Getting into an elite MBA program is no easy feat. At Stanford’s Graduate School of Business last year, for instance, the acceptance rate was 7%. Applicants must factor in a myriad of factors — essays, GMAT score, interviews — while competing against thousands of other bright, talented business managers.
Jean-Philippe Odunlami, a Harvard Business School MBA graduate who has worked at Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, has a tip: Using internet research to connect with business school affiliates can set your application apart. “Something very simple like emailing a student club can add tremendous value to your application,” JP says.
Admissions directors tend to be coy when pressed on what they look for in MBA candidates.
Virginie Fougea, INSEAD’s associate director for admissions, says the world’s number-one ranked business school has “a strong focus on international, professional, and educational diversity”.
She adds: “In today’s global arena, the exchange of ideas and best practices by individuals and companies from around the world is clearly key.” So, diversity is important, I guess.
Amid the waffle, MBAs can be among the best sources of admissions advice. Karl Maturana, an MBA candidate at ESADE Business School in Barcelona, who previously worked for Deloitte in Santiago, says: “Be yourself. Trying to be someone that you aren’t will not benefit you at all. Be prepared. And try to make a positive impression on the person that interviews you, so you will be remembered.”
Below, BusinessBecause speaks to four other MBAs who share their tips for getting into top schools.
Aubrey Chapnick, UBC Sauder School of Business, MBA candidate
Background: Talent development consultant, Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge
Getting accepted to a top business program like Sauder’s is all about storytelling. Whether it’s in the business world or business school, being intelligent and ambitious are merely table stakes.
What differentiates candidates is their ability to paint a clear picture of who they are personally and professionally, and speak to why going to Sauder specifically will help them achieve their goals.
Candidates should highlight their unique experiences and achievements, as these are critical elements of one’s application, which brings an applicant’s profile to life.
I would advise candidates to focus more on who they are, what they believe in, what they value and what good they are driven to create in the world after leaving Sauder, instead of just relying on their academic aptitude. Acing the GMAT alone is not the key to getting in.
Rodrigo Diaz Mendez, IESE Business School, MBA candidate
Background: Advisor to the general director of administration, Banco de México
Be nice, be likeable, and show that you are a people person.
They know you are good, they know you have the aptitudes, so just show that you are a likeable person, with soft skills, who is able to work in a scenario where participation and teamwork are key.
You hear so many cases where people had an impressive GMAT score, yet when they got to the interview they didn’t make the cut. They were trying to impress by bragging about how much they have done, and how good they are.
Rodolfo Mitchell, Grenoble École de Management, MBA candidate
Background: Head of securities market analysis for Banco de México
In order to impress the admissions committee, I would recommend investing time in researching how GEM fits into your career path, and highlight that when applying.
You should show what your passions are, what motivates you and what your dreams are, so that the committee can identify if your profile fits the program.
Alessandro Ibelli, EMLYON Business School, MBA graduate
Background: Executive assistant, LACOTE S.r.l.
A high GMAT score is 50% of the work; the rest is just about a good presentation of yourself, and an ability to articulate your plans for the future.
My suggestion is to see the admissions committee as experts in psychology and HR, who are there to help you, and to check if the next step you will make in your life is the right one, or not.