With record unemployment numbers and many turning to graduate schools to further their career aspirations during the pandemic, more applicants than ever are working hard to impress admissions officers in full-time MBA programs around the country. Because of this, it’s important to stand out from the crowd when applying to an accredited MBA program. For as difficult as that may sound, it can be easy if you take the time to do your research and follow these steps. If you’re planning on applying to an MBA program and want to improve your chances of admission, read on.
Crafting Your Mission Statement
You’ve decided to try your hand at graduate school. Congratulations! If you’re looking to impress MBA admissions teams, the best way to start is with a well-crafted mission statement. Before even attempting that application essay, take the time to figure out your personal values. Grab a notebook or open a new word document, and write a list of the ways you hope to use your education to improve not only yourself but the world around you. What do you stand for? How do you feel about bigger issues like social justice? Who are the people that helped shape you? Answers to these questions will help you to narrow your values statement down. If you need help, a quick Google search will pull out free templates to help.
During the admissions process, admissions recruiters will be more interested in who you are than any grade, scholarship, or transcript that’s part of the normal application. It’s the job of the admissions team to select students they believe will offer something of value to their academic community. And while grades and scholarships you had in your undergraduate programs will matter, they won’t carry the same weight as your personal essay, interview, and mission statement.
Dressing for Success
Your personal style is also a reflection of yourself. And while admissions people will want an honest look at who you are, you have to keep in mind that it’s still important to fashion your outfit based on your career for your best shot at making a good impression. While every company culture’s different, and you may come from a background of business casual, other offices that are more corporate require formal business suits, ties, and dresses.
As someone interested in a master’s degree in business, you’ve likely heard the saying about dressing for the job you hope to have. The same applies here. While your current workday or last job may have been okay with khaki pants and a polo shirt, you’ll want to dress it up as you head to your formal interview. Whether this is done on Zoom remotely or in person, you’ll only have one chance to make a first impression, and how you dress will be taken into consideration with your complete application. Save the maxi dress, tank top, and fashion industry’s bests for another day. Leggings, last year’s favorite hoodie, and your remote work pajamas won’t work. In fact, many MBA programs require students to attend classes dressed for normal business just to breed good habits.
Doing Your Research
Part of showing up for a grad school interview prepared is knowing about the program you’re applying to. Now that you’re dressed in a way Courtney Sarofim would approve of, you’ll want to do your homework on the university your applying to. Maybe you’re applying to the University of Houston. Knowing a little about what makes their program different, their best alumni, and why they’re your first choice of business schools will help you to stand out from other business school applicants. Make sure to take time to compliment your admissions interviewer on the school’s reputation and accomplishments. It’ll make a difference.
One certain way to stand out from the crowd is to make your goals and essay not about yourself but about others. Time and time again, admissions officers hear about students looking to obtain higher education for a better income or life status. While it may be honest, you’ll need to think bigger than that to stand out. Sure, you want to improve yourself, but what do you plan to do for the community or larger world? Determine this ahead of time, and build it into your pitch for graduate school. Be prepared to play it out too.
If you aren’t sure you’re committed to making a difference and are more inwardly focused, the way to get around this is to get solid recommendations from friends, family, coworkers, and former professors who’ll be able to see the best in you. For many students, it’s hard to brag about accomplishments or even see what they’ve already done in the world. It’s possible that you’re already doing the kind of things that will help you stand out and don’t see it for yourself.
Last but not least, a way to impress an interviewer is to follow the interview up two days later with a thank you note. Whether you send it by snail mail or through digital means, you’ll want to treat your graduate school interview the same way you would a job interview. Even if your application’s sitting somewhere in the middle of a pile of MBA applicants, following up with gratitude will make any admissions representative think again. Good manners, sincerity, and a solid thank you could be the very difference between getting in or getting that dreaded rejection letter.
In the end, the best way to impress admissions officers is to go into the application process with a plan. From a well-crafted essay and even better personal values mission statement, take the time to know your goals before being asked about them. Plan to dress for success, dare to be different, and make your primary focus about the bigger world and not just your own goals. If you follow these simple steps and go in confidently, you’re not only bound to impress but to get accepted too. Happy studies to you. May you make a difference in the world and the future business environment, too.