Getting into a top-10 business school isn't impossible. Access MBA Reach international partners share from their ample consulting experience what you need to do to get into your dream MBA.
Meli Wells, currently Director of Admissions at MBA House, has an MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management, including studying at ESADE in Spain and the Beijing Language and Culture University in China. She was a senior leader at a joint venture between Nielsen and McKinsey.
In 10 years of experience, MBA House has helped over 2,000 candidates gain admittance to top MBA programmes across the globe. We have found that the following helps applicants:
Find someone to hold you accountable: The process of applying to business school always takes longer than you think. Between GMAT and applications, the ideal time to start preparations is 6 to 8 months before your projected deadlines. The key is to be organized and disciplined in the process. Set weekly goals to keep on track. If you can't hire a consultant, try to find a family member or friend who can hold you accountable.
Start your MBA journey with your resume
The resume is the quintessential document in your candidacy so it should be the first thing you work on when you decide to go to business school. The MBA resume is different to your job resume in that it should focus on achievements as opposed to particular technical skills. Remember, this is an opportunity to sell yourself as an MBA student by bullet points, showing how you led others, improved your organization or grew business. Quantify when you can and give context of how you performed to your peers. Also, unlike a job resume, MBA resumes really shine with lots of details of your extracurricular and volunteer activities, especially when you can point to your leadership in these endeavors.
Do not read "successful' essays found on the internet: Much like being bitten by a zombie, these examples will take over your brain and spur you to produce essays that are suspiciously similar to hundreds of other applicants. Instead, start from scratch and really try to articulate your goals and how the MBA will help you achieve those goals. Your mission is to create a puzzle where all pieces of your past, present and future fit together and make your acceptance to a top-programme a logical choice for admissions committee. Also, try to work on only one school's essays at a time. This will allow you to tailor your essays to the each programme that you are applying to and avoid sounding generic
Pick recommenders based on how well they know you, not on their title: The key is to pick individuals who can really be your advocates and speak to your leadership, pro-activity, teamwork and interpersonal skills. Recommenders who can give concrete examples are more important than those with a higher title.
Interview on campus, if you have the means: While schools say they give no preference to candidates who interview on campus rather than those who interview remotely, it is always much easier to sell yourself in-person than over the phone. If that is not an option, request Skype.
Graham Richmond earned his MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He then joined Wharton’s admissions office, where he evaluated MBA applications and conducted admissions interviews. He is a co-founder of Clear Admit (2001) and has helped thousands of MBA applicants find success in the MBA admissions process.
Start with the basics
Taking care of several common application components early in the process can save significant time later. Applicants would do well to have their GMAT scores on hand by the end of the summer, as well as their academic transcripts from all institutions attended. Securing the support of your recommenders and preparing an up-to-date resume in advance are also helpful; the resume in particular can help both you and your recommenders obtain a holistic picture of your candidacy.
Do your homework for each school
Going beyond simply reviewing a school's website can take your applications to the next level. Participating in online discussion forums or reaching out to current students or alumni will help you see what life is really like at these schools and determine whether or not a programme is a good fit with your interests and needs. When possible, a campus visit is a great way to explore the school first-hand and signal your interest to the admissions commit-tee. You should then have plenty of material to work with when it comes time to explain why a school is right for you. Define your career goals clearly.
Just about every school's application will ask about your career goals, give your long- and short-term goals some serious thought. This is important because many schools believe applicants with clearly defined career goals are best positioned to succeed during and after their one or two years in the MBA programme. You should, therefore, focus on developing a proposed path which makes sense given your past experiences and your need for advanced study. Sharing these plans with your recommenders will help them understand how you are positioning yourself and tailor their messages accordingly.
Craft your message
Take time to reflect on your other essays individually and as a set. Does your application show a mixture of professional and extracurricular achievement? Applicants would also do well to remember that anyone reading your files is unlikely to have deep familiarity with your specific industry or function, making it advisable to avoid industry-specific jargon. You may wish to get second opinion from a friend or admissions counselor to ensure your drafts are written in accessible language while conveying positive characteristics about your candidacy.