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Sharpen the Focus of an MBA Application

August 11, 2017
Sharpen the Focus of an MBA Application

When Komaki Foster applied to MBA programs, she wanted to make sure admissions officers understood her argument for pursuing an MBA and got a well-rounded picture of her personality.So Foster made a list of all the professional and academic qualities she took pride in. She kept going back to that list as she crafted her application to ensure that it fully reflected her accomplishments and potential.Foster also discussed her professional goals with family and friends to become accustomed to explaining her transition from politics to business. The former Capitol Hill legislative assistant says talking through her pitch helped clarify her reasons for applying to business school. These conversations, Foster says, also helped her recognize gaps in her story and address questions in her application that might otherwise have gone unanswered.Making sure those pieces fit was a little more important for me, because I was not a traditional MBA applicant, Foster says.Foster’s goal in her MBA application was to make a case to business schools on why they should take a risk on her despite the fact that she had spent much of her career in the public sector.Her efforts paid off, and she is now a second-year MBA student at the London Business School.


Here are five tips from experts on refining your MBA application and constructing a compelling argument for acceptance.

  1. Make sure each section of the application can stand on its own: It’s the applicant’s job to make sure each part of their application demonstrates value, says Linda Abraham, the founder of Accepted, a California-based admissions consulting group. She says applicants should examine each component of their application to judge its quality and whether it boosts the rest of the application. Abraham says applicants should look at every written component of their application and remove any writing that is superficial and replace it with language that is meaningful.
  2. Avoid repetition: You want to be able to cover different facets of who you are and not be repetitive, says Deena Maerowitz, a principal with the Bertram Group admissions consulting firm and former associate director of admissions with the Columbia Business School. An MBA application, Maerowitz says, should include various examples of your abilities, and harping too much on a single accomplishment or trait can come across negatively. Your application pieces can complement each other, she says, but you don’t want to repeat everything, because that’s a waste of the admission officer’s time.
  3. Explain your career goals clearly: Because many MBA programs now allow students to tailor their courses to their professional objectives, it is crucial to communicate a sense of purpose and self-awareness in an MBA application, says H. Fenwick Huss, dean of the Zicklin School of Business at CUNY Bernard M. Baruch College. As programs focus more on customizing the program to the student, then the student revealing who he or she is is becoming more important, Huss says.
  4. Answer the questions admissions officers are likely to ask:. A good compelling story, in a personal statement or as revealed by application materials, should always answer three questions: Why you? Why now? Why this program? Michella Chiu, an admissions consultant with the PROFEDVICE company, said in an email. So, to do a holistic review on application materials, applicants should ask themselves whether these three questions are answered. Chiu says answering the question about timing is important, because it gives admissions officer a reason to admit you immediately as opposed to deferring your application.
  5. Focus on the information requested in each part of the application: David Simpson, admissions director of the London Business School, says he often sees MBA applications where the applicant is so eager to say something that they put the information someplace where it does not belong and fail to answer the question asked.Sometimes people write what they want to say rather than what the question asks, says Simpson. Applicants need to be quite careful about shoehorning that information in where it isn’t being asked for. 

Published on Dec. 19, 2016, at 9:30 a.m. by US News

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