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Cultural awareness counts for MBA applicants

July 2 2015 By The MBA Exchange
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Top business schools love all things international. That’s why they feature global case studies in the MBA curriculum, promote student clubs with a regional or country-specific focus, and support alumni chapters in remote places worldwide. And the admissions committees look for some evidence of cross-cultural exposure and sensitivity when reviewing applications.

However, not every applicant has had the opportunity or financial resources to live or work in other countries. Does that mean such candidates are at a huge disadvantage? Not necessarily. We’ve found 5 ways that even the most “domestic” applicant can speak to this important aspect when seeking b-school admission:

Study abroad
If you’re a current undergraduate planning to pursue an MBA a few years after graduation, give strong consideration to spending a semester studying abroad. There are endless programs available. Suggestion: It may feel more comfortable going to a country where you speak the native language, but you’ll score more points with the adcoms by venturing beyond your comfort zone and going to a place where communication is more challenging.

Language skills
Most MBA applicants took a second language for a year or two back in high school. And most of it is forgotten by now. But taking a refresher course at a local college, online or via software (e.g., Rosetta Stone) will bring your basic skills up to date sooner than you think – allowing to post that skill on your resume as “conversant” or maybe even “fluent.”

Personal travel
Before you decide that your next vacation will be a traditional trip within your native country, consider a more exotic destination where you’ll experience a new culture. And while you’re there, be sure to interact with locals rather than just fellow tourists. Your adventures could be featured in future MBA essays that convey how approachable and “global” you are.

Interaction with international colleagues
Even if your job doesn’t allow you to work overseas, perhaps you have colleagues, customers or suppliers in other countries. Make it a point to engage with them, even if just by Skype video. Show the adcoms that you understand and can work through cultural differences.

Local ethnic options – food, music, sports, films, events, clubs
Last but not least, you can “internationalize” your MBA profile without ever leaving your hometown! Search out ethnic restaurants, performing arts, athletic events, celebrations and fairs. Describing your first-ever cricket match, Bhangra dance competition, or Bastille Day gathering conveys that you’re more worldly than you thought you were!

If you’d like to get an expert assessment of this and the other major components of your MBA candidacy, we’d love to provide you with a free evaluation. With a consulting team based in 11 countries on four continents, The MBA Exchange knows and can help you describe “cultural awareness” extremely well.