Tuesday Tips – Ten Questions, Part 2

Last week we considered the first five questions out of ten questions to help you begin your MBA application process. Introspection is a key aspect of the MBA application process, and it will be important to demonstrate that you know yourself and your need for an MBA well.

Now that you have contemplated:

1. Your career goals
2. Personal goals
3. Why you want an MBA
4. The MBA degree as compared to other degrees
5. Your competitive position

It’s time to delve deeper into your application strategy and consider the next five questions to set up your essays and other written materials.

6. What matters most to you?

One of the most infamous questions any MBA applicant faces is the first Stanford essay, which simply asks what matters most to you and why. While Stanford is direct about their interest in your values and ideals, you need to understand what deeply motivates you as the basis for your entire application strategy to any MBA program. There are numerous MBA candidates with strong grades, great GMAT scores and stellar work experience. You need to understand what is truly unique about you beyond what is obvious on a resume or application form.

Your essays are your opportunity to market yourself to the MBA program you want to attend, and asking yourself what is truly most important is a good place to start. If you don’t know what matters most, here are a few thought starters: When you wake up in the middle of the night, what is your first thought? What did you dream about as a kid? What would you do if you had unlimited money and resources? Who are the most important people in your life?

7. What MBA programs really fit you?

Once you know your career goals, why you want an MBA, and what matters most, you have a great basis to select your target schools.

Rankings and profiles are a great place to start, and both BusinessWeek and Financial Times provide well-regarded rankings. Once you have considered the numbers, it’s a good idea to delve into personal factors like location, program offerings, and especially the people.

You may make some gut decisions about the schools that feel right to you, and as you create that list take the time to ask yourself why these schools are a good fit. What about you makes you interested in each school? Why do you feel comfortable with the people and interested in the classes? It will be important to communicate clearly to each school both why you want to attend and why you will be a great MBA student there ”“ which are the key elements to fit.

Both essays and recommendations are a great way to demonstrate your fit to the admissions committee. Make sure you are providing detail and evidence in your essays to show your thought process when you choose the school. When your recommenders talk about your qualifications they should also talk about how well you will fit in with your students and the community.

8. What is the admissions committee looking for?

Almost any admissions director you ask will tell you that the MBA admissions process is holistic. Factors like GMAT and GPA will be considered to see how well you have performed in an academic setting, and work experience will be evaluated for your progress and development.

Along with this “hard” data about you, the MBA admissions process presents an amazing opportunity for you to tell the admissions committee about yourself. It’s important that you communicate clearly why you should be chosen for admission in this highly competitive process.

As you are getting started basic MBA information like that provided on our blog is a great place to gain information about what MBA programs are generally interested in. MBA programs provide a great deal of information about what the adcomm is looking for ”“ in tools like blogs and chats with students you can find significant information. The personal touch is also important. Make sure you visit your schools and talk to MBA students and alumni to get a strong feel for the qualities that make a candidate successful.

9. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

A candid evaluation of yourself will help you communicate effectively with the MBA admissions team and provide the right holistic presentation. Everyone has made mistakes or has regrets, and preferably these experiences have led to development and growth. Communicating self-awareness about your own strengths and weaknesses is a huge asset to your application.

Since it is rare for any candidate to be perfect, consider where you have disappointed yourself or others, and what you learned from the experience. A key inflection point in your life that has led to subsequent success can be a compelling story for any MBA application and adds interest to your overall profile.

10. How will you contribute to your MBA program?

Most candidates approach the MBA application process with their own needs at the forefront. Perhaps you have decided to pursue an MBA because you want to achieve something new, you want to change careers or you want to advance further than you would otherwise. What can set you apart from many candidates is thinking about what you can add to the MBA programs you are targeting.

Here are a few ideas to get you started: Can you add knowledge to a classroom? Do you have contacts in your industry to help other students obtain jobs? Can you provide connections to interesting speakers? Will you bring special skills to a club or classroom?

As you consider all ten questions you will be setting yourself up for a successful MBA application process. Don’t forget to watch Stacy’s essay tips tomorrow online at the AIGAC Graduate Admissions Virtual Summit!

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SBC_Harvard_Essay_Guide-150x150If you are feeling stumped by your application essays and need some additional guidance, check out our NEW series of essay guides for MBA applications. Columbia, Harvard, Kellogg, Stanford and Wharton available now. They are seriously terrific and we are proud to say that almost every person who has ordered one has come back for more!

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