“Shedding some light to structure a top MBA application”
In the blink of an eye, 2021 intake will be here and along with it, all the requests of “magic formulas” for an outstanding application.
I’d start with the Do’s:
- Define who you are and have your short and long-term goals ready.
To stand out in a pile of applications, you have to enable the business school to understand who you are, what are your strengths and weaknesses, what your aspirations are, and how this composite of elements will collaborate with that community. As I say, “you will be the new kid on the block, so what do you bring to play?”
- Soul searching.
This is by far, in my view, where you will shine as a candidate! Understanding who you are and where you want to go, having that clear path in mind and putting all that into words is where “magic” will happen. Find out what is important to you and make notes. At one point, you will have a long list of deeply thought fragments of your life that can be used in the essays, video essays and certainly, on the interview.
- Schools list.
Most candidates come to us with a long list based on rankings. However, we have to analyze it beyond to understand where the real value of certain schools is. Ask yourself those questions: “What does the school employment report entail?” “What Return Of Investment can I expect from this business school?” “What does the program offer in terms of electives, clubs and self-development?”. You will be surprised to see who this list will change.
- Outreach to that community.
You are deciding where to spend one or two years of your life, interrupt your career trajectory and go back to school. You might as well like where you’re going and the only way to grasp the school culture, commitment and purpose is by engaging with the community. While websites and brochures can be very informative, PEOPLE are the real assets. So, connect, engage, reach out to current students, clubs, associations and alumni to have a true sense of that environment and really understand your fit with it. Imagine yourself studying or cracking cases with these people. If you would like to have one (or all) of them in your group, seems like you found your fit.
- Be specific.
Schools receive thousands of applications per year. The one thing that makes me cringe my teeth is to read an essay that could be sent to a dozen schools. Be as specific as possible, addressing to that school in particular, making them see that you know what are the differentiators from school A-B-C. A generic and shallow speech will drift the AdCom attention away and our purpose is that they want to read all of your essay not because they “have to” but because “it is an essay the candidate took time and devotion to put together”.
- Misaligned narrative.
We start telling your story with your resume. It is important to have all facts and data outlined in your resume, but we must continue with this approach from end-to-end. Everything is connected, so your teamwork and leadership experiences at some point have to appear in your essays. Even better if while inviting and instructing your referees, you can provide them with the course of action taken in your application and how important their recommendations will be. See? Resume, essays, recommendations and interviews are all interconnected. From end-to-end.
- “I saw that a candidate with a low 600 GMAT was accepted at a top5 business school”.
I lost count of the times I’ve heard that argument. I understand that standardized tests may not show who you truly are nor represent your potential, but the fact is that it is a requirement. Due to Covid-19, some elite schools sympathized with the candidates’ not being able to schedule anything and waived the tests. For all we know, this waiver is temporary and things will “go back to normal”. So… that low 600 GMAT candidate? Unless you know that person’s story, academic and professional trajectory – the long version, not that 3 lines synthesis that doesn’t tell much – the values that shaped their personalities, hardships vs accomplishments and objectives, it is fair to say that the least you can do is study hard for your tests. With bare minimum info, it is hard to identify how can you out beat that low 600 candidate. We may come to the conclusion it was sheer luck or the conjunction of elements on his/her background was so powerful that the test was merely a test. That schools are taking a holistic approach in evaluating applications and they saw value on all the other application elements than the test.
The truth is that every candidate is the “magic formula”, with your rights vs wrongs, lived experiences and that long bucket list you check from once in a while, that lapidated the individual. Remember, the magic formula to succeed in an application is You.