Photo: Jeremy Shinewald
When applying to business school, you’ve got to stand out in any way you can.One of the biggest mistakes candidates make is that “they act on what they perceive the committees want rather than reveal what’s interesting within themselves,” says Jeremy Shinewald, author of “The Complete Start-to-Finish MBA Admissions Guide” and founder of mbaMission, a consulting firm for business school candidates. “They try to become something that they’re not to impress the committee.”
For example, Shinewald says that if a school is well-known for a certain kind of program, candidates will try to apply to go into that sector even if they don’t have any experience or interest in it. That will only land you a place in the rejection pile.
We recently caught up with Shinewald, who shared with us a few tips on how to stand out when applying to business school:
1. Prove that you can handle quantitative work
When business schools consider your scores, they’re trying to figure out if you can handle the “rigorously analytical and highly quantitative” workload, and your school grades and GMAT scores are an indicator of this ability, Shinewald wrote in his book.
You should research the median statistics of the targeted schools you’re applying to, and aim for that score or higher. However, you should also keep in mind that you still have a chance of getting in even if you score below this number since the average means that plenty of candidates got accepted with a lower score.
Furthermore, you should aim to score in the 80th percentile on both sections of the GMAT (verbal and quantitative). This score is more important if you graduated from college more than five years ago or if your GPA is lower than the average for the schools you’re trying to get into.
If your academic records don’t prove that you have the ability to manage quantitative work, Shinewald said you can also turn in an “alternate transcript,” which is when you take two courses at a local college in areas of accounting, finance, economics, statistics and calculus. Take these classes first, then turn in the “alternate transcript” with your application.
2. Explain how the school’s specific program will benefit you
An admissions committee will “look at your goals and aspirations to understand whether an MBA from their program will indeed further your goals and be of value to you,” Shinewald says. “Your ultimate success will reflect well on the school.”
There are no right or wrong goals for a business school candidate, but there are only more or less thought-out ones, he explains.
Understand the program deeply beyond the rankings and popular classes and discuss how the school’s individual culture will help you improve in the long run. You can explain this better if you visit the school and sit in on one of the classes.
3. Show that you’re a top performer in your profession
It doesn’t matter what industry you’ve been working in — the school wants to know that you will contribute meaningfully to the class and business school community. “The leading business school programs want a diversify of experience in their classrooms, and they want candidates who exhibit the promise of achievement — not just a job title — going forward,” Shinewald says.
Furthermore, committees want to know if you’ll make an impact on other people, so you should also let them know of any mentorship or training programs you’re involved in. “From an admissions perspective, contributing to others in this way shows initiative and motivation on your part and can differentiate you from otherwise similar candidates who do not go the extra mile.”
Recommendation letters are a key part of this.
4. Prove that you can work in diverse environments
“The ability to deal with diversity is a key challenge for business leaders and MBA students alike, so the admissions committees want to know that you have grappled with some of the issues that diverse environments pose,” Shinewald says.
The future of business involves working across different cultures and platforms. Proving that you are part of this next generation of dynamic leaders will set you apart from the rest.
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