Want to get into business school? Plan your path to success with these tips for a stellar MBA application.
An MBA can mean a higher salary and better job status. But before you choose a school or pick up your diploma, you need to apply.
Since your application is the first way admissions staff will get to know you, it’s worth taking some time to make sure your MBA application shines… so you can get into the business school of your choice.
The application process usually requires writing an essay that highlights how your abilities match with those of the school. Read each question carefully before beginning, and then carefully consider the goals you have in mind for your future. Here’s how to do it. (Click here to tweet these tips.)
Start planning your application essays early
You’re already studying for the GMAT at the same time as writing application essays, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time for both pieces. Plan your study time so you don’t end up with sleepless nights and stressful days — especially if you’re working a full-time job at the same time. Plan on spending at least 40 hours (and possibly more) on your applications as a whole, including time to write, revise and edit your essays.
Share your passion in your essays
Articulating your passion for your future should be the most substantive part of your essays. Saying “I want to be a CEO” is not good enough for your MBA application essay. Do some soul-searching and figure out why you want to get your MBA. Perhaps you’re pursuing your degree so you can help those in need through a non-profit, or maybe you find yourself looking up to someone in your past or current career. Whatever it is, use your passion to your advantage.
Some MBA applications will ask about your past, present and future. Before writing your essay, identify your past strengths and relate them to your post-degree goals.
Identify short- and long-term goals
If you have a long-term goal in mind, make sure it’s realistic before putting pen to paper on your application. For example, do you want to move up into a C-suite role: CEO, CFO, etc.? Or are you planning on joining or launching a startup?
Thinking through your long-term goals may help you identify your short-term goals, and can also help you identify your professional path.
Dream big, but be realistic
Communicate high aspirations that are worthy of an MBA, but show that you know your goals are long-term — not immediate plans. Admissions staff will appreciate learning that you’ve already done some of the work toward your long-term goals.
For example, if you want to launch a startup creating smartphones that are smaller and last longer, you’ll want to share that you’ve already patented a new smartphone case that does just that.
Don’t try to game the system
Trying to identify and pander to your dream school’s ideal applicant is a surefire way to fail at the application process. The truth of the process is there is no secret type of person who gets into your school of choice. Explore your own story to show who you are and what sets you apart from others. Say what you want to say about yourself and make it unique.
Write a separate essay for each school
You wouldn’t use one cover letter for separate jobs, so don’t try to use one essay for all your schools. Using a template answer to questions that are different for each application is a good way to get rejected. Admissions officers are interested in your entire experience, including your GMAT, GPA, experience in the workplace, and more — but specifically how that all applies to attending their program.
Get professional references
Try to get professional references from supervisors and coworkers from current positions, not old jobs. The admissions committee is not concerned with jobs you had 10 years ago. They want to know how you’re growing right now.
Don’t give up
No matter what, keep going. Some schools even allow you to reapply after a period of time. If it comes to that, be sure to point out your professional and personal progression since your previous application. And if you’re having a rash of bad luck with applications, try reaching out to other schools to discover new opportunities.
Ryan Hickey is the Managing Editor of Peterson’s & EssayEdge. A graduate of Yale University, Ryan has worked in various admissions capacities for nearly a decade, including writing test-prep material for the SAT, AP exams, and TOEFL, editing essays and personal statements, and consulting directly with applicants.