Over the years I have worked with Olympians, as well as professional and Division 1 college athletes. They tend to be extremely successful in the MBA admissions process, and share many common strengths.

  • Resilience

You don’t succeed as an elite athlete without failing a lot along the way. Olympians understand how to contextualize setbacks without internalizing them and use failure as a motivational tool.

  • Work ethic

Have you ever heard the expression “Champions are made when no one is watching?” My elite athlete clients work incredibly hard. Instead of saying that they don’t have time to study for the GMAT, they simply get up at 5am and study.

  • Ability to ask for help

Professional athletes aren’t created in a vacuum, and they understand the value of expert guidance. They aren’t afraid to admit when they need help, and leverage the support that they receive.

  • Tough Feedback

Part of leveraging help is being open to tough feedback. Elite athletes have heard a LOT of criticism over the years. They can handle it when they need to re-write essays or strengthen their academic profile.

  • Vision

Elite athletes dream big and visualize success. As I have said before you can’t get into top schools if you don’t apply – picture yourself at your target school, focus and take concrete steps to get there.

  • Risks

Have you been watching Olympic skiing, skating, snowboarding, and luge? Or the Super Bowl? The physical risks are enormous, and while the athletes train and protect themselves there is an element of risk that needs to embraced if they want to win. My athlete clients take chances. Moving to countries where they don’t speak the language in order to go to school, going for promotions that they aren’t sure they are ready for, applying to business school without traditional credentials. These leaps of faith pay off.

  • Define Success

Professional athletes set their own goals. Sometimes that means getting signed to an NFL or NBA team, sometimes it means finishing in the top 12 in a ski race, walking on to a college team or going to HBS. They know how to block out the noise of other people’s expectations and chart their own path.

  • Optimism

Elite athletes have overcome tremendous odds. They know that they can excel despite the statistics and bring that mentality to the MBA admissions process. In return, business schools understand that successful athletes are gritty, driven and able to achieve true excellence.

Whether or not you are an elite athlete, as an MBA candidate you likely share many of these qualities.  Think about times in your life when you have displayed vision, courage and dedication, and share those experiences with the committee. With enough hard work, you can navigate the MBA admissions process and achieve your goals.

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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 $70 million dollars in scholarships, and more than 98% have gotten into one of their top choice schools.
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