MBA - Application Process

From the “Outside” Looking In

Janelle Jacka Forté Fellow

Janelle Jacka
Forté Fellow

One of the fantastic aspects of business school is the diverse experience students bring to the table. However, coming into business from a “non-traditional” background can be, at times, intimidating. For those of you coming from outside the business world, I would like to offer a couple of tips from my experience and that of other “non-traditionalists.”

  1. Recognize your assets: When speaking to candidates who have significant business experience, it is easy to feel that what you have to offer doesn’t compare. I have certainly struggled with this on numerous occasions and found myself apologizing for my perceived lack of experience. However, when applying to business school it is important to remind yourself that strong experience can take many different forms. It is your job to discern the transferrable skills obtained in your prior work experience and to be able to articulate how these skills will allow you to be a contributor, regardless of the situation. Look through jobs postings and identify skills employers are looking for. You will discover that although some ask for specific technical skills, many companies want people who can motivate others and communicate in effective ways. Be prepared to showcase your skills to potential business schools and explain your plans to improve on your weaknesses.
  2. Learn from other “outsiders”: While researching b-schools, try to talk to others who also come from non-traditional backgrounds. With a background in education, explaining why b-school made sense for my future career aspirations created some challenges.  I had to paint a very clear picture of how my prior career lead me to b-school and what I envisioned myself doing post-MBA. I sought out other former-teachers who transitioned to business, I learned from their experiences. Hearing their stories and relating it to my own, helped me formulation my own story. Creating your story in a clear, concise way can be a difficult part of the application process. However, if you are able to connect the dots for admission offices, your story can be the most powerful part of your application.

Look for more advice in future blog posts! Feel free to reach out to me with any questions you have during your application process at

Janelle Jacka, Class of 2015
Forté Fellow & MBA Candidate
The University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business

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