How to Customize Your MBA Application for Graduate Programs


What does it take to fit your First Round Killer MBA application for a new batch of Second Round business schools? Once you’ve done the hard work of thinking about where you’ve been, where you want to go, and how an MBA is going to get you there, it’s tempting to put your winning story on the line for each program on your list. I mean, if it’s good enough for Chicago Booth, it’ll be just as convincing for Columbia or the London Business School, right? Now that your story is clear, can’t you just copy and paste?

Alas no. It really is, really does not work that way.

In my eight years of admission and recruitment to London Business School, I read too many applications from applicants who had done just that – either the MBA essay was an obvious cut and paste of another application or they weren’t really responding. the question. What’s worse, a lot of my Fortuna Admissions Colleagues encountered applications from negligent applicants who had not mastered search and replacement, professing their love of Yale SOM to the Kellogg admissions committee. Ouch.

Every school wants to know that they are your number one choice. Of course, schools know that you are applying to other programs – it is the right thing to do and they expect it. But to gain their acceptance, you will have to show love. It means going the extra mile to demonstrate that you understand their unique values ​​and culture, and that you’ve seriously thought about what you’ll gain and how you’ll contribute to their community.

The last thing you want to do is undermine your insanely hard work by submitting an MBA application that reads as credits. So, make the effort now to customize each app to suit your target schools. Below are seven essential tips for customizing your MBA application for graduate programs, taken from my colleagues at Fortuna Admissions.


  1. Do your research.

Research each school to understand what sets them apart. Go beyond what is explicitly stated on the website and probe the core of their values ​​and differentiators. This level of detail and awareness can and should be reflected in your application. Cite details that are relevant to your Vision and career goals of the MBA – electives, specializations, clubs and the plethora of opportunities available to you. Since there are many different things you can mention for each school, be sure to choose the ones that are really relevant to your future and what you personally want to gain from the experience. As you review your application, you want to inspire the MBA admissions reader to think, “Ah, this person really understands the culture of our school.”

  1. Make meaningful connections and look for ways to contribute early.

Make an effort to build community relationships in each of your target schools. Explore your existing network to find students and alumni, or contact a school’s admissions team to request to be put in touch with someone who has a similar background to yours. Ask thoughtful questions that help you understand what the school is all about and what it is looking for in an MBA candidate. It really shows when someone has had a few conversations with students and alumni, and you can even drop a name in the app.

If you have defined your career goals and global vision, and you know how this school is going to help you get there, you are ready to make the connections that will strengthen this journey. For example, if you are a budding entrepreneur, you will want to get in touch with the entrepreneurship club. Maybe you find out that the club manager is organizing an event, and maybe you could help them with some contacts. It is not too early to start getting involved, even before you have joined business school, to demonstrate that you really have a passion for a subject and that you are the kind of person who will make a positive contribution. .

  1. Reference specific conversations, ideas, and events.

In the app, take the opportunity to mention that you had great conversations with “this student of this year”, talking about all the wonderful opportunities at the club, for example, and what this has led to in the world. context of your interests and aspirations. While every application is different and every school has its own process, there are always nifty ways to show how many searches you’ve done. Not just by writing your essays in depth and detail, but by literally mentioning that you have “been to this or that event, been to the X webinar or met this staff member”. Schools will take note of the amount of effort you put in.

It is also effective from a staff point of view; seeing your name and reminding you “oh yeah, I remember that person, I met them in San Francisco at an MBA event” helps make the connection. It was always gratifying for me to hear that someone enjoyed our conversation and found it valuable enough to be mentioned in their application.

  1. Familiarize yourself with the faculty.

To deepen the areas of specialization and expertise offered by your business schools, familiarize yourself with the faculty. Especially in the best schools, many professors publish groundbreaking research and make headlines in their field of study. Try to follow a faculty’s research, a book they’ve written, and / or their opinions on issues. This is yet another way to go beyond those course listings on the website.

  1. Solicit input from trusted connections.

If you have cultivated trusting relationships with students or alumni, ask them if they would be willing to read your essays and give you constructive feedback. This will be invaluable given their firsthand understanding of the school’s culture and what makes it unique. Invite their candid comments, so they can tell you, “No, this essay doesn’t sound really Colombian” (for example).

  1. Brief your referents.

Your referents are an essential element of your strategic positioning. Sit down with your referees and talk to them about your goals, your career vision, and how this particular school is going to help you get there. Prepare your recommendations for success by emphasizing the importance of depth, detail, and anecdotes in responding to specific situations and your contributions. You want to make it as easy as possible for them to write a detailed and complimentary letter of support. (For a deeper dive on MBA recommendation strategy, see this related article by Jessica Chung of Fortuna.)

  1. Be sincere and convincing.
    “Business schools are well aware that some applicants apply in the second round because they were not accepted by their first-choice MBA program in the first round,” says Caroline Diarte Edwards, director of Fortuna and former director of admissions at MBA from INSEAD. “Faced with this reality, it is vital to be even more convincing. At this time of year, too many candidates may be shy in their second-round efforts as they hope for good news from their first-round schools. As mentioned, every program wants to feel like your number one choice. It is essential to convincingly convey that you are both motivated and knowledgeable, and that you have made an effort to understand their unique culture and visualize your contribution to it.

At LBS, like other grandes écoles, we had no shortage of high GPAs, good GMAT scores, and impressive profiles with fast professional performance. This means that your ability to convey your sincere and ardent commitment to each target school is part of your unique differentiator. You want the admissions committee member to feel, ‘wow, this candidate really understands us. Let’s invite them to an interview.

For more tips for preparing an exceptional candidacy for the second round, check out this related article from Fortuna Admissions Director Caroline Diarte Edwards.

Fortuna Admissions

Amy hugo is an expert coach within the MBA admission coaching firm Fortuna Admissions and former Senior Director of Diploma Programs at London Business School. For a candid assessment of your chances of successful admission to a high-level MBA program, enroll in a free consultation.


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