The MBA Admissions Process

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

I have been thinking a lot lately about the Admissions process. Now, this may seem like a strange topic for a second-year MBA student with a job lined up to ponder. However, this fall, my younger cousin, or “sister” as we think of ourselves, began the arduous process of taking the GMAT and applying to business school. Her questions, coupled with the questions I receive as an Admissions Fellow prompted me to reflect a bit more deeply on the application process. 

The GMAT is a daunting process. I can’t think of many people who are thrilled by the idea of taking a 5-hour test.  But nonetheless, for most of us, it must be done. My two cents are this: study! You are always going to hear stories about the person who walked in without any practice and walked out with a 750. I am sure that person exists somewhere but it’s not me and I am fairly certain it’s not you either. So put your best foot forward, set yourself up for success and prepare. If it’s possible, go the whole nine yards and take a class or get a tutor. But no matter what you do, practice, practice, practice. 

Have a Story
It’s important in both your essays and your interviews to tell your story. And not a singular, one-off on how you dealt with conflict in the workplace... a true story about who you are, why you want to go to business school, why you want to go to Carlson and how what you have done in the past has led you here. Now as an English major I may be biased towards the importance of storytelling but I truly believe that being able to explain why you want an MBA, both on paper and in person, is one of the single most important steps to preparing for business school. 

Figure Out What You Like, Not What You Think You Like
When I was looking at schools, there were many things that drew me in. I thought I would love a class size of 30…until I visited a school where the class size was 30. I admit, I was fortunate enough to visit several schools so I knew when I stepped on the Carlson campus that it as the right place for me. I can’t quite articulate the feeling I had but it was something along the lines of, “whoa, I really like this place”…rather than the lukewarm feelings I had tried to conjure into something more based alone on a school’s ranking or reputation. Visiting all of your schools might not be possible, but it is critically important that you talk to as many people as possible to get a feel for a school. Yes, you may not jive with every single individual you meet there, but by the time you talk to about five individuals, you start to get a sense of the place that you could never glean from a website or admission’s brochure. 

Enjoy the Ride
Applying for b-school is certainly stressful, but it is something you will only (most likely) do once. So take comfort in the process. Ask questions, talk to people, work hard and engage. Choosing a b-school is a huge life decision and it’s important to think about fit, not just rank. You will find a great school and a great school will find you. It is a two way street, so take comfort in the process.