A good MBA profile will look different from person to person. However, certain traits and qualities must be evidenced in your MBA application. You need to have a story in your essay writing – for which you need to have specific achievements, failures, leadership, and volunteering experiences that differentiates you from other candidates.
A business school will look at your complete MBA profile when considering you for admission, which consists of your life history up until this point. That can sound a little daunting – to perfectly capture who you are and what you want into one application.
Luckily for you, this article will cover how to improve your MBA profile. This article will cover what business schools want in a candidate and steps you can take to improve your MBA profile.
What Do Business Schools Want In A Candidate?
1. Strong academics.
A high GPA and a top-class undergraduate degree are the most significant aspects of your application, as well as an impressive performance on your GMAT. Take every opportunity available to do well on the GMAT because a high score can help make up for a more unsatisfactory academic performance elsewhere.
Also, be sure to mention your non-academic achievements because these can help the admissions committee decide if you are a good fit.
2. Work experience.
You don’t need to have a top-level position for your experience to matter. Business schools do, however, want to see evidence of high-quality work that you've carried out over the last few years.
Even though some postgraduate business programs accept those with little work experience, most programs will expect you to have three to five years’ worth of experience in a professional setting.
3. Your long-term professional prospects.
Elaborate on your goals and targets. Set realistic targets and goals to help differentiate you from others who may have similar, more general aspirations like becoming the CEO of a company.
4. Soft as well as hard skills.
The demands of business school have gone beyond just the technical. Schools want to see impressive soft skills like leadership.
Leadership is so highly valued because a great leader possesses several soft skills like communication, interpersonal skills, and critical thinking. Good leadership skills show that you are a well-rounded individual that can lead a business if ever put in that situation.
5. Honesty and motivation.
Demonstrating in your essays how you have overcome adversity in your life can show resilience and an ability to learn from mistakes. Instead of just talking about your strengths, mention the roadblocks you have encountered and how you overcame them. This should go a long way in demonstrating your perseverance in the face of hard times.
There are three application rounds (for most business schools), and applicants are encouraged to apply in Round 1. Round 1 deadlines are generally in September, Round 2 deadlines in December/January, and Round 3 deadlines in March.
The application process typically starts 8-9 months before the application deadlines. However, It's suggested to start preparing one year before the deadlines of the application round in which you want to apply.
Steps to Improve your Application
1. Know your career goals.
When considering which business school you want to apply to, you should have a clear idea of your end goals. You have to assess your career goals and determine if going to business school will help you achieve those goals.
If you are unsure what those goals are, some common questions to ask are:
- What did I like and dislike about my current and past jobs?
- What jobs do I find attractive?
- What skills do I excel at?
2. Identify business schools best suited for your career goals.
Once you have identified and narrowed down your career goals, it's time to determine which business schools will help you get there.
According to employment statistics, students entered the following industries after graduation:
- Consulting 37%
- Finance 15%
- Technology 13%
Harvard Business School (HBS)
- Financial Services 32%
- Consulting 26%
- General Management 14%
- Consulting 31.2%
- Private Equity 14.4%
- Investment Banking 10.1%
- Consulting 39.7%
- Finance 16.7%
- Project Management 16.7%
- Consulting 37.4%
- Financial Services 32%
- Marketing 11.1%
- Finance 32%
- Marketing 24%
- General Management 23%
- Consulting 45.3%
- Finance 30.6%
- Marketing 10.9%
- Consulting 46%
- Finance 24%
- Marketing 12%
From this data, we can draw a few conclusions about which schools align best with your career goals:
- When it comes to consulting Dartmouth Tuck, NYU Stern, Columbia, MIT Sloan, Wharton, and Kellogg are good choices.
- For a career in finance or financial services Stanford, HBS, and Columbia are top choices.
- If you are looking to get into marketing, Dartmouth Tuck, NYU Stern, and Columbia are great options.
- Looking for a career in project management? MIT Sloan is a great option.
- If general management is more your area of interest, consider Stanford.
