How to Improve Profile for MBA
Applying for MBA admissions soon? Deadlines that are still six months (or even more than an year) away may lull you into a fall sense of security of being well-prepared or having ‘enough time’ to work on those applications when they are due. If you are aiming for top schools, though (from Wharton, Stanford, MIT, and Tuck to INSEAD, LBS, ISB, or HKUST), you need to start looking at your profile now. Applying to top programs is not just about filling in applications. It is also about addressing the gaps in your profile, so you can present the best ‘you’ to the admissions committees. This article aims to give you some advice on how to improve your profile for MBA admissions.
By the time the deadlines are at striking distance, and you begin working on your applications, there will be no time for you to address these gaps. At that stage, the best you could do would be to prepare to explain the gaps well. Therefore, act now. Here are a few things you can do NOW to make yourself a much stronger MBA applicant this year:
– Research your schools well: It is not enough to apply to ‘good’ schools that fall within the range of your GPA and GMAT score. The name of the school you ultimately end up going to will stay on your resume forever, and the opportunities you get out of B-school will significantly influence your career trajectory. Therefore attend those information sessions, talk to alumni, and get to know your target schools really well. If possible, schedule a visit. It is worth emphasizing here that the rankings should not be your only source of information or school selection. School selection is an exercise that takes into account fit, aspirations, and probability of getting in. To get started, you can read our brief guide to school selection and look at a list of the top MBA programs in the world at this link.
– Plan to take (and retake, if necessary) the GMAT: GMAT scores matter in the application process. They are NOT the ONLY thing that matters, but they can often play a big role in getting that initial shortlist. For example, if you are aiming at the top schools (Stanford, Harvard, MIT, Columbia, Tuck et al), you do yourself no favor by applying with a sub-700 score. When planning to take the GMAT, schedule also enough time for a retake. The worst thing that people can sometimes do is get a below par score the first time round, not have enough time for a retake, and then change the list of schools they will apply to just because of this.
– Build solid buy-in with your recommenders: We have written about this issue before (read this post especially if you are an Indian IT applicant, but it is useful for others too), but we can never really overemphasize it. Think about it. Your recommenders will write about you, and their opinions will matter. Big time. It is in your interest to take out time and tell them of your decision, make them aware of your crowning glories at work, and get their backing behind you. This is much better than asking them to pitch in at a later time and asking them to do a quick job because the deadlines are close. Strong recommendations make for strong applications. Period.
– Take up leadership roles, either at work or as a volunteer: If you can take up that difficult project or assignment which you know will get you professional kudos, go for it. If you can help lead a large volunteer event or contribute to it, do it. Will this definitely help towards your applications? The answer is a ‘maybe’ – you cannot expect schools to really give you extended credit for volunteering over only the last six months as they would to people who have done it for years. Similarly, if you have spent the last five years at work sitting in a corner and churning away code, a leadership contribution that is only 3-4 months old is unlikely to be the crowning glory of your application. Still, it matters, and you should do it because it will give you more talking points in your essays, and it is, at the end of the day, better than not doing it.
– Address obvious gaps or weakness areas in your profile: This point can often be misunderstood. There are things in your application that you can do nothing about now, and other things that you can make up for. This latter category is the one that we refer to. If you have trouble communicating, joining Toastmasters will help. If your quantitative/mathematical abilities are in doubt, taking up supplementary courses (even online) that can help show an improvement will help.
– For Indian applicants: get your documents in place: This one should really be obvious, but the number of applicants who forget to do this is not funny. Get your documents in place – this means your graduation certificates, your salary slips and experience letters, and proofs of your proudest achievements. Not all schools will ask for these (in fact, most won’t ask for things beyond your educational certifications), but you never know which ones might, and finding out that you haven’t got a document with you at the last moment is much worse than having some documents lying around that you won’t ultimately need.