Applicants with unconventional or less traditional work/academic experience prior to business school often worry about how admissions committees will assess their record. First off, applicants should know it’s ok to be different, because no MBA program wants to fill an entire class solely with folks coming from investment banking or consulting.
With that in mind, Meghan Keedy, Associate Director of Admissions at Chicago Booth School of Business, attempts to clarify matters in the latest post to the Booth Insider blog.
Early career candidates—those with three or fewer years of full-time, post-undergraduate work experience, including college seniors—are encouraged to apply, but should be prepared to clearly answer the question: Why an MBA, and why now? Chicago Booth highly values work experience and evidence of leadership potential, and will look for evidence of readiness and ability to contribute to an engaged community, both inside and outside the classroom, throughout the application.
Military applicants, meanwhile, should focus on illustrating the qualities Chicago Booth is looking for, which would include leadership, a strong work ethic, the ability to work with diverse groups of people, and confidence under pressure, Keedy writes. The school understands that veterans often don’t follow a typical career trajectory, but many of the qualities developed during military service are just those that make up a great business leader.
For entrepreneurs who may not have any traditional work experience, Keedy advises these applicants to connect the dots on how and why you put your ventures together and what you learned from it. Convey to admissions how a business education will help develop your entrepreneurial vision, and Keedy suggests discussing how you could improve in the delivery of future businesses.
To individuals coming from professions where an MBA is not typically a requirement, Keedy notes that the key attributes Chicago Booth is looking for remain the same: show a record of growth in your role, and that you’re a self-starter who has actively sought out leadership opportunities. Explain why an MBA makes sense in your career progression, and make sure to demonstrate that you will be able to handle the quantitative components of the curriculum through undergraduate coursework, GMAT score, or other supplemental, college-level classes.
Also, MBAs in non-profit, government, media and entertainment or education industries are becoming more and more common, and Keedy advises applicants to probe their own networks for other non-typical business school graduates to find out how they framed their transition into something different.
In the end, it comes down to a clear, honest reasoning of why an MBA is the next logical step in your career journey, and why your unique insights and experiences will enrich the learning environment of those around you.