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“Quantifying” Your Humanities Degree for an MBA

October 15, 2018 :: Admissionado

Humanities and Your MBA

The world of business is often about numbers, and MBA admissions essays aren’t so different.

In your essays, you’re often pushed to quantify your claims when at all possible by using comparative statistics such as revenue growth before and after your innovation was implemented, percent decrease in costs, etc. Essays that utilize quantitative measurements stand out because they ring truer and less general than those that simply state that the writer “succeeded” in his/her task.

Stemming from this, keen quantitative skills are certainly sought-after by MBA adcoms because a significant proportion of the business school curriculum is dedicated to quantitative fields such as finance, consulting, and real estate. Perhaps the easiest way to tell if an applicant has the necessary quantitative skills to succeed in an MBA program is by looking at their academic record – if you studied applied mathematics in undergrad, the adcom is probably going to assume you’re well-versed in, well … applying mathematical principals. It gets harder to gauge how quant savvy an applicant is when that applicant majored in humanities in undergrad, but that doesn’t mean that all is lost! When spun right, having studied humanities can actually help you stand out amongst the social science and math crowd, and help diversify your class’s intellectual backgrounds.

Before talking about the spin, it’s worth mentioning that having majored in a humanities field can give you a serious leg up on your math-majoring competition throughout the application process. An MBA application is all about being able to craft your professional experiences and your worldviews into a well-structured, logical argument in order to persuade the adcom to admit you. Very likely, an English major can argue circles around a math major in a “goals essay.” So there’s that. But you’ll still need to demonstrate that you’ve got the necessary quant skills you need to survive the MBA coursework. Your academic record doesn’t show it, so how else can you convince them?

Testing – First and foremost, ace your GMAT. The GMAT’s whole purpose is to convey to the adcom your preparedness for business school, so if your math comprehension is strong enough to achieve a GMAT score in the upper few percentiles, you don’t need to worry about arguing your quantitative side in the essays.

Writing – If you majored in the humanities and your GMAT isn’t carrying the argument for you, then try to show through your essays that you think in quantitative ways. Aside from describing your accomplishments quantitatively (as everyone should!), you can also frame your goals in a quantitative lense. Instead of saying your long-term goal is to pioneer a start-up in the consumer space, talk about the actual quantitative metrics you will use to gauge your success in reaching your goals.

Learning – Worst case, if none of this seems applicable to you, you can also list quantitative skills as a “skill gap” that you hope to mend with your MBA. In that case, be sure to really champion how your humanities background allows you to approach problems differently than most quant experts, and how it has taught you all the necessary soft-skills required to succeed at an MBA, but that in order to reach your long-term goals, you should probably bone up on specific kinds of quantitative skills and that’s why you’re pursuing an MBA after all. Adcoms don’t expect you to be perfect, and wanting to become more quant-focused in your leadership and business ventures is a totally valid reason to pursue an MBA.


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