Your MBA Application: Areas for Improvement

Admissions, March 08, 2016 | 0 comments
Tags: advice, applying, admissions

Sometimes we just don’t have all of the credentials, the experience, or the skills we need to ensure we will get to where we want to be. There are times when these challenges can be overcome with hard work, dedicated focus on improving our prospects, and just a little creative thinking. The MBA application is no different. There are several situations that can leave a candidate feeling less than confident about gaining admission to their dream school.  First, to ease your fears: there are some fairly common stumbling blocks on the road to an MBA--and they can often be overcome, or at least minimized.

Here’s the key: rather than resolve yourself to months of worry and regret over things you can’t change, there are many ways to actively turn a less than ideal situation into a more positive one.  It’s also important to keep in mind that the application process really is holistic. We know that you’re way more than just one particular data point.

My undergraduate GPA is low.

First, keep in mind that the Admissions Committee reviews applicants with a very holistic approach.  While important, a low undergraduate GPA in itself won’t prevent admission.  Also note that while your GPA may be below a school’s average, it may be within its range. 

That being said, a low GPA is still a weakness in your application that should be addressed.  If possible, start by acknowledging this in the optional essay and providing an explanation (not an excuse!).  Finally, prove to us that you’re capable of handling an extremely rigorous, and quant heavy, curriculum.  You can do this by scoring well on the GMAT (or GRE), taking additional, supplemental classes beyond your undergraduate degree and submitting well-written essays.  It’s also important to clearly show us areas you do excel in; leadership, global experiences, community involvement, etc.

My GMAT score isn’t where I want it to be.

Very similar to having a low undergraduate GPA.  To reiterate, the admissions process is holistic and a school’s average GMAT is just that, an average.  One big difference here actually works in your favor; if you’re unhappy with your GMAT score, you can always study harder and retake it, without consequence.  After giving it your best effort, if you feel like there’s no amount of additional preparation that will improve your score, you’re still not out of the game.  Again, you’ll need to prove you can handle a rigorous quantitative curriculum; high undergraduate GPA, supplemental courses with good scores (we often suggest financial accounting, statistics and microeconomics), etc.  Finally, highlight areas of your background that shine.

I come from an unconventional professional background.

Great!  Tuck values unique experiences and individuals – many students decide to go to business school with the intention of switching careers, so you won’t be alone.  Show us through things like your essays and interview how that unconventional experience will actually bring a different and positive perspective to your classmates.  Also, while you may not have been crunching numbers, there’s a good chance you’ve been honing skills that will help you succeed in business; leadership traits, interpersonal skills, communication expertise, etc.  Be sure to tell us the reality of the situation, not just what you think we want to hear.  Is your previous work experience based on a passion of yours?  Wonderful!  Let us know.  Additionally, take some time to reflect on some important questions – for you and for us.  What are your long-term goals?  How will an MBA help you achieve them?  Why now?  Why Tuck?  Once you answered these, if your path still leads you to Tuck, your sincerity and passion will be evident.

I have very little global experience.

Like everything else, global experience is an important factor in your application, but certainly not the only one.  You may have more global experience than you think.  Have you worked or lived outside your home country?  Have you visited for an extended period of time?  Have you worked with global clients within your home country?  Do you know a second language?  Or, maybe this is the perfect time to jump on that international opportunity you’ve been postponing.

I’m not sure my current supervisor will be supportive of my decision to apply to b-school, so don’t think it will be a good idea to ask for a recommendation.

This is a fairly common dilemma for many applicants. While it’s certainly helpful to have the insight of a direct supervisor, not having one is not a deal breaker. Consider reaching out to the person you reported to prior to your current boss. Other options may be current clients, a colleague who led a team for a project you worked on or the director of your department or team. The key thing to remember is when selecting recommenders, focus on people who can really speak to your strengths (and weaknesses) in key areas such as leadership, teamwork, and aptitude. Steer clear of asking former professors, family members or your little league coach.

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