream B-schools, your essays could mention how you would love to be able to network with them when you’re a student. Or perhaps it’s enough to acknowledge they are an alum and express how much their career has inspired you.
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Tap Into Personal Interests
Another way you can show some love for your dream B-schools is by tying in details about the programs with your interests. For example, SBC consultant Erika mentioned on an episode of the B-Schooled podcast that she has worked with an unusually high number of MBA applicants who were in a cappella groups in college.
“If the MBA program they’re applying to has an a capella group, such as HBS’s Heard on the Street, it would be a huge miss not to mention it in some way,” Erika says. The applicant could write something like, “I’m so excited to continue nurturing my passion for singing by joining Heard on the Street once I get to campus.”
MBA interviewers will often ask what you like to do in your spare time or what you do for fun. This is the perfect opportunity to mention something and then tie it to how you’ll continue doing it at B-school. You may love to ski and want to check out the Snow Sports Club at your target program, Columbia Business School. Perhaps you consider yourself a foodie and are applying to the Chicago Booth School of Business. You could mention that you can’t wait to join the Epicurean Club.
Often, a student-run or school-sponsored trek is to a specific location, so it will span functions and industries. It might be worth mentioning if your target school is on the East Coast, but the hub of the industry you’re interested in is out west. Many B-schools, such as MIT Sloan School of Management and Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, offer annual Tech Treks to Silicon Valley.
Doing the Legwork Pays Off When it Comes to Getting Into Your Dream B-Schools
Too many applicants mistakenly believe that all top MBA programs are alike and that they offer the same courses, clubs, and experiences. If you write generically about the program you’re applying to while your most direct competitor crackles with excitement about the courses they’ll take and clubs they’ll be involved in, that person will most likely win out.
We hope these ideas have helped you figure out ways to show how much you want to be at those dream B-schools you’re applying to. Taking the time to do this legwork often makes the difference between an admissions offer and a ding.
Stacy Blackman Consulting offers multiple services to meet your MBA application needs, from our All-In Partnership to hourly help reviewing your MBA resume. Contact us today for a free 15-minute advising session to talk strategy with a Principal SBC consultant. Meanwhile, here’s a snapshot of the caliber of expertise on our SBC team.
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