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MBA Admission Tips for the New Finance Landscape
by Laura Lorber

Wall Street refugees thinking about hiding out the recession in b-school will need more than a sterling resume and great GMATs. They’ll also need to get their stories straight. Application essays and interviews count for a lot when it comes to getting into an elite program, says Stacy Blackman, a Los Angeles consultant who coaches business-school applicants.

Here are Blackman’s tips for financial-industry pros applying to business school:

1. If you’ve lost a job, show that you’ve landed on your feet and are continuing to pursue your career goals — even if it’s by an alternative path. “Saying: ‘I thought I’d take a year off to study for the GMAT’ doesn’t fly,” she says.

Make sure that your goals are in tune with current economic conditions. A dream that seemed reasonable last year may make less sense now — such as making partner at a bulge-bracket investment bank anytime soon. So incorporate what you’ve seen and learned in the current financial crisis. “It’s easy for young people to sound naive, like they’ve ridden this crazy wave and come out without learning anything,” she says. Talk about the lessons you’ve learned that will help you to be even more successful.

2. When writing admissions essays, discuss your life and accomplishments apart from work. Most finance professionals have little time to devote to outside pursuits because of their demanding work schedules. “They just work, work, work,” she says. Business schools want you to be engaged in the community you live in and, once you’re accepted, in the school community. Students accepted to the most elite schools find the time. Some, for example, she says, have started online nonprofit ventures. “They make the time at three in the morning when they come home from work,” she says.

3. Show an interest in the b-school experience outside of your financial specialty. When asked what they want out of b-school, many financial pros will talk about joining the finance club and taking specialized finance courses. But such a narrow focus is likely to put off admissions directors who view b-school as an opportunity to grow as leaders and foster management skills.

Demonstrate an awareness about all that business school has to offer, including taking trips, attending conferences, participating in class discussions and meeting people with a wide variety of different professional and geographic backgrounds. “They should be excited to go to school to interact with other people, gain new experiences and grow as human beings,” she says.