Joining an MBA program is not just a simple matter of filling up the admission form, paying up the fees and joining the class at your favourite Business School. It involves quite a lot of preparations starting with taking a decision on career goals, research for the school that best fits these objectives, good scores in GMAT/GRE tests and for those already in the workforce, an outstanding professional performance fit to be highlighted in the letters of recommendation.
This may look to be a tough and intimidating challenge. But with the right attitude and careful preparations at every stage, it could be overcome. Some useful tips can be had from Fortuna Admissions, a team of former senior MBA admissions staff and industry experts offering advice and coaching to business school applicants.
The first piece of advice to the applicants from Judith Silverman Hodara, a Co-Founder and Director of Fortuna Admissions who had served as a member of the admissions committee at Wharton and her colleagues, is to display their authentic self and not to make attempts to fit into a mould.
The schools would want to have a more detailed picture of the candidate than what is stated in the resume. This could include everything from career goals to strengths and weaknesses, the level of self awareness about personal successes and failures and the like. During the preparations, some time could be taken out to talk to as many people as possible in the target career sectors.
While putting down your long-term goals in the application, it has to be about thinking big and penning your ideas about bringing changes that could bring immense benefits to the sector of your choice. it would also be worthwhile to draw a link with your past decisions and future goals.
For selecting the school, making a list of your requirements along with talking to students and faculty would be useful. Candidates could also look beyond the MBA rankings and be willing to see if they could make a cut above the ordinary to get admission in a more reputed institution. Instead of parroting well-known facts about the school, you should be able to explain your personal preference for the institution.
At this point, think like a businessman in defining your brand value in terms of the unique expertise and contribution to the program and leverage it in each part of the application. Since every school is looking for diversity you could seek to project how your professional background, upbringing, nationality, age, ambition or interests would add a unique dimension to the class.
About GMAT, the test scores do play a role in the admissions. You could repeat the test to improve the scores in areas of weakness like data sufficiency or critical reasoning.
While framing the resume, candidates should be specific in demonstrating value with objective evidence. Technical language could be toned down to basics and skills relevant to the role and the ones the school will be looking for could be highlighted.
In the Application Essays, it is important to tell a story that brings out your personal traits rather than saying what kind of person you are. It should also bring out the motivation for joining the program. Cut and paste essays are to be avoided and each essay should feel like it was written specifically for the school citing specific examples and particular offerings that prompt you to join it.
Depth rather than breadth should be the focus and adopting a non-technical manner while giving career details would be appropriate as your file reader may be from a different background. Also be honest about your strengths and weaknesses.
Your activities outside the work space could be highlighted. For example, if someone spends 10 years training in classical music or dance, the admission officer could interpret it as dedication and drive, taking your application several points ahead.
In the case of Letters of Recommendation, it would do well to work on developing a relationship with those willing to provide it. Here again, instead of generalisations, specific details should be provided so that they could put it in and help you.
Regarding interviews, it is a misconception that schools are looking for perfect candidates when they are looking for candidates with the right fit. During the interview, a clear story with examples to illustrate points about what you did rather than what you intend to do will carry more weight. Interviews are to be approached with confidence, having marshalled all key arguments ahead of time.