10 Tips for Nontraditional Applicants Applying to Business School

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  • 7/31/2019 10 Tips for Nontraditional Applicants Applying to Business School


    10 Tips for Nontraditional Applicants

    Applying to Business School

    Not all b-school applicants are quant superstars with a few years of Wall

    Street experience under their belt. If youre a nontraditional applicant, here

    are a few pieces of advice.

    1. Make sure to demonstrate your quantitative ability in some way.Lack of quantitative preparation is one of the biggest reasons applicants are denied from MBA

    programs. So, how can you show you wont balk at spreadsheets and graphs? Get some proof youve

    handled similar material before. If you left college without a course in finance, accounting, statistics,

    or economics under your belt, see tip #4. Next, do everything you can to get a high GMAT math

    score. While any scaled score in the 40s is superb, 90th percentile is around 49 to 50. This

    accomplishment speaks volumes and is bound to impress admissions officers, especially if you were

    an English major. And finally, simply excel at the quantitative parts of your job and try to have

    something to show for it, whether a promotion or a recommendation letter. If your job involves

    minimal quantitative work, you might want to build it into your responsibilities (if possible) or look

    for ways you can showcase your skill in extracurricular activities.

    2. Demonstrate leadership.

    Be creative if necessary. Influenced management at your company to undertake a successful

    venture? Led a dangerous mountain expedition? Oversaw a construction site with 300 workers?

    Started a non-profit that helps businesses become more sustainable?

    Odds are that if youre a non-traditional applicant, you have a knack for leadership; otherwise you

    wouldnt be interested in management in the first place. Dont panic, however, if you feel there are

    no opportunities to display leadership in your current situation. Leadership is about action, not titles.

    Here are five lesser known, but real and substantial ways to demonstrate the quality:

    Mitigate or minimize risk for a group

    Influence others

    Achieve consensus across groups

    Recognize opportunity

  • 7/31/2019 10 Tips for Nontraditional Applicants Applying to Business School


    Challenge the status quo

    3. Press harder on what youve got.

    Whether youre a star athlete, a musician, a poet, or an engineer, you likely have special talents and

    interests that lie outside the business realm. Remember that top business schools are looking for

    world-class talent regardless of field and that they value diversity. To the extent that you can ramp

    up your business knowledge and continue to excel in other areas, you should. Remember: you want

    to build, amplify, and extend what you already have, not replace it altogether.

    4. Consider boosting your business coursework.

    If youre an economics major who ended up teaching math in an inner city high school, youre

    probably good as far as coursework is concerned. If youre a poet, youd be well advised to brush up

    on the core business subjects including accounting, finance, statistics, and economics. Dont be

    daunted by the amount of work youre facing! You may be surprised at how quickly perceptions of

    you change once youve taken the steps to change them.

    5. Know exactly what you want to do post-MBA.

    Expect that others will be skeptical of your MBA ambitions. Counter their skepticism by knowingexactly (and I mean, exactly) what you intend to do afterward and why you are suited for it. Practice

    answering questions like the following: Yes, but how do you know you will like it? How do you think

    your current work is going to prepare you for that? Understand the language, jargon, and mindset

    of those in your intended field, and be familiar with industry developments. This will ensure that

    your expectations are realistic.

    6. Get familiar with the business world.

    This is related to point #5. You cant fake formal business training, but you should certainly display a

    keen interest in business. Start reading business publications like The Economist, Businessweek, or

    the Wall Street Journal. This kind of knowledge can take awhile to develop, so start familiarizing

    yourself immediately. Dont try to cram or you will be overly influenced by a single book or article

    and your displays of knowledge will come across as forced.

    7. Find role models.

    If youre a nontraditional applicant, chances are youre not like everyone else from your original fieldof expertise. It can be confusing, not to mention disheartening and downright lonely if youre the

  • 7/31/2019 10 Tips for Nontraditional Applicants Applying to Business School


    only one in your circle with business inclinations. Make an effort to find some role models figures

    from the business world who started off as artists, journalists, and scientists and whose business

    careers were enhanced by their knowledge of something other than business. Notable examples

    include the poet Dana Gioia, former chair of the National Endowment of the Arts who received an

    MBA from Stanford. For a funny, candid account of business school from a former speech writer and

    self-named poet, check out the book Snapshots from Hell it doesnt try to sell the b-school

    experience, but if you read it and are still determined to go, you can be sure that business school is

    truly for you.

    8. Find mentors with MBAs.

    Now that youve begun to familiarize yourself with the business world, you need someone to talk

    about it with. Someone who holds an MBA will be able to offer perspective and contextualize the

    information you have absorbed recently. Remember: dont be rigid or defensive when acceptingfeedback about your essays and your post-MBA plans! Others may not be well-versed in your field of

    expertise but they may have other domains of knowledge that are valuable to you.

    9. Know that b-schools want you as much as you want them.

    MBA programs are trying to reach out to people from non-traditional backgrounds. Why? A class full

    of bankers and consultants is boring. And b-schools want to build connections between the less-

    typical employers and their own programs, so that students who want jobs in those areas will be

    able to get them later on. This improves their placement rate and their employer network.

    10. Get experiences that showcase other sides of your work


    Heres a question you should bank on getting from admissions officers: How will you go from being

    a leader in a creative environment to being a student in a quantitative, metrics-driven

    environment? Think about how you will answer that question and if you need to build any

    experiences that demonstrate your comfort with different professional situations before you start

    the application process. Remember: admissions officers will connect the dots in your application

    even if you dont. Dont write that you are a great team player if youve never worked on a team

    before. Especially as a nontraditional applicant, your story has to make sense.

    ~Article provided by Knewton, a GMAT Test prep company.


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