There is no “one thing” that’s going to get you in to bschool. But there are many things that matter, in many different ways. We cover the common myths and misunderstandings here quite a bit and today’s post is yet another attempt to educate the next crop of eager Brave Supplicants who are pondering the task of applying to business school and are spending mental cycles spinning about whether they’ve got what it takes.
We’ve titled this post about what matters in admissions, but we’re initially focusing on what matters to employers — because if you think about it, the MBA admissions folks are sourcing supply for their pipeline, where they’re providing a product to the market. Yes, that’s a completely reductionist view of things and makes it very transactional (which we typically balk at) but in its essence, the MBA is a production line where early career professionals with some starting experiences are groomed and molded and injected with specific new skills and knowledge, and made ready to take on a new level in the cogs of the machine. It’s an input-output system. Which means that those responsible for sourcing the inputs are going to care what their buyers on the other end of the process value — not exclusively, but yeah it matters way more for bschools than it does for, say, a Master of Fine Arts admissions team where applicants want to become poets and painters and there is little to no focus on landing a specific job with a specific salary when you come out. An MFA is about building skills and experience or, in many cases, offering a respite from the world where an artist can hone her practice (at least in theory). There are rarely questions of “ROI” in an MBA program. You get an MFA because you love to create and you want to be around other creatives who value the same things that you do. Again, we’re being reductionist, but you get the point.
So given this framework, what do MBA admissions folks care about?
This first chart is from the employers’ perspective and it’s focused on hiring post-college, not post-MBA, however we’re pretty convinced that the data would look largely the same if it were a poll of MBA recruiters too:
Figure 2: Influence of Attributes
|Has completed an internship
with your organization
|Has internship experience
in your industry
|Has held a leadership position||3.7||3.9||3.9|
|Has general work experience||3.7||N/A||N/A|
|Has no work experience||3.4||N/A||N/A|
|High GPA (3.0 or above)||3.4||3.6||3.5|
|Has been involved in extracurricular activities (clubs, sports, student government, etc.)||3.3||3.6||3.6|
|Has done volunteer work||2.7||2.6||2.8|
|Is fluent in a foreign language||2.2||2.1||2.2|
|Has studied abroad||2.2||2.0||2.0|
Source: Job Outlook 2018, National Association of Colleges and Employers. 5-point scale where 1=No influence at all; 2=Not much influence; 3=Somewhat of an influence; 4=Very much influence; 5=Extreme influence. (*Note: For the current survey, four attributes related to work experience were added to the original list provided to employers that was used in the past.)
You will notice that School attended is pretty far down the list — and much more significant is extracurricular activities On-campus extracurriculars like student government weight particularly high (3.3), especially compared to the more basic bucket of volunteering (2.7).
Again, these are from a survey of recruiters hiring on college campuses, so this isn’t apples to apples at all. Pre-MBA employment is going to factor in as very very significant variable for all of you, and there are many dimensions to that (industry, role, international experiences, etc etc etc). But that extracurriculars line item is significant because on this chart, it’s the only element that parallels realworld professional experience before the college student has had much of that. The internships at the top are obviously key, and GPA definitely matters too — but the employers want to see WHAT YOU HAVE DONE.
And that remains absolutely as true in MBA admissions as well.
What if you didn’t do much on campus during college? Does that mean you’re at a major disadvantage in the MBA process?
Well, we’ll answer that with a “yes and no.” No, it’s not a major DISadvantage, though someone who did a lot in terms of leadership and community involvement with their peers and the school clubs and whatnot will be at more of an advantage by comparison.
What’s more meaningful as a takeaway is to examine this in light of WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY.
This is where that advice is coming from. (This, in the reductionist view of MBA admissions and what can you do to increase your chances, coupled with the very basic fact that the more involved you are with life, the happier you are likely to be. But that’s a topic for another day or perhaps another blahg entirely.)
Does it matter if you haven’t worked for a blue chip company or went to a no-name school?
Again, yes and no.
Yes because EVERYTHING matters, and these things all add up to the totality of your profile.
Yes because if you went to a lesser-known state school and got mediocre grades and were uninvolved on campus, then this paints a picture of your level of motivation and the degree to which you were pushing yourself and fighting to do something with your life. It’s not that only losers and weaklings have such a profile; it’s that those who are go-getters typically do not. So it’s setting up perceptions of who you are based on what you have striven for.
Are these things impossible to overcome? No, not at all.
This is where your strategy comes into play.
Do you want to make the most of your profile?
Then go out and DO SOMETHING today.
If you have been a bit of a slacker in the past, and now have decided you want to change that, then CHANGE IT.
Go out and conquer the world.
Then, if you get into bschool or you don’t, it won’t matter.
You’ll have the world in the palm of your hand.
You may also be interested in:
- Reapplicant advice: “What can I do to increase my chances?”
- “I need to go to a big-brand school because I don’t have any experience.”
- How to break out of the pack
- EssaySnark’s Comprehensive Profile Review — an in-depth and personalized assessment of the details of your profile as they stand today