Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be an investment banker or a consultant in order to get into business school. In fact, if leveraged correctly, an unusual professional trajectory can be an asset. Here are tips to help you get into a top MBA program with non-traditional experience.

  • Have crystal clear goals.

It’s important for all candidates to articulate clear short term and long term goals. However, non-traditional candidates need to be especially explicit. Spell out exactly what you want to do, and explain how you know that you will thrive.

  • Highlight transferable experience.

Revise your resume so that it demonstrates progression and emphasizes supervisory, strategic and analytical skills, and quantifiable impact. Continue to highlight these qualities and accomplishments throughout your application and in your interviews, placing a special emphasis on skills that you will leverage in your post-MBA career.

  • Talk about what you will contribute.

One of the reasons that schools love to admit strong non-traditional candidates is because of the unique perspective that they can add to the classroom, and to the community. Paint a vivid picture of how you will get involved, with specific illustrations, and make it clear that you will be an active participant.

  • Be proud of your background.

There is absolutely no need to be defensive about charting a less traditional educational, personal or professional path. The right school will appreciate your vision, courage, resilience and ability to take risks. Ultimately, your non-traditional background may be the reason that you are admitted to your dream school.

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Karen Marks

Karen has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Wharton, MIT, Tuck, Columbia, Kellogg, Booth, Haas, Duke, Johnson, Ross, NYU, UNC, UCLA, Georgetown and more. Clients have been awarded more than 20 million dollars in scholarships, and more than 97% have gotten into one of their top choice schools.