How to improve profile for MBA admissions

How to Improve Profile for MBA

Improve profile for MBA - key steps to take

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.

Applying to B-school soon and not sure about what all you can do now? We can help. From GMAT preparation to profile evaluation, our expertise spans the entire MBA admissions cycle and has helped hundreds of applicants find success at top B-schools. To know what we can do contact us at: info [at] gyanone [dot] com 


  1. David S
      April 9, 2014 at 10:56 PM

    I have been following your articles for quite some time now! This one is truly insightful. Am planning to apply this fall and have just started with my bschool research. Will keep these pointers in mind for sure..good work.

  2. Girish Saxena
      April 11, 2014 at 10:07 AM

    Good article GyanOne..Do you also offer profile evaluation service? If yes, how do I enroll for the same?

  3. Dheeraj Arora
      June 4, 2014 at 5:16 AM

    Good points but I don’t understand what the obvious gaps and weaknesses in my profile could be. Have sent you request for mba profile evaluation.

    1.   June 4, 2014 at 2:50 PM


      We have provided some examples on what the gaps could be for various applicants. We have also received your MBA profile evaluation request and will respond to you on that shortly.

  4. Soumya
      June 12, 2014 at 1:40 PM

    These are very intriguing and thought provoking points. I was wondering about the NGO thing you have mentioned. I have worked for an NGO for only a few months, but my work there has benefited them a lot. I know this might seem like I joined the NGO only for putting it on my MBA application, but then the results should also matter. Will my NGO experience still be seen as not significant?

    1.   June 12, 2014 at 3:07 PM

      Hi Soumya,

      Thanks for airing your thoughts on this. You do raise a great point – if you have truly achieved good impact at the NGO where you have volunteered, please do include that on your application. It will get you some credit as well. Our point was largely that a very recent association with an NGO may not be taken to be a huge thing and may be seen largely in the context of a recent activity added to spruce up one’s profile for MBA Admissions. Hope that clarifies.

  5. Emilia Trent
      June 14, 2014 at 1:11 AM

    Very nice. I’m not an Indian applicant, but most of these lessons apply to me as well.

    1.   June 14, 2014 at 11:38 AM

      Emilia, thanks for your comment. This post is meant to be general and not specific to Indian applicants only. Glad you liked it!

  6.   June 17, 2014 at 3:10 PM

    Aditi, glad that you found this information useful. This has been put in place specially for Indian MBA candidates. Feel free to come back with questions and comments as you build up your profile for an MBA.

  7.   June 24, 2014 at 1:09 PM

    @Aninda: Definitely, also have a look at Young Leader programs (like ISB YLP and Harvard 2+2) and Early Entry programs for college seniors.
    Click here!

  8. Atul Kumar
      June 29, 2014 at 12:23 PM

    What is the right time to begin preparing essays for applying for Fall admissions? Is starting in August too late?

    1.   June 29, 2014 at 2:53 PM

      Atul, August is going to be too late for most schools. Most top US programs have deadlines in Sep-early Oct, and assuming that you are targeting at least 3-4, you should be getting started earlier – late June/early July should be a good period. Note that you have nothing to lose by getting started earlier, but everything to lose by being late.

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