“Wish I had done that a few years ago ….” We hear that frequently from MBA applicants as they’re filling out their MBA applications. We don’t want you to have to say that. This is the fourth of a five-part blog series with advice on how you can prepare, years in advance, to be competitive for a top MBA program. From college to those first years of work, I’ll discuss steps you can take along the way that will appeal to adcoms.We don’t want you to have to say that.
Seek to have impact in a culture that’s not your own
MBA programs pride themselves on the diversity of their classes. Adcoms want to know that you will both contribute something unique to their program based on your background, and that you can handle differences with diplomacy. Candidates who’ve not only traveled to foreign countries, but who have had a powerful, longer-term episode volunteering or working in a different culture will standout at decision time. This type of experience signals that you are a citizen of the world, with the fortitude and savvy to navigate the challenges in attitudes and communication in a diverse group.
International projects at work
If you didn’t have a chance or the funds to travel abroad during college, now’s the time to seek out international opportunities at work. This is especially important for foreign applicants to U.S. and European MBA programs. Seek assignments in North America or Europe. Your ability to convince the adcom of your reasons behind applying to a top global program will be more persuasive if you can speak with the authority of experience.
Now that you’ve had a couple years at work under your belt, petition your boss for an international project when the opportunity arises. But in doing so, make yourself a hero. Write up a no-frills budget. Figure out why remote communication would be insufficient, and sending you would be more cost and time effective for the business. Prepare in advance to make a positive impact with international clients or colleagues by speaking to seasoned sources about cultural differences and communication practices. Focus on completing excellent work while you are there, but also set aside some down time for an authentic, local experience. If you’re travelling near a potential MBA program, contact the admissions office to arrange a visit. Make the most of your time!
On the other hand, if you’re one of those MBA who candidates can rattle off a list of 20 countries where you’ve either worked or visited already, take time this year to make an impact on your travels. Instead of hitting the ski slopes or the beach, consider attending an immersive language school and as part of your down time, volunteer at a start-up incubator where you can mentor local entrepreneurs. I guarantee it will give you a sense of deep satisfaction, and though this may sound cynical, it will make your profile more appealing to an adcom. Watch out, you may enjoy it so much you’ll start skipping the beach vacations and head back the following year–which again–shows commitment and will be attractive to an adcom.
The Bottom Line: Find a way to get international experience that shows you are a citizen of the world.
Michelle Stockman is a professional journalist, former Columbia Business School admissions insider, and experienced MBA admissions consultant.
• Why MBA? [free guide]
• How To Become A Corporate Executive
• 7 Signs an Experience Belongs in Your Application Essay [short video]