Your unique life experience can be a tremendous selling point when applying for an MBA. It is fair to say that maturity and self-awareness are requirements for admission to many of the top business schools. In this article, we identify four potential weaknesses in the Life Experience category that might not bode well for your MBA candidacy.
Admissions officers will be concerned by the presence of any of the following life experience “red flags”:
- Candidate is from an “over-represented” pool
- Lack of self-awareness and maturity
- Limited international experience and/or global perspective
- Lack of dimension — Too much of a “poet” or too much of a “suit”
Candidate is from an “over-represented” pool
The word “diversity” is sometimes mentioned in regards to MBA candidates – as in “Will this candidate add diversity to the class?” Admissions officers understand the value of a diverse class; so if you’re just like everyone else who applies, you will be seriously handicapped in the application process. The question is, “Are you just like everyone else?”
MBA applicants are rarely passed over because they are just like everyone else – rather they are passed over because they don’t explain to admissions officers exactly how they are different. One of the most important steps in building an outstanding application is to identify your “points of difference” — the unique things about you that admissions committees and your future classmates will find interesting, unusual, and, most importantly, of benefit to the MBA community.
Lack of self-awareness and maturity
This weakness goes hand-in-hand with the one we just discussed. A high-degree of self-awareness goes hand-in-hand with life experience so that you will have the ability to represent what sets you apart via your MBA application. A lack of self-awareness and maturity is impossible to conceal in the application process. On the other hand, if you have lived an “unexamined life” then applying for an MBA is an excellent opportunity to get to know yourself better.
Limited international experience and/or global perspective
Another weakness that falls into the Personal Qualities category is limited international experience and/or global perspective. Admission committees are looking for candidates who have a global perspective, who will be capable of one-day leading organizations that are global in nature. If you don’t have a passport and have never travelled outside of your home country except for a spring break trip to Cancun, then you need to take positive steps to increase your global perspective before you submit your application.
Lack of dimension – Too much of a “poet” or too much of a “suit”
The final weakness in this category is a lack of dimension. You could be “dinged” if you’re too much of a “poet” – or for the exact opposite reason – you’re too much of a “suit.”
Let’s talk about the poets first: If you were an English major who blogs about the romantic poets and has Lord Byron’s picture on your nightstand, then you probably have some work to do if you’ve decided that an MBA is the best next step on your path.
By the same token, if you are a strategy consultant who dreams in 2×2 matrices and is President of the Michael Porter Fan Club, then you too have your work cut out for you before you apply for a top program.
Business schools value well-rounded applicants; therefore, one-dimensional candidates will be at a disadvantage. The operative phrase in this ding area is “too much” – meaning that you need to take steps to add some dimension to your profile.
Overcoming “Dings” in Your Life Experience
Question: I discovered I have some “dings” in the area of Life Experience. What should I do now?
Answer: In our How to Apply for an MBA! eBook and MBA Online Courses, MBA Prep School will show you how to proactively address each potential ding and increase your chances of earning an acceptance letter. Adding dimension to your profile isn’t easy. There are no quick fixes to the dings we’ve discussed in the article above. Self-awareness is your secret weapon in the battle for a spot in the most competitive business schools. The better you understand who you are, what you’re motivated by, and what makes you unique, the easier it’s going to be to communicate those things in your application.
In the exercises contained in our How to Apply for an MBA!™ eBook and Online Courses, we provide you with a battery of self-discovery exercises that will help you to identify the things that make you unique. Self-discovery is an important first step in addressing the “dings” we have just discussed because you may discover areas of interest that if further invested in will become compelling “points of difference” that will set you apart from other MBA candidates.