Business school applicants are more diverse today than ever before. Throughout the last decade, business schools have worked hard to increase the range of industries represented in their classes. Last year, I worked with consultants, finance professionals, and engineers, but I also worked with applicants from nonprofits, sales teams, and conglomerated family businesses, as well as medical professionals and real estate lawyers. One of the benefits of business school is taking part in the robust conversations in classrooms and clubs that can include perspectives from different industries, cultures, geographies, and functions—and admissions teams work hard to build a class with these different perspectives. So, even if you don’t work in a quantitative-based field, an MBA can still be right for you; it might just be more important for you to build your quantitative profile to demonstrate that you can handle the quantitative rigor of the program.
Whether you are a nontraditional applicant with limited exposure to quantitative-focused analysis work or someone who did not perform well or even take those quant-based courses (math, accounting, economics, statistics) as an undergrad (maybe you tested out with AP classes), there are still many things you can do to put yourself on a measurable level with other applicants.
Here are five actions that you can take now to boost your quantitative profile:
1. Perform well on the GMAT/GRE/Executive Assessment (EA).
Start by identifying the right test to showcase your abilities. All MBA programs now accept both the GMAT and the GRE—and most part-time and executive programs as well as a couple of full-time programs (e.g., Columbia and NYU) accept the EA. Admissions teams recommend that you take a diagnostic test of each to see which suits your testing style and allows you to showcase your quantitative skills.
You can demonstrate your quantitative aptitude by performing well on the Quantitative section of the test. By looking at the ranges of scores for schools of interest, you can gauge an “okay” score to be within their range and a “good” score to be above their range. A solid math (Quant) score on your standardized exam will show that you are prepared for and will likely succeed in business school. Do not neglect the Verbal section, though. You want to come across as a well-rounded candidate and finish with a strong score overall.
Also, if you are not finding success with one test, you can always switch. If you find yourself in this situation, try taking a diagnostic of another test to see if it is a better fit for you.
2. Take in-person or online classes.
A number of courses are designed to help teach the math fundamentals that you will need in business school. This is a nice way for those who do not think of themselves as “test takers” to showcase their quantitative skills.
The easiest option is MBA Math, a self-paced course of 15 to 30 hours that is scored pass/fail and is geared to teach you the math fundamentals that you will need in business school. Classes such as Berkeley Extension’s “Math for Management” and UCLA Extension’s “Mathematical Solutions for Businesses” also can help you build a strong fundamental business math skillset. They are a bit more intensive and give you a letter grade at the end of a course. If you took no math courses during your undergraduate years, taking a graded class would show that you can excel in the class versus just pass. If you have more time, you could also consider HBS Online, which is the most intensive at 10 to 17 weeks with about 8 to 15 hours per week. Finally, you could enroll in a local college and take classes in subject areas such as finance, accounting, statistics, and economics.
This past year, I worked with an applicant who took no college-level math courses, finished with a 3.0 GPA, and had a below-average GRE score. She took UCLA Extension’s course because we thought it was important for her to have a letter grade to show. Ultimately, she was accepted to two top ten programs with scholarships and to a top 15 program with a significant scholarship.
3. Take on analytical assignments at work.
Showcasing what you do quantitatively at work is another way to highlight your quant abilities. Sign up for stretch assignments that will allow you to develop your quantitative abilities and skills. Perhaps you can find opportunities to incorporate more analytics into your current tasks or identify coworkers who can mentor you in this area, even if they are not your direct manager. Consider utilizing or bringing on projects that require additional analysis visualization software such as R, Tableau, Excel (ideally utilizing macros), or SPSS to show that you know how to manipulate and work with data. Once you’ve done this, remember to highlight this analytical acumen on your resume, and ensure one of your recommenders is aware of your quantitative work.
4. Seek out analytical roles in your extracurricular/volunteer activities.
Look for ways to develop your skill set through extracurricular activities. Perhaps you have been a member of a local social club for some time. If so, now is a good time to join the fundraising committee, become the treasurer, or get involved in digital advertising for the organization and learn Google Analytics. In such roles, you can flex your quantitative muscles and demonstrate that you are growing in your leadership ability and responsibilities. Looking for ideas? Just as people traditionally joined Toastmasters to increase their comfort level with public speaking, you can increase your quantitative skills by seeking finance-related roles at your wine-tasting, golf, cooking, or school alumni club, for example.
5. Choose your (quantitative) recommenders wisely.
As you think about whom to ask for a recommendation, make sure that one of your recommenders has seen your quantitative work. Your recommender should cite specific examples of how you have demonstrated strong quantitative skills through various projects and assignments. The theory here is that while you might not have a high standardized test score or great grades from five years ago, you are still capable of being a functional leader who is not afraid of backing their decisions with tangible analysis.
Business schools want to make sure that you have the fundamental quantitative skills necessary to succeed in their programs. Think about how to best showcase your skills and add some data points to your application. If you would like our expert opinion on your candidacy, sign up for a free consultation!