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Top tips for the top business schools

Last month we had assembled some insider tips how to apply to some of the top schools worldwide. The tips come from US based MBA consulting firm Fortuna Admissions, whose consultants have written about how to apply to the top business schools worldwide. The blogs contain a myriad of useful tips and MBA Channel has decided to summarise the best ones for our readers. Last month we covered Columbia, Kellogg, NYU Stern, INSEAD, and LBS. This month we look at Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Chicago and MIT Sloan.


So what are the insider tips for applying to these top business schools in the US?

Harvard Business School (HBS)

Harvard is still one of the most sought after and exclusive business schools on the planet. A Harvard degree stands for high quality and therefore acceptance into the programme is understandably competitive.

Fortuna Admissions recommends:

Stand out from the crowd: Harvard is not looking for the average student whose application looks like the typical standard MBA application. Students really need to think about what is unique about their application, and what contribution they might be able to deliver to the classroom and the school. 

Showcase your leadership: Leadership should be a topic that reappears in an application multiple times. It should be reflected in professional work experience, academics, hobbies, extracurricular activities, or community work and the more concrete the examples the better. Potential future leadership roles could also be discussed in the essays and interview.

Articulate a clear, ambitious, and realistic career vision: Career visions should be aligned with Harvard’s goals described on the school's website and in social media. Harvard wants to know what impact students can make on an institution, an industry, and the world. 


Chicago Booth

Booth is a business school for academically curious students that challenge the status quo, such as solving complex problems and coming up with new ideas and ways to solve problems. 

Fortuna Admissions recommends:

Apply cycle strategy: With three application rounds (September, January, and April) an early application is not necessarily better. Usually the best time to apply is the second round as long as the extra time gives an application an extra edge. The third round does often not leave too many available places, though.  

Highlight your individuality: Similar to the Harvard requirement you need to stand out from your peer group as many applications from people with consulting, finance and accounting backgrounds seem to be painfully interchangeable. Fortuna’s advice is that students with a classic background tailor their application to highlight what makes them different from everyone else in the industry like working for a non-profit organisation. At Booth it might actually help to come from a non-traditional background like marketing/advertising or social sciences. 

Familiarise yourself with the academic experience: Knowing the key professors in each academic department and some of the key published academic research as well as particular opportunities like the New Venture Challenge will help convince the admission team that this Chicago MBA will be a worthwhile experience for you. 


Kellogg School of Management

Many see Kellogg School of Management as the school for marketing, but it is also a known McKinsey favourite. Despite its very competitive application process students who attend Kellogg praise the school for its collaborative style of learning and close-knit community. 

Fortuna Admissions recommends:

Play to your strengths, even if they seem conventional: Kellogg is looking for authentic people. They don’t necessarily need highflyers who have worked for the UN already or kickstarted charities or businesses. They appreciate traditional career paths from banking as much as long as applicants share genuine stories of themselves. 

Differentiate yourself based on your conventions: Kellogg is currently experiencing a bit of a shift back to more traditional career paths and the school is therefore “very much attuned to applicants with a linear story and exceptional quant skills”, as Fortuna Admissions shares its insider knowledge.

Recognise that culture really does matter – and know what that means: Kellogg places a lot of emphasis on team work and wants to attract people that have the maturity to be just as diplomatic after hours of case analysis as they were at the very beginning of a session. They also want people who can switch from leader to team member to facilitator with ease and without hurting each other’s egos.


MIT Sloan

With Harvard Business School in close proximity MIT Sloan is another highly respected US business school. The MBA students are very much integrated into the larger MIT community and accordingly Admissions look for students who are a good fit with the entire university: Sought after are candidates who can handle the rigorous, data-driven curriculum and show innovative and entrepreneurial thinking.

Fortuna Admissions recommends:

Preference for STEM Background and High Quant GMAT: Candidates with strong quantitative foundations and a background in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and economics have an edge over other applicants. 

Action-oriented profiles: MIT Sloan pioneered action-learning and wants applicants who can show how they successfully executed ideas. 

Making an impact: Applicants should be able to describe in detail how they plan to make a difference with their degree in today’s world. 


Stanford GSB

Stanford remains the most selective business school in the world accepting only 6.5 per cent of applicants. The Harvard rival focuses on entrepreneurship, innovation, general management, and social enterprise; thanks to its proximity to Silicon Valley the school also attracts a growing number of tech and engineering applicants.

Fortuna Admissions recommends:

Defining change and making an impact: Making sure to detail career goals and to be able to explain how this career might be having real impact, whether professionally or in society, plays a big role for a successful Stanford application. When you plan using technology to transform an industry for example, then do make sure that you can describe past and present activities and commitments in your life that already point towards this goal.

Stellar results in all areas: Similar to Harvard, Stanford only accepts a small class of around 400 students to achieve a close-knit, supportive community. This does afford excellent academic results, stellar GMAT scores as well as personal and professional accomplishments.

Dreaming big: According to Fortuna: “The school likes you to dream big while demonstrating how your goals and vision are viable given your track record of achievement and excellence.”

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