This may seem like an obvious thing to point out, but it’s worth emphasizing; applying to b-school can get overwhelming, and getting in is anything but easy.
Forget all the STUFF you have to do: the resume, the visits, the essays. The real challenge comes in the mind game. The over-analyzing. The constant wondering if you’re doing it “right.” If your GPA is high enough. How you compare to other applicants.
Seriously, trying to crack the MBA admissions code is like trying to understand the Google algorithm. In other words, good luck.
So stop trying to see if your scores line up or if your 35 months of work experience is enough. You’ve got far too many other things to be doing right now. [Hello, essays?] Instead, take a gander below for real advice from real people who have been there before… and were successful. They know what it takes to get in (because they did!), and they’re going to share that real wisdom with you:
I think what helped me get into school was that I did a TON of research on the programs – I visited schools, connected with current students, networked with alumni, attended student conferences, learned about all the things that made the school unique. Not only did my efforts give me a lot of material to convincingly answer the “Why School X” question in my essays and interviews, but also helped me figure out which school was the best fit for me. It was a win-win!
I really made sure that my personality shone through in my app essays. Whether it’s why you’re passionate about the school or the future job, or even those fun questions like “tell me about your favorite book,” it’s the one thing that will turn an “applicant” into a human being. Remember, b-schools are looking for “people,” not just profiles.
I checked for mistakes. Then I checked again for mistakes. Then, I checked a third time. Nothing turns off an adcom reader like a sloppy, unprofessional mistake in your essays or apps. It comes off as a lack of seriousness and attention to detail. Handing in a consistent and clean app helped make sure that I got in.
I got another set of eyes to take a look at my essays to make sure the content came across clearly to a non-business person. Gotta remember, these adcoms aren’t business people. In my case, a rockstar friend gave me some great feedback, which helped me write an awesome application… and I got in!
Keep your eye on the clock and the calendar… literally. I double-checked not just the submission deadline, but also the TIME, and accounted for the time zone difference. There’s nothing worse than realizing you missed the submission deadline by mere hours or minutes because you didn’t account for the time change. You guessed it… the most important thing to remember is to get the apps in before the deadline.
I networked and reached out to students and alumni as I was writing my essays. It really helped me get quality content… BUT the real benefit came when I got waitlisted. Those same folks helped push me over the fence and get into the program. The connections you make with those people can be the lifesaver in your application process.
I made sure to use examples to show evidence that I made the most of what I did. Be it at work, in the community, or as an undergrad, I made sure that I was able to clearly illustrate the impacts I made. Clever stories are easy to throw together, but adcoms want to see supporting examples and the corresponding results. RESULTS are key. A diverse set of experiences are only as good as the examples you have to support them, and in my case it made all the difference in my app.
Answer the questions they’re asking. Obvious, but absolutely critical. The worst thing you can do is to provide a great answer to a question that nobody asked you. In my Stanford essays, I tried to capture the true meaning of “entrepreneurship.” I focused on more than just startups and IPOs, and stressed how I wanted to lead a team in building something from scratch. Having this goal in mind while answering their questions, I dug deeper than the obvious and… well, you know the rest.
BE AUTHENTIC. I was the youngest person admitted to Fuqua the year that I applied, so I didn’t have as many years of work experience or the same stories of having done something AMAZING like being an Israeli fighter pilot or creating 50 patents. But what DID get me into b-school (two, as a matter of fact, because I also got into Michigan) is that I used other aspects of my life as well as what I did and knew that I could do as the platform for my essays. For example, one of my essays was on ballet, another on being out on my own at an early age, etc. I didn’t try to compete on areas where I knew would not be set apart, but drew on my UNIQUENESS and positioned it in a way that made it a perfect fit for the adcoms, and ultimately led to my success.