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Six Tips for Getting Into Business School

Aug 6, 2010 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 9 Comments

Top business schools have always been highly competitive. But in a difficult economy, demand for spots in the nation’s best business schools has gone way up. Schools like Harvard, Stanford and Wharton are drowning in applications—but even mid-level business schools are seeing an increase in applications from professionals looking to make their resumes more competitive, as well as recent college grads.

According to Forbes, there are 17 candidates for every seat at Stanford, a little under 10 for each seat at Harvard Business School, and the Haas School at Berkeley has seen a 16% increase in applicants over each of the past three years.

So with all this competition, how do you make yourself stand out? Here are a few ideas.

Be yourself

Business schools are looking to assemble a well-rounded class—full of multi-talented people with vastly different backgrounds and stories. You aren’t likely to be competing for a spot with someone who has a wildly different background than you, so don’t worry about the sheer number of applicants. Even in an applicant pool of thousands, you can stand out by writing your college essay in a unique and authentic way.

Know your school

Business School


Show that you want to go to that particular school—and give legitimate reasons why. Schools prefer to choose students who have a strong preference for them, and if you can demonstrate that you didn’t just cut-and-paste the same response on dozens of different college applications, it will work in your favor.

Know what you want

Business schools often tend to favor students who have specific career goals—and know exactly how an MBA at that particular school will fuel their career. No two online MBA programs are the same—so be sure to show how that school can serve your needs better than others.

Be employable

Business schools like to demonstrate that their graduates get jobs—so they tend to accept applicants who already look like they have good prospects on the job market. You may need to show, directly or indirectly, that you know exactly what type of career in business you want and the steps you’ve already taken to make yourself employable in that field.

Get the timing right

The right timing can make a difference for your application. Many schools accept applications on a rolling basis in October, January, and March for a September class. Every online business school is different, but it’s often to your benefit to apply as early as you can—because as the year goes on, the number of available slots can dwindle and the school can become even more competitive. However, don’t apply early if it means you won’t have enough time to make your application as strong as possible.

Directly address your weak points

Maybe you have a lower-than-ideal GPA, or maybe you’ve been laid off several times. Don’t just ignore those things in your college essay. Talk about how you’ve learned from your experiences, why the weak points happened, and how they ultimately made you stronger.  Applications officers will definitely notice weak points, even if they happened decades ago—so be sure to address them head-on.

Get good recommendations

The prestige of the recommender isn’t as important as how well they know you—and the insights they can offer on how you work. Don’t ask the CEO of your company to give you a recommendation if that person doesn’t know you well and didn’t work with you on a daily basis. Your direct manager, a colleague or a client might not sound as impressive, but he or she will be able to offer insights that might make the difference in whether you get in.

Getting into business school or a top MBA program isn’t easy. But there are a few things you can do to make your application stronger. Be sure your application is complete and as competitive as possible before you send it in—if it isn’t complete, it won’t get read. Despite what many schools say, timing can matter. And address your weak points directly—don’t just hope the admissions team won’t notice. Follow these tips, and you’re more likely to get into a strong business school—and earn the credential you need to advance in your career.

How to Apply to Business School Without "Real" Business Experience -



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