Congratulations! Your MBA application has been viewed positively by the admissions committee. So, now they want to see you in action via a real-time, group exercise with other applicants. This element of the admissions process is very different from a 1-on-1 interview, so planning, preparation and practice also need to be different.
Based on years of experience successfully guiding MBA applicants, here are 5 timely tips from the admissions experts at The MBA Exchange:
Unlike your essays, this is not a platform for impressing the adcom with your achievements, accomplishments and credentials. They already know about that from your recommendations and application. Rather, this session is to show the school how well you operate in a group setting. The observers are trying to get a sense of how positively and productively you work with others. Period.
2. Content is important, but communication is even more important.
Wharton provides you with a “prompt” and Ross gives you a “set of randomly distributed words” as the focal point of the team discussion. What you have to say about this information is meaningful, of course. However, the schools are not necessarily looking for brilliant insights or subject-matter expertise. Rather, they want evidence of your communication skills in listening, synthesizing, collaborating, summarizing, framing, etc.
3. Win by helping others win.
Before you congratulate yourself for making some breakthrough comment or brilliant observation, look around the table and ask yourself a few questions: Did I engage with everyone in the room? Did I encourage the least vocal participant to contribute? Did I help the group overcome dominance by the most vocal participant? How did I make the group more productive and help everyone be heard?
4. Leave a lasting, positive impression.
It’s great to share your knowledge and viewpoint with your fellow participants in a spirited, flowing dialogue. However, this discussion is not infinite. The adcom is expecting the group to reach some meaningful conclusions, even if they are not unanimous. So, if you earn the respect of the others during the conversation, then they should not be resistant if you step up during the last few minutes and offer to facilitate the presentation portion of the exercise. Ideally, your fellow participants will ask you to represent the team, thus ensuring that the adcoms see your teamwork and leadership abilities in action.
5. Practice makes perfect.
Unless you have 3-5 trusted friends who have been invited to the same group discussion, it’s going to very difficult for you to simulate this session in advance. So, consider participating in a simulated, video discussion provided by a professional admissions consulting firm and facilitated by a knowledgeable consultant who provides you with individual feedback on your performance and a video recording of your group so you can continue to refine your approach.
By following these tips, being your authentic self, and giving it your all, you will leave your team discussion feeling proud and confident. And the adcom observers will realize that you have the right stuff to succeed in and add value to their MBA program.