Tips for MBA Admission (Guest Post)

There's a lot of debate about the value and nature of an MBA program. Skepticism about initial investments and ROI is certainly warranted on a broad scale, but I'm still in the camp that firmly agrees with the assertion that the benefits of an MBA often outweigh the risks or negatives.

Unfortunately, for potential students who are asking themselves questions about this topic, making the decision of whether an MBA is worth the investment is only the first hurdle.

Once you decide if you want to go for it, you have to actually get through the application process! In certain respects, applying to an MBA program is like any other school application in that you'll be expected to provide an academic record, a given number of references, basic personal information, and some manner of essay or personal statement.

But when you really get into the specifics, applying for business school is also a pretty unique process. There's no exact formula for acing that process, but in this post I'll provide a few handy tips to keep in mind as you go about it.

Present A Polished MBA Application

This surely sounds like an obvious point, but consider for a moment how easy it really is to allow a spelling error to slip through the cracks or to exceed a word count. You might have a few run-on sentences that could have been corrected with an extra edit, or even some slang that, on second thought, might be hurting your tone. This list of application tips addresses a number of these issues as separate topics, but really the whole article amounts to one idea: polish, polish, and polish some more.

Remember, you no longer want to come across as an eager student ready to learn; you want to appear as a strong professional prepared to contribute. It's more important than ever to avoid little mistakes.

Approach the MBA Essay Like A Project

Your essay or personal statement will ask a personal question (or questions), and ultimately your own voice and reflection are most important. But there are also things to avoid and things to focus on when writing an MBA application essay, and it's best to learn them from an advisor, student, or even coach who knows how to help you.

This MBA application program demonstrates just how much help is out there for the essay writing process, as the coach in charge has helped numerous students to express themselves more effectively. In particular, the practice of articulating your goals and reasons for choosing business school can be very difficult.

Try to approach it like a project, rather than a personal essay: absorb the prompt, outline your thoughts, study successful methods and ideas, and construct a finished project.

Prepare For the MBA Interview

One of the biggest differences between undergraduate and grad school application processes is that the latter involves a real interview (as opposed to grabbing coffee with volunteering alumni). Thus, you'll need to take the time to prepare as you would for a job interview.

These tips for an MBA interview can help you go a long way, but really this is likely all pretty familiar stuff: come prepared to ask questions, present yourself with a professional look, know the program you're applying to, and listen closely. 

Engage With the MBA Program

Finally, I'll touch on one of the most important points that a lot of applicants either ignore or don't find the time for: it's important to reach out to and engage with the admissions office of the program you're applying to.

In some cases, that can mean scheduling a meeting or consultation before you even start your application. In others, it may simply mean calling with a question now and then. It can even mean contacting an admissions officer if you've been rejected from a program to see what you can do differently to improve your chances next time.

Students who engage with a program have a better shot at standing out, and at the very least will be able to prove their interest in that individual program, as opposed to the MBA in general.

None of these is a foolproof strategy or definite path into the MBA program of your dreams. But altogether they can help to lead you toward a strong application that will give you your best possible chance of studying at a program you like.

This is a guest post by Patti Conner, a Seattle, Wash.-based freelance writer. When she's not coming up with a new pitch or article, you can find her on Twitter, enjoying the great outdoors, or making her way through a new book.

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