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MBA Admissions Tip: Know Your Audience

mba application audience

As anyone who’s going through the process knows, applying to business school is an incredibly demanding process. In addition to taking the GMAT/GRE, assembling academic transcripts and providing recommendation letters, candidates are required to draft multiple essays, job descriptions, lists of activities and more.

With the obvious incentive to save time wherever possible, it’s understandable that many applicants simply cut and paste content from an existing résumé and write about their work in the manner that comes most naturally. However, in doing so, countless candidates each year assemble their materials without ever asking a fundamental question:

Who will read my MBA application?

While the answer to this question may vary from school to school, one thing is certain: It is unlikely that the person reading your MBA application will have an intimate level of familiarity with your specific industry or job function. In fact, admissions readers at some schools have spent their careers in higher education and have never worked in the for-profit realm.

Why does this matter?

The bottom line here is that if you use industry-specific jargon throughout your application – or even just assume that the reader has prior knowledge of your field – you’re likely to lose them.

Even if the admissions reader is familiar with your field, they’ll be using your application materials to gauge how well you’ll be able to explain your work and background to classmates who aren’t. Drawing on their past experience in class discussions is a key way that students contribute to each other’s learning during an MBA program. But if you aren’t able to share your insights in a way that your peers from other professional backgrounds can readily understand, this affects the amount of value you’re able to add.

Writing for All Audiences

As you’re writing about your experiences throughout your application, imagine that you’re explaining your work to a friend who works in a different field. While this is easier said than done, it underlines the importance of sharing your materials with an unbiased adviser (ideally not a work colleague or family member) to make sure that you aren’t off-base with some of your assumptions.

It’s also important to keep the big picture in mind. Many applicants get so focused on the details of their own work and role that they forger to provide enough background and context for an outsider to understand how their efforts fit into the success of their larger department or organization as a whole. To ensure that a reader fully appreciates your impact, you need to set the scene.

Clear Admit Resources

For some extra resources on how to perfect your application, read our Essay Topic Analyses for each school and interviews with admissions committee members. Visit the Clear Admit shop for our Strategy Guides and Interview Guides, which provide added insight into all aspects of the admissions process.

MBA Admissions Academy

Episode 5: Understanding Your Admissions Reader

Episode 13: Essays II: Things to Avoid