Envision Your Future (or at least try)
There are plenty of good (and bad) reasons to get an MBA. The most important thing is finding reasons that make sense for you and your career. To develop sound reasons for pursuing an MBA and convincing an admissions officer to grant you admission, consider thinking about and articulating how getting an MBA helps you make progress towards your overarching career goals. To actually answer this, you need to have at the very least a hypothesis for where you want to go and what those goals are.
Yes – people do absolutely change paths once they get to business school (that is the beauty of the experience) but at the very minimum you’ll want to come in with a well-educated hunch along with a set of goals based on that hunch of where you’d like to be in the future. From there, as you start to understand more about the value of an MBA and specifically, the value of the MBA from a specific school, you can begin to speak more to how an MBA from School X will help you work towards your goals.
Think about Others
Many applicants spend time thinking about how an MBA will help them achieve their career goals or make them successful. What they sometimes forget is being admitted to School X will enhance the value of the school and the other participants in the community.
As Former Harvard Business School Admissions Director Dee Leopold, put it best, selecting class is like putting together a diverse mosaic. As Admissions Directors put together the mosaic, they’ll want to know why they should select you, versus another great candidate. What do you bring to the table that makes the mosaic she is to create even more valuable?
To increase your chances of getting selected, consider articulating the value that you’ll add to the school as well as to your fellow classmates. Think about it like this: Admissions Directors are making investments in you, and the ROI you provide is not only if you achieve your own career goals, but how much you help others achieve theirs and how much you contribute to the community. So what value can you add? What strengths or experiences, can you share that will improve the lives of those around you? How will the community be better off because of you? Saying to an admissions officer that an MBA will help you achieve your career goals is good, but saying that and that while you are there, you can enrich the lives of your classmates and the community is even better, and what admissions officers love to hear.
Develop your Narrative
Your application to a school is not just a summary of your qualifications, experiences, and reasons why you should get an MBA. Instead, it’s a story and personal narrative that sums up diverse aspects of who you are and what you aspire out of your life. Furthermore, when woven together and done correctly, this narrative should engage and interest the reader to be compelled to want to learn more.
Your ability to showcase your authentic self is what will help you see the deal with your application. UNC Kenan-Flagler Admissions Director Sherry Wallace put it best: “What matters most is we see the true and authentic person.”
Seems daunting, huh? Good news – The best part of any type of interview or application that you encounter is that since you know yourself better than anyone else you can shape and mold the narrative that you want to tell. That type of control allows you to construct the story that you want others to know about yourself. And remember, it’s much more than listing your title, or role, but rather, the aspirational skills, qualities, and attributes that describe you best. Instead of a teacher, you’re a change agent for education reform looking to open and run your own school. Or, instead of a software engineer, you’re a product builder looking to build technology that will touch millions of consumers in their everyday lives.
So how do you develop that narrative? It starts with thinking about the many experiences, opportunities and skills that you’ve had in your life, and looking for themes and threads that connect them together. From there, its understanding where you want to go, and how some of those past experiences have prepared you to undertake this next phase (business school) which if done correctly, will enable you to get to your desired future state. If done correctly, a combination of your past, + your MBA will = your future end state.
Business School is a fantastic opportunity to reflect deeply on where you want to go in your career. Before you get there, the process is challenging, but can actually serve as a great precursor to the big questions you’ll tackle while you are in school. As you work through your application, addressing these three points should help you reflect upon how you can put your best foot forward with your application.