How to Make MBA Program Admissions Committees Love You

This article will teach you how to inspire MBA admissions committees to invest in you so you can differentiate yourself from other candidates and get the admissions decisions you want.

If you’ve read any other article on our website, you already know that the strongest MBA application doesn’t rest on your GMAT or GRE, official transcripts, or the brands of your undergraduate institutions and companies. Those inputs into a few lines of your online application are the smallest part of your MBA candidacy. The strongest candidates are built not of good numbers, but of amazing experiences, inspirational values, and airtight fit with their chosen MBA program.

You’ll get an interview invitation if your entire MBA application moves admissions representatives to want to include in the class profile. Showing you can hack it through your GMAT or GRE and other statistics is just table stakes. You’ve got to really up the ante if you want to win an offer for admission.

So once you’re in the right MBA application mindset, you’ve completed your school selection and chosen your list of dream schools (vetted for fit), and you’ve got rock solid career goals and reasons for getting an MBA

So how do get the MBA programs you love to show you a little love in return with that offer of admission? Each school has a select number of seats to give away, and the admissions team wants to be sure they’re giving this transformative opportunity to the best possible applicants. Here are three of the most effective ways to show them that YOU are one of the candidates worth investing in.

Here the 4 main questions the admissions committee has about you when they evaluate your fit with their program:

  1. Are you going to business school for the right reasons?
  2. Have you done your research?
  3. Will you leave the place better than you found it?
  4. Are they your first choice?

Check out this video explanation of school fit for more insight into this and into specifically how to deal with #4.

YouTube video

The rest of this article will go into much more detail about HOW to show that you’re a heck yes to the rest of these questions.

Table of Contents

#1 Get Your Career Game Plan together.

Let’s start with the first one. You need to be a man or woman on a mission to inspire MBA admissions confidence in your future and in your drive to contribute to your peers and community.

Watch this video on our YouTube channel for some targeted advice on this front.

YouTube video

Be sure to read all about how to understand why to get an MBA in the first place. Then think about how the MBA fits in with your specific career goals and future plans. Check out our comprehensive career report for insight at the school-level. Basically, don’t shortchange your deep thinking on your reasons for wanting an MBA and for wanting one from this school!!!

If you do those things, then your MBA application process is well underway and you’re halfway down the path of doing and demonstrating your research. But just knowing what recruitment opportunities a school facilitates isn’t enough.

Once you’ve convinced yourself this school is indeed (one of) the place(s) for you, then head onto more in-depth research.

#2 Show them you’ve done your school research.

The tactical plan that you share in your application should include details about specifically how you’ll cultivate the skills, learnings, and experiences you need to achieve your goals.

Many schools have what we call a “Personal Statement.”

Here are some examples of this question from some top full-time MBA program applications for the 2020-2021 application year:

  • Stanford: Why Stanford?
  • Chicago Booth: How will a Chicago Booth MBA help you achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA career goals?
  • The University of Michigan Ross: Michigan Ross is a place where people from all backgrounds with different career goals can thrive. Please share your short-term career goal. Why is this career goal right for you?
  • Columbia: Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next 3–5 years and what, in your imagination, would be your long-term dream job?

I could go on. In addition to these essays, some schools, such as Harvard Business school asks you to detail your career game plan in the online application. But even with these examples, you can see that most schools are asking you (in one essay, or across two) to show them your tactical plan of action to forward your professional experience as it pertains specifically to their school.

This means that when you write an essay like this, your plan will be far more credible to the MBA admissions committee if you reference specific classes, clubs, community activities, professors, co-curricular opportunities, cultural features — even buildings, student names, alumni activities, and campus rituals or traditions that you’ll engage in — AND specifically how those will enrich you and further prepare you for success.

Here’s a quick demonstration of what I mean. This is a crappy example of showing you’ve done your research:

“Columbia is the best school for me because there is no better place for me to study than in New York, the world capital of finance.”

Yawn. This is generic and tenuous. I could take out “Columbia” and put in “NYU” and it would still make sense. (That’s a great way to test your Personal Statements, by the way: If you removed the relevant school’s name, could this statement work just as well for a different program on your list? The answer better be NO. Many applicants skip this step.)

