Every business school applicant has an overwhelming number of things to think about. It is easy to get caught up spending endless hours writing, editing, and applying, and you often forget that working hard isn’t quite as effective as working smart. To help the new MLT fellows with that, I spent the day with them at the Darden School of Business to moderate a panel on how to get into business school. Like last year’s session (click here to see my post on last year’s session), this year’s session was filled with eager and energetic MLT fellows as well as with a few MLT armed to share information with the up and coming applicants.
At long last, the newest class of MLT’s MBA Prep Program was finally welcomed in person at the 2011 kick-off event. The event took place at Darden School of Business, and just like last year, I took a flight out to speak with a few members year’s class. Likewise, I also attended the event to moderate a session with the up and coming fellows on how to go about getting into business school.
So what does it actually take to get into a top tier business school? A number of themes emerged from the panel. Getting started on applications early. Putting the GMAT behind you. Having a community of people to work with. And the theme I continually emphasized, having a compelling story.
This means not just relying on your resume as a banker or consultant, or overestimating the importance of your high GMAT score and GPA, but it also means discussing your story about why you want to go to business school in a way that gets the audience’s attention. And it’s a story that not only communicates your business background and knowledge but also displays that you’ve got business intuition and that you’re a winner. That you believe deeply in the idea of going to business school. And that you’re up for the enormous task of succeeding, no matter what it takes to do that.
Fortunately, I had three great MLT alum who helped with the panel and helped field Q&A from the aggressive and energetic bunch. Questions about recommenders, industry choices, career changes, grades, and school applications all surfaced. Similarly, questions about difficulty of the MLT program, relationships with your MLT coaches, and networking with schools also came up. Questions came for nearly an hour after we spoke in the beginning.
One question I answered at the end of the session was in regards to school selection. The gentleman asked, “What if the schools I want to apply to aren’t aligned with the schools that MLT calls my ‘fit’ schools?” What a great question!! I decided to take that question because I felt strongly about the answer. I gave a two pronged response.
First, it’s likely going to be the case for a lot of you that the schools you want to apply to won’t be perfectly aligned with your “MLT fit schools.” After all, MLT wants to ensure you apply to fit schools to maximize your chances to get in; and rightly so. And on the other hand, you’re probably just gunning to get into all the “top” schools on your list. So understand the difference in MLT’s priorities versus what you think your priorities might be at the time.
Second, and more importantly, I told the audience, definitely apply to the schools you’re most passionate about. After all, part of the reason for MLT, and part of the American Dream is being able to reach for the stars and achieve the improbable. And for you, that means applying to the schools you’re most interested in. Especially since for many of you, this is your big chance to get into business school. So I say work hard, and apply not just to your fit schools but to the schools you’re most passionate about. Figure out a way to make it all work.
After this question, the panel fielded a few more questions from the audience, before we ended the session. And we spoke with a few of the fellows after the talk. In the end, it was a great session!
To summarize, if you get started early, work hard, and have an idea of where you want to go, you can make it into business school. Further, even if your profile isn’t quite up to par with the “average” admit, then just work harder, be a little more strategic, and do everything you can to get in. Because the best leaders know that determination is critical. And because the most successful applicants not only have a way of defying the odds, but they also understand the importance of telling a good story to ensure that they defy them.
Good luck MLT Class of 2012!
And thanks to Darden for hosting the wonderful seminar.