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Become a More Competitive MBA Applicant

Increase Your Chances of Acceptance being an MBA applicant. Getting into business school isn’t easy, so it’s understandable for prospective students to worry about their odds of acceptance to top MBA programs. One way to address these concerns, experts suggest, is to strengthen your admissions profile before you apply to business school.

Here are 8 ways experts recommend to transform yourself into a more compelling MBA applicant.

MBA applicant
  1. Do Some Serious Introspection

Experts say the most impressive MBA applicants are those who are self-aware enough to identify their strengths and weaknesses, describe their dream career and explain how b-school will help them succeed.

“We don’t feel that people need to come in with a life plan already mapped out, but we do like to get a sense for how people think about the decisions that they make,” Chad Losee, managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid at Harvard Business School, told U.S. News.

  1. Prove Your Potential

Experts advise applicants to have evidence to back up their resumes and a series of compelling success stories, including about obstacles they have overcome.

MBA applicants who don’t have many success stories to tell should consider taking a few more calculated risks at work or school, so they can gain valuable leadership experience to describe in their admissions essays, experts say.

  1. Ask Yourself Whom You Admire

One way for prospective MBA applicants to discover their professional calling is to think about whose job they wish they had, U.S. News contributor Stacy Blackman wrote in a 2012 Strictly Business blog post.

“Passion for your career choice will come across as you tell your story through essays, discussions with recommenders and interviews, so it’s worth articulating your own dreams in advance,” wrote Blackman, an MBA admissions consultant.

  1. Find Ways to Contribute to the World/ MBA applicant

MBA admissions experts urge applicants to remember that their grades and test scores aren’t the only factors that matter.

Having a positive influence on a company or community is one way applicants can convince MBA admissions committees that they’re worthy of admission, and career success can compensate for lackluster academic statistics, experts suggest.

  1. Tackle New Challenges

Business schools prefer to admit well-rounded MBA applicants with a wide array of talents, says S. Michael Sury, a lecturer of finance with the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas—Austin.

Sury encourages applicants to branch outside of their ordinary work duties and tackle projects that allow them to cultivate new skills. “Taking part in industry conferences, speaking engagements, teaching positions or volunteering activities can propel an otherwise average candidate into a more competitive one,” he said via email.

  1. Address Weaknesses Head-On

Experts say MBA applicants who lack a personal quality that admissions officers tend to desire, such as leadership skills, should participate in an activity that forces them to develop that ability.

Blackman, the MBA admissions consultant, wrote in a recent blog post that one of her clients overcame shyness and developed communication skills by joining Toastmasters, a national professional development organization that challenges its members to deliver speeches.

  1. Demonstrate Academic Versatility

Experts say MBA applicants who have had a somewhat narrow academic focus in the past can bolster their admissions profile by demonstrating interest in an unrelated discipline.

For instance, engineers should participate in extracurricular activities that are unrelated to their field, Sury said via email. “Likewise, if the candidate is a more traditional business major, he may consider taking up vocational skills like programming or a second language.”

  1. Tackle Entrance Exams Early

Experts say it’s prudent to take a diagnostic exam for both the GRE and GMAT before deciding which business school entrance exam to prepare for. However, once applicants have made that choice, they should take the exam as soon as possible, experts advise.

Shaifali Aggarwal, founder and CEO of the Ivy Groupe admissions consulting company, says applicants who wait too late to take their standardized test are forced to juggle the arduous task of test prep alongside the difficult challenge of writing admissions essays.


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