Business schools like leaders. High GMAT scores are great, pedigree experience at well known-name firms will get you attention, but business schools…especially if you’re looking at the famed ‘Top Ten’ and targeting places like HBS, Wharton, Kellogg or Chicago Booth for your MBA or EMBA degree, want to see that you also bring something actively interesting to the table.
What do I mean by “actively interesting?” Something that demonstrates you are ambitious, innovative and using every ounce of your time to creatively push your career forward.
The best way to do this? In my opinion, it’s to start your own side business, and/or not-for-profit organization.
It doesn’t matter how big it is, it doesn’t matter how successful. What matters is that you ACTIVELY decided to take a step forward and tried something perhaps outside your comfort zone. Even while working a full-time job.
- I worked with an applicant who started a humanitarian organization raising just a mere $1,000 USD initially to buy school supplies for girls in India. This non-profit is now bringing in over $250k annually, and its founder, who really didn’t have much truly outstanding on her resume to begin with that would get her noticed, got into HBS, Stanford, and MIT. She thought of an idea, built a website, enacted a marketing plan using nothing but social media, and MADE A DIFFERENCE in other people’s lives and her own. All while working a “regular” job. This shows leadership, and is exactly what the top MBA programs want to see.
This strategy of building your own side project or business, and just putting it out there, also works particular well for those MBA business school applicants who might be straddling the fence in terms of not quite breaking a 720 on the GMAT, or not quite having “known name” firms on your resume, or not having enough years of what the MBA committee would deem “significant” industry experience…in other words, your MBA application could use a little boost to the next level.
Time and time again, I’ve had clients who decided to push forward by starting something new — however small it might be! It doesn’t need to be this great big thing. Really. They put it on the web, took the necessary steps to market their new idea, maybe wrote a business plan, and regardless of profitability…did you read that? If not, read it again to make sure you really get it… regardless of profitability, they demonstrated to admissions that they were willing to stretch, to take a risk with their time outside of work, to be ambitions, to try out their ideas even if they failed, because even failing could lead to the next great idea, and no experience in terms of MBA admissions is ever really wasted.
So, build a website, no matter how simple. Think of an idea. Profit or non-profit. Create a landing page, or create something larger. Start something, anything, work on it, improve it as you go along, and just get it out there. This will give you something else to talk about in terms of your business experience in your essays and in your MBA admissions interview. It will add color and interest to your entire MBA or EMBA application. It will make you more original, and original leaders are who the top schools want.
So, no matter if you choose to go the humanitarian route with a non-profit, or if your idea is a money making business that could be the next big thing, adding something “extra” and on-the-side to your MBA & EMBA business school application can make all the difference between an MBA admissions committee seeing you as just an average so-so applicant who doesn’t really stand out from the pack, to someone who has initiative, takes charge of their own future by actively DOING, and wants to make things happen.
So, want to get in to HBS, Wharton, Booth, Kellogg, or MIT Sloan this year? THIS is the type applicant you need to be.
[I’m a former Harvard admissions interviewer and a Harvard grad, and currently run the MBA & EMBA admissions consulting firm MBA IVY. My firm specializes in helping students get in to the Top Ten business schools. Contact us today at www.MBAIvy.com and get into the school of your dreams!]