I am frequently contacted by non-traditional MBA applicants, who are concerned that they won’t be competitive for top programs. In fact, the opposite is often the case – business schools want to curate a diverse class, and greatly value different perspectives.
- Classroom Perspective
One primary advantage of attending business school is the opportunity to learn from other people. In the classroom, this only works if you have students from multiple sectors, who can share varied professional experience. “Traditional” MBA students, including bankers, consultants, and even people with tech backgrounds, are somewhat overrepresented in the applicant pool. So are people who studied economics, marketing, and business in college. If you have different expertise, embrace it!
- Diverse Experiences
The business world, including historically homogenous arenas like investment banking, is becoming increasingly global and diverse. In addition to the fact that many business schools want to help foster this change, they recognize that graduates need to work with people who have different backgrounds, viewpoints, and perspectives, if they hope to excel. For this reason, MBA programs seek out highly qualified applicants who come from demographics that are historically underrepresented in business schools, like those who are first generation college, from developing countries, with military experience, or who identify as LBGQT+ or as members of ethnic and racial minorities.
- Community Contributions
Furthermore, in order to build a vibrant business school community, admissions officers look for people who have a history of involvement. They want to admit students who will embrace the social aspects of business school, and who will work to create opportunities for their peers and themselves. So, be sure to talk about what matters to you, even if your activities aren’t the typical undergrad business clubs and case competitions, or the classic post-grad organized volunteering. If you started a cat café, are passionate about organic farming, restore old cars or sew your own clothing, talk about it! The Committee wants to admit people who have genuine, interesting personalities.
One of the most interesting (and successful) clients I have ever worked with was a poultry farmer before attending a top MBA program. She received multiple offers of admission by leveraging what made her unique, rather than trying to fit into a stereotypical mold. If you are a non-traditional MBA applicant, follow her lead and highlight all of the tangible ways that your experience will enable you to excel, and to contribute.