It’s a complicated question; what sets you apart from the other thousands of people coming from your industry? Finding your standout factor starts with deep reflection in every area of your life: personal, professional, extracurricular/ volunteer. Your standout factor could even be a pattern in your personality or in the way that you approach the world.

Don’t get caught up in the trap of telling the admissions committee what you think they want to hear; they want to hear the truth about your passions and past experiences. Whichever standout factor you select, make sure you tie it back to your post-MBA goals and explain how you’re planning to use the MBA education to build upon this amazing thing about you.

A business school looks at your complete MBA profile when considering you for admission. But what your MBA ‘profile’ actually means is your life till now! A top international business school needs every bit of relevant information from you to make an informed choice.

From a business school’s perspective, information on who you are, what you want to be, and how ‘their’ business school will help you achieve your goal is interesting information for them. Here are the best practices of making your MBA profile appealing to the MBA admissions committee of your target business school!

Step 1 – Define your career goals

Before even deciding on the business schools you want to target, you have to ponder upon your career goals. This step is the most important one because it is here that you decide what role will a business school play in you achieving your career goals.

You can’t say if a school is right for you unless you know who you are. Therefore, the first thing you do is assess your career goals and how a business school plays a role in achieving them and you’ll thank yourself while writing your application essays. A good MBA essay usually rests on the story you describe, and it should always highlight what you have accomplished, what you are working on accomplishing currently, and what you plan on accomplishing in the future.

Admission officers often are on the lookout to determine levels of determination, vision, decision-making, independence, ambition, innovativeness, confidence, enthusiasm, etc. Short-term and long-term professional goals indicate these and more. Most importantly, you should be able to create a connection between your goals and how an MBA will fast-track your progress.

Step 2 – Identify prospective business schools

Once you decide on your career goals the next step is to do some research on which business schools will help you the most in getting to your goals. Choice is everything when it comes to the MBA; not all programs are created equal. First and foremost, consider which schools offer the electives, study pattern and external opportunities that suit you.

If you want a career in consulting, then Booth, Kellogg, Fuqua, MIT, Michigan Ross, LBS will be the good ones. Many candidates aspire to a career in Private Equity; Wharton, HBS, Stanford, Columbia are the best bet for it.

Focus on what you want, but make sure you don’t end up with a list of unrealistic dream schools. Include an ambitious option by all means, but balance that out by choosing other schools with different levels of competition. You’re free to apply to as many schools as you want, but it’s wise to focus on four or five to avoid spreading yourself too thin.

Step 3 – Research

Once you have identified these business schools, a quick LinkedIn search will reveal the current and passed out students of these business schools. Make sure you have compiled a list of relevant and intelligent questions. Just remember that these are busy people. You might not get a response right away. Be patient and continue your research. Once someone responds ask them about their experiences, their MBA profile before and at the time of application.

The purpose of this research is not only to get more useful information but also seeing a mirror. This exercise will objectively tell you where you are right now. It will highlight the weak areas in your profile but it will also help you get information on how to improve the gaps in your MBA profile. Now that you have some pointers from the enlightened ones, it’s time to actually start working on your MBA profile.

Step 4 – Identify the gaps in your MBA profile

The whole purpose of your research exercise was to find out the gaps in your profile. By now, you should know how to enhance your MBA profile. One way to do it would be to look at the profiles of the selected candidates and aspire to become better than them.
For example if you are in a junior position in your company now how will you showcase your leadership skills? Well, you should understand that leadership means having the ability to influence others. You may be a junior member of the team but if your superiors have started listening to and implementing your recommendations then that is a leadership trait. One way of building leadership skills is by participating in difficult projects.

Step 5 – Take certification courses aligned with your career goals

If you are working as an engineer right now and aspire to go into finance, you have to show that you have already taken steps towards this aspiration. To show that you are serious about your goal you can take certification courses. Coursera is one good place to acquire certifications. Take a look at some of the courses:

Business Foundations Specialization by Wharton

Financial markets by Yale

Business and Financial Modeling by Wharton

Introduction to Marketing by Wharton

Digital Marketing by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

One thing to keep in mind is that you choose courses from top schools. Their courses carry more credibility. You can really benefit from these courses in terms of knowledge and ammunition for your essays and interviews.

Step 6 – Take up volunteer work

Don’t just take up volunteer work for the sake of your MBA application. The admissions committee will see right through it, especially if you just started before applying. What you have to show through your volunteer experience is the impact you made in the organization. Therefore, go the extra mile while volunteering. This volunteer experience will help you stand out among your applicant pool and show competencies that might be missing from other areas of your application.

Conclusion

Deciding to embark on an MBA program is a big step, both for your career and your life. The professional benefits will propel you to new heights in your job, while the social and networking experiences will leave you a broader-minded, more worldly individual.
With that in mind, it’s worth paying close attention to the application process. You want to get into the best, most appropriate school for your needs in order to maximize the benefits, and a strong application is key to achieving this!

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