One major misconception that many people have is that you must come from a consulting or financial background in order to be qualified for business school. Having a “non-traditional” background does not mean you are less qualified. In fact, your unique background can give you an advantage during the application process.
Business schools are looking for evidence of your potential. This could be expressed in many forms from personal accomplishments, business achievements to community commitments.
Whether you come from a nonprofit, fashion, tech or other background, here is our advice to help you use your non-traditional experience to leverage your business school application:
Use Your Story To Add Value
The most common way to add value to your application is through your essays. The essays are a great place for you to elaborate on areas you demonstrated leadership, problem-solved, or excelled, and how those experiences influenced your professional endeavors.
As you navigate other areas of the business school application, treat each section as a window of opportunity into your unique experience. Take advantage of all the text boxes to expand on your roles, skills and accomplishments. Keep your responses impactful and to the point. Don’t leave out any important information. For example, you can use the “additional information” box at the end of the application to expand upon gaps or provide further explanation to a matter previously discussed.
The most prominent business schools function in a fast-paced, often challenging environment. Your second task is to show admissions officers that although you have non-traditional experience, you are prepared and have the ability to be an active participant in a variety of contexts. You should use your academic performance and test results from GMAT or GRE to prove your aptitude to understand analytical and quantitative concepts.
If you are not a strong test taker, consider strengthening your profile by taking other courses or certifications such as the CFA exam, extended coursework on Statistics, or others.
Show Enthusiasm By Answering: “Why Business School?”
Business schools are looking for individuals who want to be apart of the discussion and are enthusiastic about their program. Simply just “liking” a program or wanting to go to business school because of its brand is not enough. You have to be able to answer, “why business school?” and more importantly, “why this program?”
As a non-traditional candidate you need to use your application to demonstrate how specifically business school will help you achieve your goal. In addition, you should also include what you will contribute to the business school’s community. According to Harvard Business School, “The right candidates must be eager to share their experiences, support their colleagues, and teach as well as learn from their peers.”
Business schools are looking for candidates that have diverse skills, accomplishments and abilities. The top business schools do not have a “one-fits-all” type of mold when vetting applicants. If you have a unique background that would be best nurtured by obtaining a business degree, don’t allow your non-traditional experiences to hold you back from applying. You should embrace your unique experiences and ambitions; because the truth is business schools are looking for diverse, motivated candidates just like you.