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Case Study #7: There’s No Such Thing as a “Perfect” MBA Applicant

December 1 2020 By The MBA Exchange
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This is the final post in a series of 7 case studies summarizing the challenges, experiences, and success of business school applicants who in recent years have engaged the admissions consulting services of The MBA Exchange. There’s no such thing as a “perfect” MBA candidate, but there are strategic ways to perfect your candidacy.

The featured profiles are:

#1. Low GPA

#2. Low GMAT Score, Qualitative background

#3. Undifferentiated/Technical work history

#4. No international experience

#5. Short work history

#6. Re-applicant

#7. Older applicant

These descriptions confirm that, while most applicants are not “perfect,” through well-planned strategies and diligently executed tactics, admission is achievable at schools that they believe are beyond their reach.

If your candidacy relates to any of these case studies, get in touch with us! The MBA Exchange would love to hear from you regarding your business-school aspirations and challenges.

Case Study #7: Older applicant

Applicant Profile for “Steven” (not his real name)

Applicant Profile Table for “Steven” (not his real name)
AcademicComputer science major at a top 15-ranked university in the US with co-op program. Graduated with a 3.7 overall GPA.
Professional3 years of experience in product development as a software engineer; then promoted to technical leadership role and worked in this capacity for 3 more years. Left employer to launch own software company for 2 years.
Non-work activitiesHis start-up company is involved in socially responsible ventures and community service initiatives
Post-MBA goalEntrepreneurship
Target schoolsHarvard, Stanford, MIT and Cornell

The MBA Exchange’s Solution

Steven has worked for 8 years and is already in his mid 30s, which is significantly above the median age for full-time MBA program applicants. Admissions committees may consider Steven’s candidacy more appropriate for a part-time or executive MBA program. We reviewed our extensive experience with older clients whom we helped secure admission to top MBA programs, and devised the following 3-part strategy to help Steven develop a strong rationale for a full-time MBA program, and demonstrate his ability to contribute substantially to the student community:

  • Identify and communicate in the “goals/why MBA” essay specific gaps in his skill set that necessitate a full-time MBA, despite the extent of his academic and professional experiences.
  • In essays and recommendations, describe the specific benefits of the diversity of his experiences.
  • Meet and converse with many current students and alumni to develop content to substantiate rationale for MBA and how he can add value to the student community.

Applicant’s Outcome/Results

We worked diligently with Steven to help him develop powerful essay content that communicated his ability and desire to contribute unique experiences and skills through clubs and the classroom, as a result of the length and depth of his experiences spanning software engineering, socially responsible business, and entrepreneurship. We emphasized the need for him to convey how effectively he relates to colleagues of all ages. We helped him align his strengths with the selection criteria at his targeted schools. Steven was ultimately offered admission to Stanford, MIT and Cornell.

In order to capitalize on our experience and advice as Steven did, The MBA Exchange invites prospective clients to contact us for a free, preliminary evaluation at up to a year before they apply to business school. Engaging us for a Comprehensive Consultation will allow you time and proven strategies to strengthen your candidacy and then to prepare more compelling applications that maximize your chances for admission.

Client Comments

This was my one chance to gain admission to a top b-school! I knew getting into a full-time MBA program in my mid-30s would be a challenge, so I immediately partnered with The MBA Exchange to increase my chances of admission. My consultant brilliantly coached me in how to present a convincing rationale for a full-time MBA at this point in my career, and to position my length of experiences as an asset to a school’s community. They made the extra effort to understand me as a person. From recommendations to essays to interviews, my consultant guided me every step of the way — and into my top choices.