by Caryn Levine, Senior Consultant, The MBA Exchange
It’s no secret that the MBA admissions process is fraught with time-consuming steps such as studying for the GMAT or GRE, crafting a resume and essays, organizing recommendations, and honing interview skills.
Amidst all these tasks, it’s easy to overlook one of the most important aspects of the campaign – getting to know the schools to which you are applying. Relying solely on published rankings and school websites is a logical starting point, but that alone won’t be enough to differentiate your candidacy and convince an admissions committee you’re an excellent fit for their program.
After all, you wouldn’t accept a new job without visiting the company, getting to know co-workers, understanding the duties, and weighing how the career move can set you up for future success. The same holds true for applying to MBA programs. So, it’s essential that you invest the time and energy to fully understand each school you’re pursuing.
Based on our experience advising thousands of applicants, here are four suggestions from The MBA Exchange to help give your candidacy a true, competitive edge:
Unless you establish which aspects of the b-school experience are most important to you, it will be difficult to choose which programs are best for your needs and are the best fit for you. Think about program characteristics such as class size, campus location, academic focus and strengths, curriculum flexibility, teaching methodology, impact and reach of alumni network in markets you may wish to live post b-school, brand prestige, etc., in order to narrow down the list of programs that merit your consideration.
2. Research academic offerings, extra-curricular activities and school cultures
Spend time researching courses, clubs, conferences, campus culture, and travel opportunities. Taking this step will ensure that your essays and interviews distinguish your candidacy and make a compelling case for your fit with the specific program. For example, analyzing course descriptions will help you explain how the school’s academic offerings can help you achieve your unique career goals. Furthermore, learning about student-led organizations, initiatives and events will help you express your potential to contribute.
3. Engage directly with members of the MBA community
If you haven’t made the effort to attend a school’s info sessions, visit the campus, speak to students, professors and alumni, then you’re going to have a hard time convincing the adcom their school is your top choice. For example, sitting in on a class will enable you to convey your first-hand experience with classroom dynamics. Similarly, speaking with leadership of clubs you are interested in joining will aid you in making the case for what your extracurricular involvement may be on campus. MBA applicants who go the extra mile inherently have a “leg up” throughout the application process because adcoms are increasingly focused on wanting to admit only those individuals who they believe are most likely to actually enroll if admitted.
4. Evaluate the facts regarding post-MBA careers
Every top-tier business school claims that its students are pursued by leading companies across a wide range of industries and geographies. However, the reality is that the percentage of grads who follow a particular career path varies significantly among schools. Only by studying published stats and speaking directly (and anonymously) with career services staff can you identify the recruiting opportunities at a given school and determine if they align with your goals.
Now that you see the importance of getting to know your target schools before you apply, it’s time to take the next step. Here at The MBA Exchange, our comprehensive admissions consultation can help ensure that your research and outreach will be reflected and leveraged in your applications and interviews to distinguish your candidacy.
Business schools do their best to get to know applicants before making their decisions. So, to maximize your chances for admission, be sure you get to know the schools first!