Getting into an MBA program is difficult, no matter how prestigious the school. MBA programs are highly competitive, and interested applicants come with strong standardized test scores, high grades, and resumes featuring impressive experience.
But academics and work history aren’t always enough to get an applicant accepted.That’s because business schools want MBA students who will thrive in the business world – who are ready to make a splash.
So, while grades, test scores, and experience are all important, they aren’t the only qualities admission committees look for. When you apply, your application is also considered based on “soft skills,” or skills and traits that aren’t easily quantified. And these soft skills can be even more important than the other information on your university application.
Make sure to exhibit the following six qualities on your MBA application.
1. Strong Collaboration Skills
You might think business school will involve a lot of individual work. But a huge part of any MBA program is collaboration: joint projects, collaborative research, and real-life work experience all happen while you learn.
That’s why MBA admissions committees seek out applicants who are team players. Universities and business schools want students who can collaborate and communicate with others. With so many group projects happening in and out of the classroom, MBA students need to be willing to help others, share a workload, and communicate to get jobs done.
2. A Sense of Initiative
In order to succeed in business, you have to be willing to take risks. And there’s no better candidate for business school than someone who’s already shown a willingness to build projects from the ground up and pursue their interests.
MBA programs seek students who have initiative. If you’re someone who has big dreams and can do the work to get them accomplished, you’re a perfect fit. Or, if you love putting your big ideas into action, enjoy entrepreneurship, or like leading the way, you’re exactly what universities are looking for.
Initiative is important to MBA program admissions committees because they want graduates who can become leaders in the business world. And without initiative, it’ll be tough for individuals to get their ideas off the ground or make an impact.
3. Accomplishments Outside the Classroom
What you accomplished as an undergraduate student matters when you’re applying to MBA programs. Universities will look at your grades – but they’ll also take a look at your extracurricular activities.
Business schools seek students who have solid resumes with a wealth of experience and accomplishments. Applicants who have led teams in various settings, like sports teams, volunteer work, and extracurricular organizations, have skills that can translate to the business world. And if you’ve had any internships or jobs, make sure to note what you accomplished in those professional roles.
If you’ve been out of the classroom for a few years and are returning to school for your MBA, you’ll also want to make sure you have plenty of accomplishments on your application. While well-respected employers look good, your accomplishments and responsibilities in each position are the most important piece. Make sure admissions committees can see what you’ve done and how you’ve made an impact while working.
4. Proven Leadership
If there’s a quality that defines businessmen and women above all others, it’s leadership. So it should come as no surprise that MBA programs want applicants who are proven leaders – and who express clear leadership on their applications.
Ultimately, business schools are seeking future graduates who will contribute to the world of business. And what it takes to do this is a strong sense of leadership. Admissions committees will look for instances of leadership in your work experience, social activities, volunteer work, and in academics.
You should look to emphasize your ability to lead as much as possible. Have you led teams of volunteers at charity events? Have you organized group projects in your undergraduate coursework? Do you lead meetings or take the role of project lead in the office? Use examples like these on your application.
5. Problem-Solving Skills
When in the workforce, you’re going to face plenty of problems. And if you become an executive, entrepreneur, or other business leader, you’re going to have to solve those problems. A significant part of any MBA program is learning how to develop critical problem-solving skills, which is why admissions committees look for applicants who are already doing exactly that.
Demonstrating your problem-solving skills will help you stand out when applying to MBA programs. According to Harvard Business School alumni, creative problem-solving in innovative ways can help, especially if you’re competing for a spot at a top school. Your application needs to show that you can solve problems. Mention challenges you’ve faced in your essay, or discuss your most recent problem-solving experience in an interview.
You should also emphasize your innovative thinking. Business schools seek students who think outside the box, as many business problems require unique approaches. Try to show what you would do when faced with problems, or how you would develop and execute a plan to avoid a problem.
6. Demonstrated Self Awareness
In addition to all of the positive qualities mentioned above, you’ll want to be humble on your MBA program applications. Universities look for a sense of self awareness in applicants, which strikes an important balance between bragging about accomplishments and recognizing shortcomings.
Every MBA applicant has weaknesses. Instead of simply trying to cover up those weaknesses, it’s a smart idea to demonstrate self awareness by finding a way to compensate for what you lack. Don’t try to hide any blemishes or weak areas – let them speak for themselves, and instead try to highlight what you’ve learned from them.
For example, if you struggled academically and have a low GPA, you can note the ways you’d like to improve in business school in your essays. If you don’t have much work experience, you can explain the experience you do have while acknowledging that you still have a lot to learn. By balancing self awareness with your great achievements, you’ll be a level-headed candidate who’s ready to grow.
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