One of the most common questions we’re asked when speaking with prospective MBA candidates is, “What should I focus on when completing my application?” The answer we want to give is, “Everything.” Admission decisions are made through a holistic review process and all information presented within an application is considered.
But different information is considered in different ways, and there are aspects of an MBA application that can be approached in different ways, and these decisions can have an impact on the eventual admission decision. Thus, when responding to the aforementioned question, our response focuses on one or more of the following areas:
Resume and Work History
Perhaps this section would more appropriately be headed, “Resume vs. Work History.” There is a separate work history section within the application—a simple form to be completed with company names, position titles, start and end dates, and salary information. But this section is merely a list, whereas a resume should be a document that shares a professional narrative.
A strong resume offers a look beyond your professional roles and tenure in them. It illuminates the impact made in each position, and frames your experience towards your career goals. Use your resume to demonstrate your career progression—even if you have not received a promotion, you can show advancement in your position by showing how your responsibilities developed over time and noting significant achievements in your position(s).
The resume should be concise. For 4-5 years of professional experience, one page should suffice. And it should be formatted professionally. How you present the information can be as important as the information itself. You want to make sure that it is an accessible document, that anyone should be able to read and understand your experience, regardless of professional or academic background.
The essays are an applicant’s most significant opportunity to make an impression in the MBA application. It is of course important that they are well-written, proofread, and address the prompts completely. It’s also important that they convey purpose and passion for graduate study, as well as your interest in the school to which you are applying.
Essays should be professional in tone, but that does not mean your personality should be absent in your writing. They are your opportunity, prior to being considered for an interview, to talk about who you are. We want you to share your career aspirations with us and why they are important to you while reflecting on your professional experiences and reasons you feel you should pursue an MBA. Through your essays, we are trying to gather a sense of you, so that we can determine a level of fit for our graduate student community.
Fit is an important concept for us, given our small class size and tight-knit community. And it should be an important concept for you too. We want to know why you feel Boston College is the right school for you, both in terms of our MBA program’s curriculum and the Carroll School’s community. There are hundreds of great MBA programs and they all have different traits and strengths. It’s important to convey what stood out to you and why you have decided to apply to ours.
Recommendations are easy to overlook when thinking about how to enhance an MBA application, probably because the actual candidate does not complete them. But asking the right individuals to complete your recommendations and taking time to ensure that those individuals are knowledgeable of your reasons for pursuing an MBA and your eventual career goals is paramount to submitting a strong application. When approaching your potential recommenders, ask them to sit down with you over lunch or coffee. Share your resume with them and talk them through your reasons for starting graduate study and what you hope will be the result of your investment.
For MBA candidates, current or prior supervisors are the preferred recommenders. We want to hear from individuals who are directly familiar with your work and can speak to your strengths, your ethic, and your potential. In some instances, such as if you are an entrepreneur or work in a family business, a recommendation from a supervisor may not be possible. In these cases, look to clients with whom you have worked closely.
Keep your recommenders abreast of your progress with your application. Let them know when you submit their information and when you submit your application so that they can complete your recommendation in a timely fashion. And when you receive good news, definitely share it with them so they can also celebrate your accomplishment.
If you’ve already graduated from college, then your undergraduate transcript is what it is, and it’s not changing. Similarly, the test score you earned on the GMAT or GRE isn’t going to change unless you decide to retake the exam. But there is a lot more to an MBA application than GPA and GMAT, and the effort and organization you devote to completing the application can have a significant impact on its eventual result.
The MBA admission cycle is an exercise in endurance, for you and us. We offer four rounds of admission. It’s important not to rush your application—you want to click submit when you feel your application is at its strongest. Retake the GMAT or GRE if you feel you must, but focus on the aforementioned areas that you can control. These are the true differentiators in our admission process. They tell us the most about you as a candidate for our MBA program, and getting to know you is our ultimate goal.