How to Get Into a Top Business School
As an admissions consultant, I am asked frequently, “How do I get into a top business school?” Many candidates believe schools want a certain “type” of candidate—perhaps one with a stellar GMAT score or a certain kind of job. Yet, in my seven years of admissions consulting, I have seen candidates with all kinds of backgrounds receive offers from top business schools. In my experience, schools are not looking for a “type.” Rather, they are looking for a diversity of industry experience, functions, countries of origin, ethnic backgrounds, and also personal interests. As you approach the upcoming MBA application process, consider the following ideas to help you be successful.
Should I retake the GMAT?
If your GMAT score is below the reported average at your preferred school, there is still time to do something about it. The GMAT is one component of your profile you can still change. Consider retaking the GMAT or taking an online course to beef up your weak areas. Many candidates take the GMAT more than once to get the score they want. There is no penalty or stigma attached to re-taking the test.
In addition, if you have not engaged with community organizations since college, it is never too late to start. Look into organizations for which you are personally passionate. For example, if you are an animal lover, consider volunteering at an organization such as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). If you are into fashion, organizations such as Dress for Success have locations nationwide.
Make your business school application stand out
Although you do not have to be the best at everything you do, you should be different (meaning different in a good way!). Beyond doing what you can to shore up your profile, also be sure to show the admissions committee (AdCom) what unique perspectives you can bring to the school. This would primarily be conveyed in your application essays. Therefore, structure your essays so that you highlight your best strengths and stories. For example, how might your experiences working for a Midwestern manufacturing company bring a different perspective to your application?
Go beyond the resume
Share your personal story of how you got where you are today. Do not be afraid to mention your vulnerabilities. For example, what challenges did you face in your job? What personal failures or disappointments did you encounter? Show the AdCom that you did not have a smooth path to success; explain how you struggled, stumbled, picked yourself up, and improved.
Make your application well-rounded
The good news is that the AdCom reviews your profile holistically; its decision will be based on more than your statistics. So, be sure to show the committee as much of yourself as you can. At the end of the day, there is no single path to acceptance at a top business school. When you stand with your classmates on the first day of orientation and hear each other’s stories, you may find, to your surprise, that each person has followed a unique path to get there.
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Fluent in both Mandarin and Cantonese, Debbie Choy earned her MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and has been helping clients pursue their own MBA ambitions through mbaMission for seven application seasons. She was a management consultant with Booz & Co. and an investment analyst with JP Morgan before attending business school. After graduating, she worked in product marketing in the medical technology industry—developing an expertise in the planning and execution of product launches, product line management, and marketing strategy—and was actively involved in recruiting MBAs for her employer. Debbie also led an MBA recruiting program focused on the top programs for a fast-growing health care company, presented at career fairs, and directly interviewed candidates. As a co-founder of ALIST Magazine, which showcases Asian American corporate leaders and success stories, she oversaw a team of six staff writers and produced the column “Women At Work.” Debbie, who grew up in Singapore, graduated cum laude from Vassar College with a BA in international studies and rounds out her language skills by also speaking conversational French.
mbaMission is the leader in MBA admissions consulting with a full-time and comprehensively trained staff of consultants, all with profound communications and MBA experience. mbaMission has helped thousands of candidates fulfill their dream of attending prominent MBA programs around the world. Take your first step toward a more successful MBA application experience with a free 30-minute consultation with one of mbaMission’s senior consultants.