Your MBA profile is nearly perfect. You’ve got great stats and an impressive resume. You’re friendly, personable, and a fantastic leader. There’s just one little glitch: your criminal record.
Although a criminal record is a strike against you, it’s not necessarily an insurmountable problem. Whether you have a DUI or committed insider trading, having a criminal record can make getting into an MBA program more challenging. As an admissions director, I reviewed candidates who had criminal records every year. Some schools have a no-tolerance policy, but I have always believed in rehabilitation and second chances. Here are six tips for MBA applicants with a criminal record:
1. Be honest and up-front about your record. Don’t try to hide it from the admissions committee. Most MBA programs conduct background checks, so they will find out eventually. Hiding your record will only make you look dishonest when your violation is ultimately discovered.
2. Explain the circumstances of your arrest or conviction. Admissions committees want to understand why you were arrested or convicted of a crime. Be honest and open about your story. Shoplifting when you were a naïve teenager will have less of a negative impact than a more egregious and/or recent event.
3. Highlight your accomplishments and strengths. Admissions committees want to know that you are more than just your criminal record. Focus on communicating your academic achievements, work experience, and extracurricular activities. Demonstrate the positive impact you have had in your organization or on others.
4. Show that you have learned from your mistake(s) by completing a rehabilitation program, volunteering with a community organization, or starting a related business. For example, one candidate taught finance courses in prison while serving her sentence.
5. Get letters of recommendation from people who can speak to your character. Letters of recommendation from people who know you well and can talk about your personality and what you have to offer can benefit your application.
6. Do your research to identify schools that are known to be more understanding of applicants with criminal records. Several programs have policies in place to help such applicants. Explore your options to find schools that are a good fit for you.
Don’t give up on your MBA dreams. Having a criminal record can make it more challenging to achieve your goals, but it doesn’t mean you can’t achieve them. You can overcome your past and reach your full potential with hard work and determination.
Are you applying to business school with a criminal record? Work one-on-one with an Accepted advisor to evaluate your profile, figure out where you should apply, and devise an admissions strategy that will help you present your story in the best light to improve your chances of acceptance. Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with an MBA admissions consultant to discuss your application.
By Natalie Grinblatt, the former admissions dean/director at three top business schools. Natalie has reviewed more than 70,000 applications, interviewed more than 2,500 candidates, and trained nearly 700 admissions directors and alumni volunteers to select outstanding candidates for admission. Her clients gain admission to top programs, including those at Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, MIT, Cornell, Columbia, Berkeley, Chicago, Northwestern, and NYU. Natalie holds an MBA from Michigan Ross. Want Natalie to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!