Top business schools are going out of their way to reach out to female applicants. In recent years, these schools have been especially eager to close the gender gap in their incoming classes.
But while top B-schools are keen on enrolling as many women as possible, admission remains highly competitive. Whether you’re male or female, you’re going up against many other applicants for a spot in the matriculating class.
That said, you can take steps to put yourself at an advantage. Here are 3 ways smart female applicants can take their MBA applications to the next level.
Network Like Your Application Depends on It
Being proactive about networking is one of the biggest favors you can do for yourself as a B-school applicant. Networking helps you in two ways: it puts you on the school’s radar, and it helps you learn more about the school.
Many schools host events specifically for women. See if your target school has one in your city.
Attending one of these is a small step, but it can open up unexpected connections. For example, you might get a chance to interact with board members. It’s also a great opportunity to connect with alumni. You never know who you could meet at one of those events. Let’s not forget applicants. You could make unexpected connections with fellow applicants that can become part of your support network as you go through the application. At the very least, you’ll broaden your network, which can only help.
Everything you learn about your target school through networking is material you can use in your application. You’re building a case about why you’re a good fit for the school, so the more you know, the better.
The schools themselves are a good place to start your networking, but independent organizations can also be instrumental in giving you access to your target schools.
For example, the Forté Foundation is a non-profit that supports women pursuing careers in business. Their work includes helping women learn about and apply to MBA programs.
In particular, their MBALaunch program guides women through the application process and provides a valuable support network. Since it takes place over the course of ten months, it’s currently accepting applications from those aiming to enroll in B-school in fall 2018.
However you choose to connect with your target school, remember to send thank you notes to the adcom! MBA programs have a lot of people knocking on their doors, so outliers always stand out.
Increase Your Leadership Visibility at Work
Crafting a successful MBA application involves showing that you’re a leader. Part of how you demonstrate this is through the responsibilities you take on at work and the recommendations you get from your supervisors, so approach your work with a leadership mentality.
That means shedding the worker bee mindset that if you work really hard, you’ll be rewarded for your hard work. Instead, you need to be strategic about building up support at your workplace.
Connect with your mentors and bosses. Make sure influential people at your firm know who you are and are familiar with your work.
If you do work that makes your boss’s life easier, that’ll go a long way toward building your workplace support network. Is there something that’s a thorn in your boss’s side? See if there’s a way you can fix it.
And don’t shy away from taking on stretch assignments that put you in a position to deliver significant professional achievements. Cross functional projects are ideal to provide you with some stretch roles while giving you greater visibility within your firm. These types of roles pay off when you are ready to apply to business school since these supervisors go to bat for you as recommenders.
If you have limited time to take on projects and leadership roles outside of work, it’s that much more important to find shared interests within your firm where you can deliver value and showcase real leadership initiative.
For example, maybe you create an organization within your firm that supports female employees and positively impacts both recruitment and retention. In cases like this, it’s important to have a tangible “before” and “after” that highlights what you’ve accomplished.
The goal is to find ways to add value beyond just doing your job well. Doing your job well makes you average, and average isn’t what schools are looking for!
Crush the GMAT – Especially the Quant
Your GMAT score is an important data point in making your case that you have what it takes to thrive in an MBA program.
No one’s stopping you from taking the GMAT multiple times, and if you retake it and have a stronger score, you can use your new score. But it’s much more impressive to adcoms if you take it once and get an exceptional score than if you took it five times before getting your desired score. Once again, the goal is to stand out.
So be intentional about how you spend your time leading up to the test. Don’t take it when you’re not ready. Instead, invest in upfront preparation, then try and ace it the first time around.
If you’re applying to a top B-school, the GMAT bar is high. Most top schools have average GMAT scores above 700, compared to the overall average of 552 for all GMAT test takers, 43 percent of whom are women.
Ultimately, you want every part of your MBA application to emphasize that you are exceptional.
Preparing for the GMAT and getting the score you want on your first try is one way to do this. Being a leader at your workplace and going the extra mile in networking are two others. Put these three things together, and you’ve already gone a long way toward submitting an MBA application that stands out!