While other business school applicants have to work hard to demonstrate that they can handle classes such as finance, accounting and statistics, if you hail from finance, the admissions committee already knows you can excel in the core classes, and that gives you one less thing to worry about as you craft your killer MBA application. But don’t rest on your laurels!
Because applicants from finance are overrepresented in the admissions pool, your goal is to stand out as much as possible from peers with similar backgrounds. As we pointed out in our previous posts (part 1 and part 2) highlighting the Top 10 list of common MBA application mistakes, there’s a right way and a wrong way to attract the admission committee’s attention. We’ll wrap up today with the final things to avoid to make yours a successful MBA application.
Mistake #8: Not thinking through the “Why an MBA?” question
Many firms expect analysts or other junior bankers to leave for an MBA at approximately the two-year mark. Other possible options for you are to join a PE firm or hedge fund, or find a job in industry. If you’re at this crossroads in your career and now is the expected time to apply to MBA programs, you will need to actively counteract any impression that your MBA is simply to “check a box” before the next level in your career.
It’s time to step back from your practical brain and access your creative side to come up with your ideal career vision statement. You have amazing skills –there is no doubt an MBA will add to your overall skill set. The hope is that you will arrive on your MBA campus with a burning desire to make the world a better place. Passion and vision are critical to MBA admissions committee evaluation because they are both essential elements of effective leadership.
Mistake #9: Thinking you’re too busy for extracurricular activities
The reality for finance professionals is that a demanding work schedule rarely allows time for meaningful extracurriculars. What can you do if your work really is your life? If your 80-hour work week didn’t allow time for community involvement, realize that not every extracurricular has to be literally outside of work. Take some time to look inside your office building for those leadership opportunities that may have nothing to do with your day-to-day responsibilities.
And remember, not all volunteering requires a time commitment every week. With your schedule you’ll need to be creative to find flexible opportunities to contribute. Look for activities that are not face-time based, but that focus on impact or a small amount of time on weekends. A track record of volunteering and community service—no matter how big or small—adds a lot of strength to your candidacy.
Mistake #10: Not letting your personality shine through
An MBA application is a hybrid between a business communication and a personal essay. While it’s important to keep the focus and precision of a business writing exercise, you don’t need to sacrifice the color of a personal essay. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, even if that means injecting humor, fear or humility. You are not expected to be a perfect robot; that is not an appealing quality for an MBA student. Using your emotions effectively will help your essays come alive and show that you are more than a list of your accomplishments.
You already knew that your work experience is impressive and a key selling point for your candidacy. But now you also know it’s very important to highlight those extra-curricular activities, hobbies, or interesting personal stories in your application, and demonstrate you’ve made a deep personal connection to the programs on your list. Avoid these 10 mistakes commonly made by finance applicants, and you’ll offer the admissions committee a truly holistic picture of your candidacy. Best of luck!
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