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Our Best Advice When Applying to Business School

Linda El Awar

Be. Yourself.

When applying to business school, it is important to paint a clear picture of who you really are. Aside from the obvious reasons why it’s important to be true to yourself, there are a couple notable reasons why it’s especially important when applying for an MBA. 

Keep reading for the reasons why you should be yourself when applying and how to do it effectively.

Why You Should Be Yourself When Applying to Business School

1. Being yourself will help you stand out.

We know it may be tempting to present yourself as an exact mold of your target school’s typical student… but always remember that the admissions committee is looking for applicants who have unique experiences and goals. The traits that make you one-of-a-kind have a better chance of giving you a leg up than hurting your application.

Another bit of advice: Don’t say or write what you think the admissions committee wants to hear. That’s exactly what they DON’T want. They are looking for authentic stories and a sense of leadership. Always keep in mind that it’s far more important to properly represent who you are than edit yourself to “fit in”. 

2. Being yourself will result in a better business school experience.

Newsflash: Getting an MBA is more than just a stepping stone to landing a higher level job — it’s not just about having an MBA degree, where you got it from is also important. While you can get an MBA from any school, finding a program that is aligned with your goals, values, and personality is critical to a successful business school experience. The best MBA program for you will allow you be yourself so you can maximize your learning and potential.

Trust us. You will have the best business school experience in a program that is a proper fit. Being transparent in your application will attract the attention of the right school for you and ensure you actually enjoy the process of earning an MBA degree, which will motivate you to work harder and reach further.

Still not convinced? Here’s a scenario that may change your mind:

Think about the people you are closest to. Chances are, you feel comfortable with them because you can be yourself and speak your mind freely. You are not concerned with censoring yourself or tailoring your thoughts to impress them. In return, they respect your opinions. While they may disagree with you sometimes, you can communicate effectively, and your bond is strengthened even in conflict.

Now imagine you are sitting in a classroom discussion. Do you want to be worried about how to speak amongst your peers? Or would you rather share your thoughts and engage in a fascinating dialogue that you’re passionate about? (By the way, those are rhetorical questions. We already know you’d much prefer the latter.)

Okay, so now that you know the importance of being yourself in your applications, let’s tackle the question of how to craft an application that will let your individuality shine. There are three key ways to do this: By telling your story, sharing your perspective, and being vulnerable.

How To Craft an MBA Application

1. Tell Your Story. 

Before you dive into your essays or walk into an interview, take some time to reflect on your personal background. What life events have you encountered that set you apart? 

When telling your personal story, be intentional about the details you provide. All the information you share should contribute to an overarching message about why you are applying. Ask yourself what experiences have prompted your decision to get an MBA and tell these stories in a heartfelt way that will resonate with the admissions committee.

Examples of experiences that are perfect for an MBA application: 
  • Being the first college graduate in your family.
  • Admiring a family member who owned a small business.
  • Getting to know the co-worker or mentor who inspired your MBA journey.
Tip: While writing your personal story, be wary not to stretch the truth or dramatize it. Admissions officers can tell when you’re pulling their leg. A successful story is thoughtful, engaging, and sticks to the facts.

2. Share Your Perspective.

When applying for your MBA, be professional… but not stuffy. While it is important to discuss your accomplishments regarding work and education, the admissions committee wants to know the whole you. MBA programs are looking for students who are involved and enthusiastic, and it can be hard to communicate these qualities by sharing only your credentials.

Now is the time for a little more reflection. In addition to identifying key moments in your personal story, make a list of the things that matter to you. The sky's the limit here. Maybe you are passionate about a sport, have a favorite hobby, or are a part of a club. Share this with the admissions committee! Throughout your application, it is essential that you present yourself as a well-rounded individual with unique qualities and contributions, and this may include some aspects of your personality that aren’t directly related to your MBA.

3. Be Vulnerable.

Don’t be afraid to show the admissions committee the core of who you are. Dig deep down and be honest about your experiences, why you want to get your MBA, and how business school will impact the course of your life. Use your essays as a way to get comfortable discussing your greatest hopes and fears for the future and the motivation behind your goals. This will make it easier for you to be open and engaging during your MBA interviews.

Afraid of coming across as too serious? Adding a splash of humor may be the ticket to your MBA acceptance. The admissions committee hardly expects you to be a comedian, but a sense of lightheartedness is always appreciated. By giving them a sense of who you are when you are “off-duty,” they will be able to imagine how you will engage with other students and contribute to their program. Don’t use humor as a way to avoid vulnerability, but to compliment it.

In short: Be yourself in your applications. Your passion will naturally shine through in an authentic application making it much stronger... And getting accepted to the perfect program for you will not only make your MBA experience more enjoyable, it will set you up for your greatest chance for success. 

When completing your written application and interviewing, don’t be afraid to get real. Share your personal story, express your unique viewpoint, and maybe even make the admissions committee laugh. Remember: Your personality is just as important as your grades and GMAT scores!

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