The culture of each school:
HBS is known for its history; being the oldest university in the country comes with a certain level of prestige. Typically seen as an elitist school that only the most privileged get to attend, it has been trying to change that image by accepting unconventional yet capable candidates. There is a greater diversity of backgrounds in the student body than there used to be.
Stanford emphasizes chasing one's dreams. Students attending the school are more interested in creating change than just landing a typical 9-5 job.
They also enjoy a more relaxed culture than a school like HBS, with many social events and gatherings where students interact and bond. Stanford has a graduating class of about 400 students each year, which is smaller than most other top business schools, giving students the advantage of forming closer relationships with their peers.
Whereas HBS has a more traditional culture, Wharton alumni report a more relaxed atmosphere in which the students are open to collaboration and teamwork. With a large class size of 800 individuals, it can leave some students feeling a little lost in the crowd.
To create a sense of community, Wharton uses a cohort system for the first year where groups of 70 students stay together for core classes, helping them form tighter bonds with their peers.
NYU Stern has a vibrant and diverse campus, thanks to its location in the heart of New York City. There is a collaborative culture that stems from the passion of the students and faculty. Many of the graduates have gone on to work on Wall Street, given its proximity and influence.
Because of MIT’s origins in engineering, MIT Sloan gets many applicants from the STEM fields. With smaller class sizes of about 400, students get to know each other more than a school like HBS.
MIT Sloan is notably one of the few top business schools that allows its undergraduates to take classes alongside MBA students. While graduate students may not look too favorably on this fact, it does add an interesting mix to the class experience.
Columbia has had a reputation for being a cut-throat and competitive school. They have made efforts recently, however, to change that reputation by trying to foster a more friendly and collaborative environment.
There is now a greater diversity in the student population that has opened the doors to new perspectives and inclusivity. ‘CBS matters’ is a group formed to allow students to get to know each other by giving presentations on what they value and why.
The culture here is casual and light-hearted, with many events, clubs, and activities on offer. Some may find this a bit overwhelming, while others will enjoy and thrive in the sheer number of opportunities.
Student-led clubs are vital to the community and learning experience. Kellogg operates with the belief that extracurricular activities are an integral part of higher education as they help build the skills necessary to succeed in the workplace.
A stark contrast to the more urban campuses like NYU, Dartmouth Tuck is located in the more isolated town of Hanover, New Hampshire. The isolation from city distractions can be seen as a plus for those wanting to focus on studying. With a class size of just under 300 students, the school has a very tight-knit community.
Dartmouth Tuck has taken initiatives to diversify its population. There is a high percentage of international students and those from under-represented groups. The school also has a decent number of female students.
3. Talk to alumni or current students of your target business schools.
Using networking tools like LinkedIn, you can find the current and graduated students of each school. Make a list of relevant and intelligent questions to ask them. When someone responds, ask them about their experiences, their MBA profile before, and the application time.
Ask them if there are any tips they can give you regarding that specific business school's admission process. This exercise can give you an accurate, and sometimes harsh, look at yourself and where you stand right now. It will highlight your weak areas and give you tips on how to strengthen them. Do this step in advance, not when deadlines are right around the corner.
4. Based on your research, pinpoint aspects you can improve in your profile.
A few things would be unchangeable at this point, like your undergraduate GPA or your work experience until the present. However, you can actively improve several skills like leadership, communication, and critical thinking.
5. Learn a few skills to fill in those gaps.
When it comes to areas or skills that you may want to improve on, leadership is an excellent soft skill to have because a good leader possesses many desirable traits. A good leader has excellent interpersonal skills and is an effective communicator, creative thinker, and problem solver.
For this reason, leadership is highly valued and sought after by every top business school in the country. If you want to improve your MBA profile and optimize your admission chances, leadership would be an essential quality you may want to improve.
Some believe that leadership is an innate quality, but this is inaccurate. The skills that make a good leader can be learned and developed with practice and patience.
One way to improve your leadership skills is to take the initiative at work; so, take on more responsibility and do more than just what you are assigned to do. It can be easy to settle into a routine and stay in your comfort zone. After all, the comfort zone provides us with that sense of security that we crave.
