What Really Happens During an MBA Admissions Committee File Review-Part 2

setting MBA goalsWe’re back with our second in a series of five blog posts to help answer frequently asked questions about what really happens during an MBA admissions committee file review, and today we’ll tackle applicants’ Career Path, Resume and Career Goals.

Returning to our fictional applicants Jackie and Bill, here are their backgrounds and plans:


Career path: two years total

Two years of full-time work experience as an Investment Banking Analyst for top NYC bank

Career plans:

Short term – Continue in finance in Investment Banking role post-MBA

Long term – Launch her own private equity firm


Career path: five years total

1 year at Oracle

2 years as Investment Banking Analyst for top NYC bank

2 years Private Equity Associate in San Francisco

Career plans:

Short term/Long term – Launch a game-changing educational software company

Breaking it Down: Career Path and Career Goals

While it may seem like the number of years of experience is important, a better measure is what you have done with your time. Quality of work experience is much more important than quantity.

Jackie has good experience, however with only two years, she will have difficulty differentiating her very common IB background from the thousands of other applicants out there.

Bill’s a bit longer on experience, and he seems to have moved around a lot. Why? The adcomm will want to understand the reasoning for his career transitions. The white space between each role is as important as explaining the role itself.

Additionally, as MBA programs continue to decrease the amount of essays required, the MBA resume has become an even more important evaluation tool. In general, the adcomm understands your day-to-day responsibilities (if you have had a traditional role). Use your resume to highlight your accomplishments so that you stand out.

Jackie’s resume was a standard investment banking resume, just listing her job duties and selected transactions that she worked on. A better way would be to explain what she achieved on several transactions. Did she play the role of an Associate? Did she present to C-level executives? Did she devise a new financial modeling method that contributed to the success of a deal?

Bill’s resume explained more about his specific achievements within the investment banking position as well as his move to a coveted private equity post. However, he’ll still need to explain why he left Oracle after just one year.

Career goals are also an important part of the equation, as the majority of top programs want to make sure you have a clear reason for attending business school and have a plan afterward.

Jackie’s goals are somewhat vague, and it seems like she wants to return to banking. She would benefit from having a more specific short-term goal focused in a particular industry.  For example, she has a double major in economics and environmental studies.

Even if she wants to continue in banking, she would be better served by mentioning she wants to focus on companies in the environmental space and in the long term launch a PE firm that concentrates on this space as well. By increasing the level of specificity in her goals, she gives the adcomm more confidence about her success post-graduation.

Bill’s goals are also vague, but he came prepared in his essays and interviews with a sketched-out business plan of how he will launch his own company post-MBA. He has a plan for specific classes he’ll take, found a professor at his program who could help him through independent study, and identified a start-up club on campus where he will further craft his business plan and be connected with investors.

All of this detail will ensure he is ready to start his launch work soon after graduation. While Bill has chosen a riskier path, he has a clear, demonstrated plan to achieve his goals, which helps the adcomm assess the achievability of his goals to a much better extent.

Next up – Leadership and Extracurriculars

Post 1: GPA and Test Scores

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