How to Get into a Top Business School: Admitted Students Share 10 Top Tips
Be More Reflective and Authentic
Another common theme we heard was the importance of self-reflection and authenticity. Georgetown McDonough student Clark Pastrick said he would have re-written his essay if he had it to do over again. “I made the mistake of writing my essay about what I thought the school would want to hear instead of what I wanted to write.” Fortunately, things still worked out in his favor.
Haas student Kathryn Balestreri also underscored how critical it is to be authentic. “Don’t spend so much time on thinking through how to fit a certain mold to get an acceptance,” she recommended. “Be your authentic self; in your essays, speak about what’s truly most important to you. Spend the time soul-searching,” she continued. “If you take this approach, you will have a better sense for whether or not there’s a ‘fit’ between you and the school culture. When you get an acceptance, it’s going to feel so good to know that they want the real, raw ‘you.’”
Claire Gaut was really set on Cornell Johnson but also applied to several schools she realizes she didn’t really want to go. “My heart wasn’t in the process for the other schools, and it showed in my applications,” she said. “I would tell candidates to be selective in the schools you apply to. Once you have a shortlist of where you want to attend, go for it,” she advised. “You only get to go to b-school once, and it is not worth wasting your time applying somewhere you do not want to attend. My experience at Johnson has been absolutely fantastic, and I cannot imagine myself anywhere else.”
Darden student Sam Qiu sang a similar tune. “I would be more mindful of the schools I was applying to,” he said. “The schools are looking to see if you are a fit with their culture, and luckily I found a school that was aligned with my values.”
Both Ross student Ricky Wozniak and Tuck student Oinatz Uribe wish they’d spent more time on self-reflection before writing their essays. “It took me a few drafts before I opened myself up to write essays that reflected what makes me unique,” said Wozniak. “Start with deep self-reflection on your life and what excites you about your future—there’s a good chance that will help admissions teams get excited about your future, too.” Uribe, too, thinks he started writing his essays without thinking enough about his past experiences.
And Darden student Jake Seaman had the following advice: “If I was redoing the process, I would start out by making a list of why I was going to business school and how to determine which schools were best aligned with those reasons.” Too many people, he offered, make their lists based on rankings and the stats of the incoming class. “When you do this, you could end up pretty far into the process before you realize that you are applying to some schools you have no interest in going to,” he said. “I think it is better to spend the time up front knowing what you are looking for.”
Visit More Schools If You Can
Another regret many students we heard from expressed was not visiting more schools. Johnson student Nadia Zaman would have visited more schools in person even before interviewing. “It is a good way to determine if you can see yourself living there,” she said.
Greece native Alexander Beltes, now a student at MIT Sloan School of Management, didn’t have an opportunity to visit all the schools he was applying to. “I felt at a disadvantage in terms of gathering useful information to make my decision for where to apply,” he said. “I had to rely on reaching out to students and connections and setting up Skype calls to learn more about the MBA experience. I would definitely recommend visiting campuses if you have the opportunity to do so.”
Stern student Calan Underwood also would have visited more business schools if he had it to do over again—including those he was just considering applying to. “This would have made it easier to narrow down my list of programs to apply to,” he said. “I only visited Stern shortly before applying, and it was incredibly helpful. I highly recommend making the effort to visit business schools you’re interested in before submitting your applications, permitting you have the vacation time and resources to do so.”
Finally, Johnson student Vinithra Raveendran wishes she could have attended Destination Johnson, that school’s admitted students’ weekend. “I wouldn’t necessarily do this again if I had the opportunity for a do-over, because I was living in Singapore and flying across the globe was not a feasible option for me,” she said, adding that international applicants shouldn’t worry if they can’t make the trip. “However, my peers who did attend all gave stellar reviews of their experience. If I lived closer or otherwise had the opportunity to visit, I would absolutely take it! The in-person experience would be invaluable in helping you make the decision on whether you want to attend.”
Meet Current Students, Alumni, and Professors
“I would have reached out much earlier to the current students or alumni of my top business schools,” said Tuck student Christopher Ramos. “I was happy to have gotten all the perspectives that I did, but I wish I was more deliberate in that process.”
Mason Hanson, now a student at Georgetown McDonough, said he would reach out to the program office and current club presidents to get a better understanding of which parts of the MBA community he wanted to be a part of when he got to campus. “The number of clubs and student organizations can be overwhelming, so come into opening term with a plan,” he advised.
Booth student Praneeta Pujari would also allocate more time to talk to current students and alumni as part of school research. “Online research and going through blogs/websites helps, but I found the first-hand anecdotes and experiences shared by students/alumni to be the most insightful during the process,” she said. “Don’t discount that step.”
Georgetown McDonough student Anjelique Parnell also said she would go to more events and meet more current students. “In conjunction with that, I wish I started doing all of this at least six months to a year before applying to school,” she said. It gets overwhelming to cram in events and meetings with people only a couple months before applying and the short time after.”
Current Sloanie Matt Caple would have attended Sloan Club events during the process. ”There is a great deal of exciting learning that takes place outside the classroom in business school,” he said. “Because the Sloan community is so collegial and welcoming, I would have loved to use this as an additional avenue to explore the community.”
And Haas student Joseph Akoni suggested connecting with more than just students during campus visits. “I would definitely try and spend some more time with the professors, given that they also have a huge impact on your business school experience”
Pace Yourself and Make Time for Self-Care
“I would be more patient,” said Kellogg student Charlotte Turovsky. “MBA applications are a marathon, not a sprint, and endurance is important! Though the process was long and felt arduous at times, I learned a lot about myself and the type of environments where I thrive!”
Ross student Marquisha “Kris” Franks said she would take better care of herself during the process. “Because I was so busy, it was harder to keep a regular exercise routine and a balanced diet,” she said. “If I had made personal fitness a bigger priority, I would have been a lot better at stress management.”
Sternie Hamilton Jordan agreed. “If you have something in your life that helps you relax or puts your mind at ease, do it,” he said. “For me it was exercising, and I should have done more of it. I stressed myself out a few times throughout the process. It’s a lot of work, but looking back, I had the time to take a couple of breaks here and there.”