However, to be a good leader, you will need to frequently step out of your comfort zone because that is where the learning occurs. You will make mistakes. You may fail. But in the end, you will grow and gain new skills. A good leader is acknowledged by their peers because they have demonstrated that they are willing to take on the responsibility.
Communication skills are essential to outstanding leadership. There is a common misconception that leaders just shout orders at their team and are expected to be obeyed no matter what. Shouting orders at others is not what makes a great leader. Listening to your team is critical to the success of a project.
Feedback is necessary to move forward by finding out what the team did or did not like about a project and making the required adjustments. A great communicator can also get their ideas across clearly so that everyone is on the same page. Asking questions is a big part of effective communication. If something is unclear, address it.
If someone asks you a question, don’t forget to observe their body language to get the most precise idea of what they mean. How they ask something may be indicative of things that can be improved.
For example, if someone asks a question but does so in a timid fashion, it could mean that they are not comfortable asking the question. You may respond by reassuring them that every problem has value.
A great leader must also be a critical thinker. Learning or improving critical thinking skills will help to enhance your MBA profile. To be a great critical thinker, you must always be asking questions - not always of other people but yourself as well. Ask yourself if a particular method is the best approach.
Try and find multiple solutions to the same problem. Are some ways more effective than others? What are the pros and cons of each approach? By asking yourself these questions, you train yourself to look at things from multiple perspectives. Critical thinking will make you a better decision-maker and help you to foresee potential problem
1. What other online tools can be used to earn a certification?
2. How can I best prepare for the GMAT?
Create a personalized study plan. Doing so can save you time and help you score higher. You can find Personalized Study Planner Tools online.
3. What is the typical MBA applicant?
MBA applicants are working professionals with at least two years of work experience because most business schools require that. A typical MBA class's average work experience is 4-5 years.
4. In which round should I apply?
Applying in Round 1 is a good idea if you have a high GMAT score, have engaged your recommenders, and are confident that you will be able to create a solid application before the deadline.
Round 2 is most suitable for students who don't have compelling applications until the round 1 deadline.
Round 3 is the most competitive one. Business schools only have a few seats left and will only offer you one if your application is extraordinary. As a result, it is recommended to avoid applying in round 3. At this point, the schools are looking to admit a particular group of people.
For example, women in technology. This is because they have an idea of what the class will look like and are looking for groups of people that are underrepresented.
5. How early should I start preparing?
It is suggested that you start one year from the deadline because it is a long process that involves multiple steps: taking the GMAT, a language test (for non-native English speakers), researching and school visits, choosing your recommenders, and writing your essays.
Consider the fact that you may have to take the GMAT twice to get a better score. Starting a year early gives you ample time to go through all these steps without feeling rushed.
6. How do I know which school is right for me?
There is no easy answer as the choice is yours. Start by reading and getting to know about the culture of the schools in which you are interested. Ask yourself questions like: Do I want to live in or close to the city? Do I want a large class with lots of networking opportunities, or do I want a smaller class where there is more of a community feel?
Do I want to take part in a lot of extracurricular activities or would I rather just focus on my studies? Do I want a more formal and competitive environment, or do I prefer a more casual and collaborative experience? The answers to these questions can help you determine which school would best fit you.
Your goal should be to make your profile as interesting as possible. While what is interesting may vary from person to person, the admissions committee wants to see who you are, what you want to be, and how their business school will help you achieve your goals. It's safe to say that these pieces of information will be interesting to them.
Knowing how to improve your MBA profile starts with knowing who you are and what you want. Once you have that pinned down, you can begin researching schools that will be the best fit. Once you have narrowed down the schools, talk to the alumni and students of those schools to get a realistic view of where you stand and what areas of your application may need improvement.
Following the advice in this article will help you better prepare and stand out among the other applicants. Take on challenging projects at work, build your leadership skills, and volunteer. All these factors, together, will improve your MBA profile and your chances of impressing the admissions committee.