You may have heard this advice from MBA admissions officers: “When applying to our school, be true to yourself and tell us who you are if you wish to improve your admission chances.” But, what if you are not exactly the ideal candidate your dream school is looking for? In this article, we will share tips on how you can maximize your chances of admission, even if you have a less-than-perfect profile!
Be yourself. Everyone else is taken
Oscar Wilde said it perfectly… there is no one else, in the entire world, who has had the same experiences, walked in the same shoes, or learned the same lessons as you. Moreover, there is no one else who will have exactly the same career path as you. Draw from your experiences, celebrate your personality, and show the business schools what you are made of.
Remember that a business school provides training to help you become a leader of people, not robots (yet!). For this reason, the school wants to understand you as a person. While you obviously want to showcase your best qualities to maximize your chances of admission to your top business school, it would be a mistake to put on a show and misrepresent your qualities just to fit into the “ideal candidate persona” you may think the school wants. There is no faster way to lose the trust of admissions officers than to pretend you are someone you are not. Should you be admitted based on the profile you have fabricated, it would be difficult to maintain this act for 1-2 years as a student in the program.
Take time to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses, your values, beliefs, career interests, and life ambitions. Think about what you have learned that will help you get to the next level in your career, and that you could also share with others in class. Get help and insights from your friends, family, or admissions consultants as to where you are now and where you might be going.
Many candidates we work with admit that their experience with the admissions process inspired greater self-reflection and clearer career goals post-MBA – certainly a valuable benefit as you embark on the life-changing experience of an MBA education.
Be a better version of yourself
Being true to yourself does not necessarily mean that you should not carefully consider what you will share with the business school (and, even more importantly, how). Applications to top MBA programs are extremely competitive, and an admissions committee needs to select the best candidates to represent the school’s brand for years to come.
Therefore, if the school is looking for the best candidates, but has no “ideal candidate persona”, what kind of edge will ensure your application makes it to the top of the pile? The answer is surprisingly simple: Present the best you have to offer, and do not forget to proactively address any red flags or gaps that may potentially hurt your application. If necessary, work with a professional admissions consultant with a proven track record who can help you identify weaknesses in your profile and recommend ways to tackle them. Most importantly, explain what you have learned from these experiences and how they have shaped your personality.
Few people achieve success on the first attempt. What makes people successful is their capacity to take risks and learn from their failures. As Henry Ford said over 100 years ago,
Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.
Similarly, MBA admissions committees are not looking for flawless candidates (after all, why would they need to get a degree?). Instead, they seek out people who have demonstrated leadership and maturity in overcoming obstacles, have learned from their failures, and have shown the courage to continue in the face of adversity.
In our daily lives, we rarely take time to reflect on our mistakes, nor do we often learn from them. We find it embarrassing to admit that we are not perfect. Many of our students are afraid of taking a diagnostic test, at the beginning of their GMAT preparation, and feel uneasy admitting to not getting a certain question right. However, the GMAT is an exam that evaluates skills over knowledge, and everyone makes mistakes at first! Taking time to evaluate what went wrong and how to do the next question better will help you achieve a higher GMAT score, and will also teach you important self-improvement skills that will prove invaluable for your business school application, in your MBA studies, and ultimately in your future leadership career.
After all, if you do not use the insights you gain from your successes and failures, you may keep making the same mistakes and remain at the same level (and pay grade) for a long time.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this article which will be published on 13 June.