The AIGAC Annual Conference that I attended this week explores the latest trends in the graduate application process. Whether you are considering an MBA, law or other advanced degree, considerable planning and resources are required to apply and then attend.
Relationships between career demands, school curricula, and the admissions process were discussed during the conference’s Evolving Curricula and the Admissions Process panel. Here are my five key takeaways for getting admitted into the best business schools.
- Make sure that you are defining what the best school is for you. Yes, rankings are important — MBA rankings (79%) are the most influential for external sources of information. Indeed, reputation continues to drive candidates’ initial b-school list,” according to the 2017 AIGAC Applicant Survey. Treat rankings as a part not the whole in your decision-making process. Do use third-party rankings to compare and contrast different programs, but not to decide for you.
- Be yourself. Admissions directors want to know who you are and that you will find enjoyable success at their school. Senior MBA admissions counselor Harold Simansky adds, “Real people are looking at your application and thinking, ‘Is this a person who will enrich our academic community?’ Show the Admissions Committees (AdComs) that you are that person, even before they see your application.”
This means attending events, participating in Webinars, talking to current students, and making a real connection to the Admissions staff. Being recognized and remembered for your good human qualities provide a tremendous leg up when your application is finally opened for its initial review.
- Tell all the parts of your story. Business schools strategically focus each question or prompt on their applications to learn about all aspects of the applicant – and hopefully, to eliminate overlap between sections.
The MBA applications process is typically comprised of the following:
- work experience
- personal background
- candidate interview
Test scores, undergraduate GPA and work experience are the three sides of the power triangle. AdComs seek strength in at least two of your three sides. If the third side is out of the 80% distribution range, gaining admission will be very challenging.
For example, GMAT scores in the 80% distribution range can move applicants through stage one of the admissions process. If your undergraduate GPA is not within the range for the program you are applying to, put your GPA into a positive context. Explain the difficulty of your undergraduate major, personal issues that occurred during your undergraduate study, or highlight exceptional grades in essential classes.
Many MBA students average five years of work experience. Demonstrate leadership, progression and results from your work experiences and weave them together.
- Be Goldilocks on video essay submissions. Find the right balance between scripted and spontaneous, familiar and unfamiliar. Video is a superb medium for communicating the personal characteristics – wit, charisma, humor, originality – that distinguish one qualified candidate from the next.
Mr. Simansky recommends that your video essay sheds new light on something that hasn’t appeared elsewhere in your application or, alternatively, highlights your most important attributes in a new and interesting way. “Don’t rehash information that admissions officers already know about you.” he said. “Complement the written portion of your application by focusing on aspects of your candidacy that the admissions officer might have missed otherwise.”
- Start early! The entire process of applying to business school is long and arduous. Plan on taking the GMAT in June, and spend the summer and fall crafting your applications, obtaining letters of recommendations, and preparing for interviews.
Shorter essays are harder essays. Take the time to make sure that you are telling your unique story in a precise and relevant manner.
If you plan on working with an MBA consultant, consider signing up in early summer to give yourself a solid 3-4 months to work on your applications.
Though Stratus Admissions Counseling has been providing admissions consulting services since 2006 and helped thousands of students gain admissions to top schools, the annual AIGAC conference consistently offers fresh insight and new twists on graduate admissions.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]