Client Case Study: How the GRE® General Test Can Complement an Unconventional Applicant

GRE® General Test

The decision to pursue an MBA requires serious thought. Motivations vary by person, but prospective business school students should first make sure they’ve identified gaps in their professional development, have clear career goals, and feel ready to contribute to the MBA experience.

Do you need the degree to advance in your current company or industry? Maybe you’re ready to switch careers and need business school to launch into that new direction. Or, perhaps you want to start your own business and need the hard and soft skills an MBA program will provide.

One of the most important decisions you’ll make during the MBA application process is which schools you’re going to apply to. It’s crucial that you understand your own criteria and preferences to take your business school selection past the level of rankings. Do you want to be in the city or in a rural setting? Do you like the Case Study method or experiential learning? Do you prefer a close-knit class or a large network?

Figure out which schools will be a good fit for your personal goals. Once you develop a better understanding of the programs that might interest you, you can then filter those down to the select few where you will eventually apply. This is the process followed by the international applicant featured in this case study. Watch this video for more insight on finding the right school from admissions consultant Caryn Altman.

Case Study: An International Applicant Determined to Pursue an MBA at Columbia

When this client first contacted Stacy Blackman Consulting (SBC) for guidance with his MBA application, he told us how he had struggled with the GMAT. Test-taking was not one of his strengths. After two attempts, he could not raise his score enough to be competitive with other candidates applying to his dream MBA program at Columbia Business School.

We knew from reviewing his academic transcript and professional accomplishments that he could handle the rigorous quant load of an MBA at Columbia. From that initial call, we recommended he consider the GRE® General Test. We sensed that it would complement his academic strengths and allow him to shine.

Why the GRE® General Test Became His Best Option

We believed the GRE® General Test could be a valuable differentiator for his candidacy. MBA programs began accepting this exam to attract a wider, more diverse set of applicants. As a candidate from the Middle East, we wanted to showcase two of his main strengths: his atypical background and the under-represented cultural perspective he could share with his cohort. (Learn more about taking the GRE® General Test as an international student.)

Using the GRE® General Test to Differentiate Your Candidacy

Submitting GRE® scores shifted the focus of the application to his unique interests and remarkable personal growth, and complemented the story being told in his MBA essays and the rest of his application. Because the GRE® General Test is accepted at a diverse set of graduate programs, incorporating the test into an application strategy often bolsters positioning as a non-traditional applicant. Those that submit GRE® scores may be highlighting strengths outside of the more common business skill-set. When developing a full strategy, choosing the GRE® General Test is another way to highlight your unique path.

Our client spent his childhood in a poor, rural community and was the first in his family to graduate from university. Rich family traditions colored his story. A deeply embedded work ethic, sense of focus, and commitment fueled his entire family, whether working with their hands within their community or pursuing academic goals.

While his college ranked mid-level, relative to international standings, he nonetheless excelled academically and professionally. The contrast between his educational background, created by his economic circumstance, and his family’s pride in his progress were important highlights of his story. His exceptional path to college and his progress as a student and graduate were critical aspects of his brand. That decision differentiated him from other applicants in the international business management candidate pool.

Our application game plan was effective. In the end, our client did well on the GRE® General Test and was admitted to his top-choice MBA program at Columbia Business School. 

After graduation, our client became a UK-based management consultant with a multinational firm. In his role as a consultant, he excelled in many quantitative-based tasks and was a leader among his peers. After his first year, he launched and helped lead a mentoring program for new analysts. Part of his strategy also involved coaching his recommenders to highlight and support these aspects of his story: his skills and his character.

For detailed guidance on how to develop your personal MBA brand, download our business school application branding guide, free courtesy of the GRE® General Test.

Hear more about how taking the GRE® General Test can be a smart strategic decision to display your quant skills from Stacy Blackman Consulting principal Esther Magna:

Did you know that SBC offers test prep services? We’ve recruited a team of best in class instructors who will help you recognize your individual learning style, discover holes in your foundation knowledge and set manageable yet ambitious goals. We focus on a deep understanding of the content, and later a grasp of smart test strategies. Let SBC’s long tradition of excellence support all aspects of your application process.

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