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Posted by Chioma Isiadinso
Interview between Chioma and Reapplicant (Spring 2009)
Chioma: What was going through your mind as you embarked on the reapplication?
Reapplicant: I won’t lie – the application process was daunting, even the second time around.
Not getting into your dream schools or getting into school at all is very frustrating. Also, a very humbling experience.
Chioma: What advice do you have for individuals who are attempting the application a second or third time around?
Reapplicant: I did some practical things that I believe made a difference in my application outcome this time around. The steps I took this year and the lessons I learned include:
– Invest the time/resources to find out where you went wrong the first time. I suspect that for many of you, it won’t necessarily be issues with your GMAT or G.P.A. (those can be mitigated by retaking the GMAT and securing a high score as well as taking some courses to offset weak grades); the greater challenge is when you have excellent academics, high GMATS, strong professional profile and still get rejected as was my case. That is very frustrating because you don’t know what intangibles could have kept you out. To pinpoint those factors, I recommend showing your applications to friends who are already in business school or to an admissions counselor. Don’t simply show the essays, but the recs, transcript, resume – everything that went into the application package to get a holistic evaluation of your application. This was the first step I took with my reapplication.
– Really ask yourself why you want an MBA. Timing is everything. I never understood that until the 2nd time I reapplied. And I didn’t understand how skeptical business schools are when discerning your reasons for wanting an MBA. Luckily, I had a counselor who pushed me very hard and really made me sound out exactly why I needed an MBA. If you have progressed too far in your current career, it’s hard to make a case for why you still need an MBA so make sure you flesh out your goals and develop the rationale for the MBA.
– Be able to connect all the dots of your past and account for everything you’ve done. Obviously, this is harder if you’ve been out of school longer – your story is that much richer, but you’ll have to work harder to account for all that you’ve done and rationalize how the experiences have shaped you. It’s possible that you switched jobs or industries based on instinct. But unfortunately, that won’t sell with schools unless you can put a reason behind that or show what you learned from the transition and how that has impacted your current position and your aspirations. This was also something I didn’t really understand the first time around. I focused on my current position, without really connecting the dots from my past, beginning with my undergraduate experience.
– Know the importance of branding. This was another thing I failed to consider the first time I applied. I naively thought that my entire application package would somehow come together. But you can’t be passive when you apply. You have to know from the outset what your 3 – 4 key themes are that you want the schools to know about you. At the end of the day, schools need to be able to have a good read of your brand—who you are. Without communicating your brand, you won’t be a memorable candidate and you probably won’t be admitted.
– Take the time to research MBA programs. Schools really do have certain cultures and they are looking for different candidates. Make sure you are applying to schools where you are a fit. I applied more strategically the second time around, whereas the first time, I applied more blindly.
These steps helped me gain admission to 5 out of 6 top MBA programs (plus scholarships too!). Good luck with your application or reapplication!