It should be welcome news for female applicants that business schools are intensely focused on increasing the number of women in their MBA classes. Most schools recognize the value of gender diversity in developing better business managers, and are actively seeking women applicants through scholarship opportunities and women-centered recruiting events.
The key for an applicant, therefore, is to put forward an application that tells her unique story and highlights the contributions she will make to the school community.
First, it’s important for an applicant to be confident in the achievements she has made in her professional and personal life. When I started writing my applications, I downplayed my experiences, believing that they were irrelevant to the business world and difficult to quantify.
What I have learned is that there are many ways to measure an experience – perhaps not always with numbers – and that any time I problem solved in my professional life was relevant experience.
It’s also vital for an applicant to convey her unique story and not conform into what she may perceive to be the “standard” MBA applicant. Business schools are in search of people from a wide range of backgrounds and with different perspectives, knowing diversity in experience, work years, and viewpoint enriches the quality of their classes.
As long as an applicant has a thorough understanding of herself and why she wants to go to business school, she is a perfectly acceptable MBA applicant.
An applicant should also take the time to identify her “real” weaknesses. Gaps in skillset or experience aren’t necessarily drawbacks to an application. They can easily be spun as areas that an applicant wants to improve on through the MBA. Business schools aren’t looking for 100% polished candidates – they’re looking for people who have a deep understanding of themselves and are eager to develop their skills further.
As someone with a non-traditional and non-quantitative business school background, my biggest challenge was proving that I was able to tackle the quantitative parts of the MBA. While a non-math or engineering background isn’t a deal breaker for business schools, I did have to show the schools that I was committed to working on my quantitative skills. I also had to highlight areas where I used analytical skills in my work.
For me, speaking with MBA alums from non-traditional backgrounds was helpful, as they gave me the right language to describe my professional experience in business terms.
Komaki Foster, Forté Fellow
MBA 2017, London Business School