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You can find a better version of my blog at http://www.adammarkus.com/blog/.

Be sure to read my Key Posts on the admissions process. Topics include essay analysis, resumes, recommendations, rankings, and more.

September 04, 2007

The MBA Application Process: A Test of Potential

One key way of thinking about the MBA application process is to see it as a test of potential. MIT puts it this way:
The Admissions Committee looks for excellence—applicants with high academic potential and achievement, and strong motivation and leadership potential. High academic potential and achievement are normally reflected in high GMAT scores, excellent academic records, and recommendations that go beyond the usual polite endorsement. Ability to achieve is usually shown in relevant experience, your essays, and recommendations.

NYU Stern admissions has a Podcast series with one episode focused specifically on academic potential. I highly recommend the whole series.

Potential itself can mean different things at different schools and so you must keep in mind differences between schools and in particular must pay close attention to what schools say really matters when they assess applicants. Harvard Business School Admissions states:
Genuine business talent cannot be narrowly defined. Instead of looking for an "ideal" candidate, HBS invites MBA applicants who exhibit a variety of skills, accomplishments, and temperaments. The true common characteristics of our students are demonstrated leadership potential and a capacity to thrive in a rigorous academic environment.

Therefore please keep in mind that while many key indicators will be discussed in this series of blog entries, a core part of your own application strategy should be determining which of these to emphasize both overall and for a particular school. For example, at HBS, clearly "demonstrated leadership potential" and a strong academic background are necessary. In fact, the latter is particularly important at HBS, especially because the forced grading curve makes it a particularly academically challenging environment. Read more about HBS essays here.

Potential can be measured by those characteristics that are really prerequisites for academic and professional success. As Chicago GSB says: The Admissions Committee looks for people who have demonstrated the ability to succeed through work experience, academic endeavors and extracurricular or community service involvement.

Chicago GSB then states that an applicant's demonstration of the above is compared against an overall framework:
Our evaluation criteria are applied against three broad themes: our curriculum, our community, and your career.
While schools will vary on the way in which they analyze you, it is certainly the case that you be evaluated both on the basis of who you are and your fit. Wharton states this very clearly: At Wharton, admissions is all about the right fit. Therefore the real issue is to be aware of that and to put together an application that best presents, in the words of Stanford GSB, The Total Package. Programs will be judging you holistically in comparison to other applicants. Kellogg explains it directly:
The Committee reviews the personal essays, academic record, GMAT score, TOEFL score (if applicable), Career Progress Survey, resume and evaluative interview report [(recommendation)] to assess each applicant’s candidacy compared to the overall pool of applicants.

And given that you have absolutely no control over the other applicants, you have to simply focus on making the best possible "Total Package." In the posts that will follow, I will discuss specific indicators of potential and how to demonstrate them so that you can put together your best "Total Package."

Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com.
-Adam Markus
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