Michelle: Tips for the Non-Traditional Applicant

Blogger MichelleIt’s been a long time (and a lot of introspection and second guessing) since Michelle and I started our journey together. And now that her application is submitted (and looking GREAT), I thought it would be a good opportunity to share some insight into the approach we used for Michelle’s application, so that other “non-traditional” applicants can take something away and apply it in their Round 2 apps.

So… here we go:

I approach non-traditional apps pretty similarly to traditional ones. Business is business, and to get into BUSINESS school, you gotta demonstrate leadership and ambitious (yet realistic) goals that connect with what you’ve done, whether you’re a banker, a consultant or a product manager at an education technology company. It’s useful to think of the adcom as a VC firm reviewing an investment proposal – although you’re gonna be paying big bucks to attend their school, they’re investing their reputation and one of their precious seats in you, and wanna make sure they get a good ROI. So you’ve gotta show not only that you have big plans, but also that you’ve got the character and (already) many of the skills needed to pull them off.

In Michelle’s case, it wasn’t hard to show leadership as she’s been given substantial responsibility in her 3-year management leadership program in marketing, finance and product development. She’s also led a number of important initiatives outside of her normal work responsibilities (recruiting, CSR, etc.), and was involved in many extracurriculars in college. Nor was it difficult to connect the dots between all of these things, management consulting after b-school, and her goal to become the CEO of an ed-tech firm down the road.

The truth is, while Michelle might be considered “non-traditional” by bschool standards, she is actually an exceptional applicant, with a profile that some of my other clients only dream about! So the real focus of our time together was weaving it all together into a compelling story. And for many, that’s the trickiest part. You’ve got the goods, but how do you deliver ‘em? That’s where our focus was: hacking away at Michelle’s writing to make sure she was articulating her ideas clearly and answering the prompts precisely with lots of specifics…. all while staying within those word limits.

And, really, that’s the toughest part of this process… for everyone. But it’s also what a successful app requires.

So the best advice I can give to all you other non-traditional applicants – or any applicants, really – is to focus on getting those goals solidified (hint: they’ve got to connect to your past experiences, folks!), and then make sure you’re explaining them to the adcom in the cleanest and clearest way possible. The adcom needs to be convinced you’re going to get that MBA and then go out and be successful – so connect the dots for them, whether you’re a banker or a kiwi farmer, and SHOW that you’re the man/woman for the job.

You do that right, then sending you that admit letter will be the easiest decision they adcom will make.

Good luck, folks.

Mark Lellouch

Catch Michelle’s entire application journey (she’s been blogging about it from the start!) right here

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