Something more like this on the other hand…

“The “Health Care Investment and Dealmaking” course would expose me to the subtler nuances of healthcare finance transactions and “Advanced Corporate Finance” will deepen my analytical skillset so that when I return to Healthcare Private Equity, I will be prepared to lead teams and deals.”

…conveys a much deeper level of research. The name Columbia doesn’t even appear here. These are specific courses and the applicant is showing that she knows not just their names, but also the specific benefits she will derive from them. This is tactics in action. It makes her MBA program fit with Columbia clear.

You want more? Get after it! Start this process before you apply.

Here’s the research you probably want to do:

Consider visiting schools and networking with adcom reps directly.

There are certain schools for which failure to visit campus or at least attending multiple online admissions events hosted for prospective students before applying will result in out-of-hand rejection. Wonder which ones? Ask us in your free MBA strategy session.

While you’re on campus, speak to current students and really take in what it’s like to be there. Include the aspects of the experience that most inspired you in the essay.

In Covid times, watch this video for alternative networking strategies:

YouTube video

#3 Show them you’ll leave the place better than you found it.

If you have an understanding of what the school offers and have done your research, you should be overflowing with ideas for how you’ll contribute to the school.

As you read about clubs and classes and other cool stuff that happens on campus, you’ll naturally see a role for yourself and imagine ways you would like to be a leader in school and alumni clubs and organizations. You will, that is, if you’re the kind of person who likes to contribute.

Hopefully you have at least a small altruism coefficient, and you derive satisfaction from making a positive impact and being of service and making yourself useful to others. If you do, then all you need to do is show the school the specific ways you hope to add value on campus and beyond. You’ve already done the research — just include some of this in your essay and interview! Pick ideas for contribution that allow you to express your natural gifts, talents, and hobbies, preferably through existing campus activities and organizations. Then show that to the MBA admissions board through essays and the interview process.

Remember, it’s not about the right contributions, it’s about yours.

Here’s a personal anecdote:

My major contributions to the Chicago Booth community in my day were all through humor and entertainment. I like to laugh, and I try not to take stuff too seriously, so I contributed to my class by creating a wide variety of opportunities for us all to do those things.

I wrote, produced, and directed my cohort’s official film for the Golden Gargoyles Contest. Ours was the only film that year to include every single member of our cohort. I also produced several short films for campus clubs as part of a commercial contest and brought together classmates from my year and the second years in the Follies show, managing logistics, writing and directing skits, and taking a cameo role myself.

There were other clubs I participated in and other activities I led, but these were the most meaningful to me. Choose yours and showcase them in your complete application, because MBA admission is about YOU and how you’ll contribute uniquely to your fellow graduates.

Want some help sussing out the kind of impact you’d like to have? Join us for Impact Labs – inspiring conversations with leaders making a difference in the world.

Go here and sign up to join our upcoming events.

#4 Showing the MBA admissions committee their school is your first choice

If you do all of the above, then you’re already showing the MBA admissions committee that their school is your first choice. You will have done so much research and demonstrated so much intimate school fit, that you won’t even have to say “this school is my top choice.” Which, by the way, we usually don’t recommend. Or at any rate, we’d only recommend saying that to the one school that truly IS your top choice!

Show the answers to these four questions in your application and actions, and you will be demonstrating school fit:

  1. Are you going to business school for the right reasons?
  2. Have you done your research?
  3. Will you leave the place better than you found it?
  4. Are they your first choice?

This is the absolute best you can do to create a successful application and prepare yourself for your MBA. Hopefully you noticed that in the process of completing these steps, you’ll also be discovering your best self and your best-fit schools AND advancing your career in the direction you want the MBA to take you in the first place.

That’s a habit of leadership!! — taking positive steps to achieve your goals without waiting for someone else’s permission.

Some great next steps:

  • Look into our application advice on calculating your MBA odds and choosing a portfolio of schools that balances risk and reward
  • Dig into Epic MBA storytelling and how to showcase your values in your essays to comprise your strongest application
  • Start your discovery process to begin revealing your best experiences, stories, and character-proving life moments, the building blocks of your best MBA essays

When you’re ready to find the right partner for your MBA application journey who’ll make your MBA application process less stressful, more fun, and much more transformative, talk to us!

Let’s have a conversation!

Talk to us.

Picture of Angela Guido

Angela Guido

Student of Human Nature| Founder and
Chief Education Officer of Career Protocol

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