Getting admitted to a top business school is a competitive endeavor. And if it’s been a while since you’ve gone through the process of applying for school, getting back into the game can feel incredibly overwhelming.
Though the application process for top MBA programs can be rigorous, it’s possible to compile an application that positions you as a strong candidate for any prestigious program – as long as you keep a few top tips in mind.
Here’s what the experts have to say on what it takes to land a spot at a top business school.
Show how your unique perspective will add value to the classroom
“The best way to get into a top business school is to understand what an admissions officer thinks about someone with your background (profession, race, age, socioeconomic status, geographic location, etc.) and then show that you are different,” says Michelle Diamond, CEO of Diamond Executive Resumes.
“Highlight unique areas about yourself that sets you apart.”
“Admissions officers, especially at top business schools, are looking for individuals who not only show leadership ability but have unique and diverse experiences and viewpoints that can add value to their classrooms,” Diamond continues.
Write an impactful essay
“Write an essay that admissions officers will remember,” says Gaynor.
“Use personal stories to support your statements and connect the dots from the different stages of your life. Applications that stand out tell a consistent story that exhibits self-awareness reveals your values and personality, and has clear direction and purpose.”
Additionally, it might be worth having a friend or mentor who knows you well read the essay before submitting it. “Most importantly, make sure you answer the question, check for spelling and grammatical errors, and proofread,” says Gaynor.
Ace your GMAT
Although experience and perspective have started to have more value when it comes to business school admissions, Sander Tamm, founder and CEO of E-Student, says test scores still matter.
“Your GPA and GMAT scores help set a baseline for admission,” says Tamm.
“However, as education changes and career paths become less traditional, the numbers don’t mean as much as they once did.”
“If you have opted not to report your GMAT scores, you will need to find ways to showcase your ability to manage highly quantitative work through your academic history, your work experiences, and your extracurricular/community involvement,” adds Nellie Gaynor, IvyWise MBA, and Graduate Admissions Counselor.
This can be through your essay or CV or through the recommendations you provide with your application.
Showcase your experience and initiative
“Because the barrier to getting into business is now so low — think YouTube millionaires or six-figure Instagram stores — your experience and displays of initiative add greater weight to your application,” says Tamm.
“Having only great academics and a good essay is not going to allow you to compete against those with actual business experience.”
Think of ways to position your business experience in a way that feels novel and exciting to admissions officers.
Upgrade your resume
“Update your resume to be results-oriented and provide specific, relevant examples throughout your resume,” says Gaynor.
“Your CV is a great way to demonstrate that you are a top performer, signifying levels of increasing responsibility and leadership positions/skills, and your ability to work with others.”
Provide strong recommendations
“Choose recommenders who know you well and can specifically talk about your impact, your quality of work, and your accomplishments,” says Gaynor.
As far as selecting the right person to speak on your behalf, Gaynor says to make sure that the source you choose is prepared to advocate for you in an authentic, passionate way.