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MBA admission special - Top Ten Tips when applying for business school

Getting into your preferred business school might not be a picknick. But if you apply at the right time of your career (not when you’re bored but rather when you want to grab opportunities) and find the right school (e.g. a school where your preferred employers usually hire from… a school that offers a focus on your particular field of interest…), your application might be off to a good start. To make it a success we have assembled our top ten tips for your business school application.

TIP 1 Research
Learn as much as possible about the school. Read the website and any promotional material you can get, visit the school grounds and talk to students and professors. If you can, get an interview with administrative staff to understand what the school can offer you. Rather invest more time in a maximum of four schools than applying to too many different schools but not knowing what they are actually about. Take the time to rewrite each application to a business school in an individual way fitting to the school where you apply. Don’t just copy the same content for every application. The questions from each school might sound similar, but the format they ask for might be different, so read the instructions carefully and also research what the particular school is looking for in a student.

TIP 2 Academic History
Remember to write about all your academic achievements in this section. These include your academic credits but also interests and challenges that you pursue. If there are points that need an explanation like a low grade or why you changed schools or universities, it is wise to include a short paragraph.

TIP 3 Awards
Don’t use this section to praise yourself and inform the school about every little award you ever got. Only list accomplishments that support your curriculum vitae and explain how your achievements contribute to your personality.

TIP 4 Employment History
Explaining your work experience right is one of the major points for being successful in your application. Don’t just list job titles, but interpret your role and also explain gaps in your job his-tory. There is no shame in having been unemployed for a while.

TIP 5 Extracurricular Activities
Don’t list too many hobbies, interests or community engagements, but rather things that really mean something to you and keep your mind healthy. You can also write about things in the past here.

TIP 6 Letters of recommendation.
Choose people that really know you well. This is not necessarily the CEO of a big company that happens to be your family friend but rather your last supervisor at work or a mentor from a volunteer position. Meet up with them over a cup of coffee, remind them of your achievements and leave them several weeks to do a good job. As they send off their letters directly, you can’t influence this part of your application as much as your own work. So prepare your references with specific stories that showcase your abilities. Remind them of a difficult professional situation that you mastered brilliantly – anything really that makes them avoid generalised sentences like “He/She is highly organised and would make a great leader.”

TIP 7 Essay
Take the essay really seriously as it is your mean to stand out from the crowd. Do your research well, try to find out what the individual business school is looking for in a candidate and make your essay a good fit. Don’t be too generic, rather write about something special and make sure you do answer their question! Check meticulously for typos and work to an almost exact word count to what is asked from you. Be very careful with strong opinions and humour. Rather try to maintain your own unique voice. Also don’t exaggerate your achievements as it might lose you your credibility. Try to create a story that people will remember and make them interested in your personality.

TIP 8 Review
When you finished your application, get one or two people you trust to read it for you. Don’t choose ten different editors as that will give you ten different opinions. Ideally you’ve got someone who knows what business schools are looking for.

TIP 9 Overall Presentation
Try to make the single parts of your presentation fit to each other. This means no repetitions but to rather create a story about yourself. By the way: you can call the admission office and ask a question or make yourself known during a school event but don’t go harassing admission officers!

TIP 10 Keeping Secrets
Don’t give everything away in your application. Keep some additional stories back to make the interview interesting as well.

Sources and further reading:
Businessweek
Rediff
Forbes
About.com
US News

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