We sat down with a recent client to get his take on the key elements in his admittance to a top MBA program.
Meet Lawrence. He’s currently attending The University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
When Lawrence decided to apply to Booth he was 32 years old, with a GPA of 3.2 (B.A.) and 3.5 (M.A.) and a 760 GMAT.
Now that he’s all settled into B-School and being awesome, we decided to sit down with our former client and pick his brain about his admittance to a top MBA program.
1) So Lawrence, why do you think YOU got into The University of Chicago Booth School of Business?
You’re always asked to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses when you kick off the application process, right? I had a below average GPA in undergrad, somewhat mitigated by my higher GPA in grad school, but I still wasn’t reaching rarefied air there. I knew that a killer GMAT score would put to bed any concerns over ability to handle the coursework of a top program. Which is why I studied like a mad man for three months before attempting it for the first time. Thankfully that paid off. I think it’s a big reason why I got into Booth, which is known for being academically rigorous.
Even more important than that, I think I got in on heart. I brought a lot of passion to what I do in the military and it made me really successful. And to this day I still get excited to talk about what I did for a living. I think that passion came through in my applications and in my interview, and I was able to demonstrate how I would bring that passion with me as I changed careers.
2) What was the most challenging part of the Booth application for you? And how did you overcome that challenge?
The hardest part about applying to B-School in general was finding reliable information on each school in my initial search. The schools are going to present the information they want you to see. And every writer and blogger on the internet has an opinion. It can be daunting trying to figure out which opinions are the reliable ones. If you don’t have a lot of contacts that have gone to business school, you need to network like an absolute champ, do a lot of research, then do some more, and you definitely need to consider hiring a coach to help you sort out your own thoughts about why a certain school makes sense (or doesn’t).
3) Tell us about your Booth interviews. What do you think you did right?
I’d like to make a couple key points here. First, stay narrowly focused. Everyone has heard the advice that you need to do research on your specific school. Ok, got it. But I thought it was important to pick a SMALL sample of classes, professors, extracurriculars, or parts of the program structure to really hammer home in each interview. Don’t meander across every possible topic in your interview just to prove that you have done your research. The other point that I think is important is to be conversational and ask questions of the interviewer. They are human beings. Often times, they are 2nd year students or recent alumni. And it’s awfully hard for them to picture you at THEIR school if you’re a total robot.
4) What advice do you have for future Booth applicants, or MBA applicants in general??
The two most important, and related, pieces of advice that I received during my admissions process were:
- You aren’t competing against the entire applicant pool, just those applicants that fall into your same demographic profile, e.g. military, or consultants, or engineers, or foreign vs. domestic, etc. It’s important to consider how your application will look in that light. That was big for me when I was making decisions about how to position myself.
- Shape your career arc such that you are a natural choice for business school. Not just impressive in everyday parlance, but why business school is the keystone (see what I did there? arc, keystone, … I’m a word nerd, I know). If you don’t know what a career arc is, don’t worry because I didn’t either. But it’s crucial. And here’s the best part: both of those pieces of advice came from Shawn at Admissionado. And my career arc was downright sexy when we got done with our revisions.
5) What was the most surprising thing about the application process at Booth for you?
I was most surprised by how stark the differences are in the personalities of the schools. Not just the names they assign to concentrations, or whether they do cohorts or not, but the intense and passionate way they shape their strategic personalities. Everything they do kind of revolves around this concept. It’s like branding, on steroids. The schools are trying to create an authentic experience for every student and really tie their alumni together through loyalty to the brand that we all bought into, and for better or worse, that’s part of what you are choosing when you are evaluating schools. This needs to be taken very, very seriously. It’s a huge mistake to just apply to all of the top 10 schools because they are all CRAZY different in the way they approach the business school education.
6) What was most HELPFUL for you in the process?
Practice makes perfect. Since the vast majority of us aren’t natural-born geniuses, you need to practice every step if you really want to go to your dream school. Applying to business school is a learnable process, but only if you put in exceptional effort. Study long and hard for the GMAT. Write several drafts of every essay. Practice your interviews. If it were easy, everyone would do it.
Here’s what our consultant had to say about Lawrence
Lawrence was incredibly organized, from our initial conversations all the way down to the moment he hit “submit.” He was on top of every single element of his application. He started with the respective deadlines and worked backwards towards essay completion dates, and he monitored progress accordingly. In other words, Alex brought his A game to the admissions process, just like he did to his professional career in the military. He was aware of all the tasks he needed to complete and the dates he needed to complete them by. His organizational skills played a big role in his success.
Learn more about The University of Chicago Booth School of Business class of 2018 in this post by Poets & Quants.