Some applicants believe it’s your academic record. Business schools certainly expect their students to perform well in the MBA classroom. That’s why they proudly publish average GPAs and test scores for applicants to consider. So, it can sometimes feel like the admissions committee is sending a loud and clear message that only those with academic strength should apply.
Other MBA applicants believe your professional profile is most important. Beyond academics, it’s logical that a business school would want to see a candidate’s business experience and business achievements, right? After all, recommendations and essays focus heavily on the professional aspect of a candidacy, probing for tangible impact and excellence.
Finally, some MBA applicants believe it’s your personal “story” that can make or break an application. As most candidates have a solid resume and respectable college transcript, many feel that it’s an individual’s personal background and goals that are the most important element of an application. In addition to descriptions about family influences, travel experiences, community involvement, and long-term objectives, business schools seem eager to understand an applicant’s values and self-awareness.
So, what is truly “most important”?
With all respect, this is the wrong question for a serious MBA applicant to ask. Based on our experience with nearly 5,000 candidates targeting top business schools, The MBA Exchange knows that it takes a combination of strengths for a serious applicant to earn admission. No one can be a superstar in all three aspects – academic, professional and personal. So, to address what is “most important” to your candidacy, we advocate the following approach:
With clarity and humility, successful MBA applicants present their biggest achievements to adcoms as a “value proposition.” Such strengths can and should span the academic, professional and personal aspects of your life. The subtle message here is that, if admitted, you’ll add distinctive value as a student and as a future alum.
2. Capitalize on areas for improvement.
For those elements of the candidacy that are “good but not great,” the application should focus on potential. Conveying to the adcom that you’re determined to learn and grow in order to improve and make yourself, your organization and your community successful will score big points.
3. Understand, explain and mitigate your vulnerabilities.
Every MBA applicant is mortal. Mortals make mistakes, miss opportunities, and, yes, sometimes fail. Rather than ignore this reality (and hope the adcom will do the same) you must confront it head on. No one knows your shortcomings better than you. Showing the courage to identify and address the gaps, holes and valleys can endear an applicant to admissions officers who value candor, character and determination.
So, what’s the next step towards MBA admissions success? Determine which aspects of your candidacy fall into each of these three categories. If the mere thought of doing such thorough analysis makes your head spin, then a free and easy way to begin is by requesting a professional evaluation of your candidacy by an admissions expert. That way, you’ll gain an immediate sense of how to organize and prioritize your efforts to optimize your MBA candidacy and maximize your chances for admission. That’s what is truly most important.