An MBA from a top-notch school can put you at the top of the job candidate pool, while the same degree from a lesser-known institution can leave you deep in the resume slush pile, so to speak. If you’re returning to school after being in the workforce for some time, you may be understandably anxious about perfecting your application materials to ace admission into a competitive program. Some of the ways to stand out may surprise you.
Use your words wisely
While MBA admissions committees want to make sure you can handle the quantitative number-crunching you’ll need in classes (your GMAT score is proof of this) author Jeffrey Shinewald reveals in a Business Insider interview that your words matter just as much as your scores. In your application essay, stress how your skills and areas of interest make you a competitive candidate for entry and how the program can help you meet your specific career goals. Your future success reflects upon the school, so make a strong case to admissions officials to up your chances of acceptance.
Along the same lines, only apply to programs that are a good match for you. If you’re interested in an international business program like the one from Alliant.edu, you’ll be a stronger candidate if you can prove foreign language skills, international business knowledge and commitment to diversity, for example.
Be cucumber-cool in interviews
The group interview is a new trend in MBA programs and one that can create anxiety, suggests admissions counselor Linda Abrams in Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Less experienced candidates might feel the need to sell themselves and their credentials. Win this one by realizing that the key to looking good is letting the whole group succeed. Mention your expertise and back it up with concrete examples, when time allows, but don’t hog center stage. It’s all right to practice for these interviews, but avoid robotic memorization. Admissions committees from MBA programs are looking for candidates who can think on the fly and are comfortable speaking publicly.
Get the right recommendations
Recommendation letters help sell your candidacy, so it’s important to get letters from people who known you well and can speak to the quality of your work. While you may be reluctant to broach your desire to go back to school with your current employer, consider doing so anyway, especially if you’re applying to part time or weekend programs. Schools want to know what you’ve been doing recently, and if all of your letters are from people you haven’t worked with for more than two years, admissions officers may view it as a red flag. So keep recommendations current and help those recommending you sell your candidacy by providing them with specific accomplishments, goals and examples of your leadership, Fortuna Admissions experts recommend in The Economist.
Leave yourself several months to polish your essay, prep for the interview and connect with recommenders. As an older candidate with on-the-job experience, you are a competitive candidate. Use these surprising tips to put together a competitive application and impress admissions officers.
Gary is a business consultant and freelance writer from New York.