By Mackenzie Burckbuchler
Applying to business school is both exciting and time-consuming. The application process can be competitive, and you want to stand out as a candidate. To get into your target business school or schools, approach each application with a deep understanding of the programs, the specific schools, and your own goals. To learn what different programs look for in a candidate, we spoke with Juli Bennett, Executive Director, Executive MBA Programs, Sue Oldham, Associate Dean, MBA Operations, and Burch Wood, Director of Healthcare Programs.
Business School Admission Tip #1: Identify the right program for you
Business schools generally offer a variety of programs; Vanderbilt, as an example, offers 7 unique degree programs, each with different application requirements. Make sure to research all relevant and intriguing programs to identify your best fit.
For a Master of Management in Health Care, Wood says an interest in business and practical experience in the healthcare field are important prerequisites. “We are looking for physicians, non-physician clinicians, and non-clinical healthcare employees. I am also looking for people interested in learning about the business of healthcare,” he noted.
An Executive MBA program is best for professionals looking to advance within their organization. If you are in a position of influence at your organization, Bennett says you will be a strong candidate. “(At Vanderbilt,) we put teams into C-Teams that represent the business functions of an organization,” she explained. “We are specifically looking to fill those slots so that teams work together to have those different functional areas represented. Working professionals should be in a position of influence so that eyes are on them and people are watching how they are doing things differently as a result of their MBA experience.”
If you are looking to enter the full-time weekday MBA program, the strength of your application will be closely tied to your academic and professional performance to date. “Past performance is important. The strength of the academics, the rigor, and what your professional resume looks like all play a role. Every piece of the application plays a part in sharing your story,” said Oldham.
Business School Admission Tip #2: Be able to articulate your interest in the school
You will need to clearly explain how the degree will benefit you in your applications and interviews, but it is also important to explain why you are a good fit for each particular school. Every business school differs in terms of size, culture, and career outcomes. Decide what type of school you are looking for and be intentional about applying to schools that fit that mold. Ask current students and alumni to tell you about their experiences. “We want students that want to be at Vanderbilt. Every school has their own culture and feel. One of the first things we look for in a candidate is: have you done your research, connected with students, and connected with alumni,” says Oldham.
Don’t be afraid to ask the admissions team questions as they arise. “Know your admissions counselor and make sure your admissions counselor knows you,” says Bennett. “The admissions committee is there to help you. Once you understand the school completely, you can effectively explain why you are interested and demonstrate your strength as a candidate.”
As Wood described it – “be interested and be interesting.”
Business School Admission Tip #3: Reflect on yourself
Before applying to business school, it is also important to reflect on yourself and your personal goals. During the admissions process, you will have an opportunity to showcase the value you can bring to the program. While all programs have hard skills and qualifications they look for, admissions counselors also want to understand who you are. Your soft skills can set you apart.
“I am looking for what contribution people can make in the classroom. In a working professional program, the conversation that happens in the classroom can be as important as the content delivered by a faculty member. It really is a dialogue between experienced students,” Bennett said.
Business school provides the opportunity for you to challenge yourself and grow both personally and professionally. Coach-ability, self-awareness, and curiosity are 3 traits that strong candidates often possess. These traits demonstrate that you could excel in the program and take advantage of all the opportunities.
“I look for curiosity. MMHC students are life-long learners; they know there is something more to healthcare than what they have been doing before,” Wood said.
To learn more about Vanderbilt Business degrees and programs, click here.