We continue our application-related blog coverage with the second of two advice pieces featuring insights from current Darden Full-Time MBA students.  Be sure to check to our earlier post on researching schools. Today, some of our rising Second Year students answer the questions: 

What is your best application process-related tip? Anything you found particularly helpful or you wish you would have known when applying to business school?

Allie Medack (MBA ’20)

Don’t wait until the last minute to start. (Kidding! But really, don’t wait). Business school applications are surprisingly introspective, so give yourself some time to truly ponder your reasons for applying and what you hope to gain from the experience. Your genuine excitement will catch the Admissions Committee’s attention and help you shine through the pack. More importantly though, it will help you to focus on what you really want, so that you can be intentional with your time, energy and resources. And remember: You are a multi-dimensional person — make sure that comes through! It’s easy to see the application as a chance to highlight your academic and professional achievements, but don’t forget about the pieces that make you, you. Do you have the travel bug? Like to cook? Teach yoga classes on the side? Find little ways to work those things into your application.

Max Linden (MBA ’20)

The application process gives you an opportunity to reflect on your story and consider how you brought all of yourself to the challenges you faced in the past. Whether or not you are aware of it, you’ve already faced many defining moments that show your character. Let it shine and recognize that it’s all new to anyone who doesn’t know you!

Bingjing “Krystal” Yao (MBA ’20)

Build the link between the program and you. When I started the application process, I thought about “Why xx school” and “Why me” separately. That is until an MBA alumnus told me that these two questions are actually intertwined. However, there two related questions to also consider: “Why can this school help me to accelerate/switch my career?” and “What contribution can I make to the community?” I thought about these two questions throughout the whole application process, during networking events, writing essays, having an interview and even after I arrived at school.

Jordan Hart (MBA ’20)

Do not be afraid to ask for help! While this process is largely an individual one, with each applicant making decisions based on his or her own personal goals, it is so helpful to talk to other people. Even if you do not ultimately follow someone else’s advice, getting a diverse set of perspectives on the various components of this process will make you a stronger applicant. There are many people who would be happy to help you as you take this exciting next step in your life — let them!

In every part of this process, remember to be honest with yourself. Have self-awareness about your career plans, your learning style and about the type of business school experience you want to have; follow your instincts about which programs will best meet those individual needs. And, of course, try to have fun with this process — you are in the beginning stages of a very exciting new chapter!

Clement Le Royer (MBA ’20)

Business schools are on the lookout for candidates who can successfully showcase their diversity of experience, while demonstrating consistency in their goals and motivations. A well-framed narrative will help you differentiate yourself during the application process, thus greatly increasing your likelihood of success. Reflect upon the defining moments of your early life, education and career, and consider of how these experiences play a role in your resolve to apply for an MBA program and to then transition to a successful business role after graduation.

Chloe Stegeman (MBA ’20)

Don’t pass up the opportunity to connect with people. In the depths of application season when you are stressed, haven’t seen your friends or family in weeks, or are living in some flavor of application-induced turmoil, the personal testimonies of students and alumni who took the leap into the MBA experience and made it successfully to the other side were beacons in times of uncertainty and stress. For those of you in need of some extra inspiration today: You can do it!

Pierce Lee (MBA ’20)

What is your personal positioning or brand statement? What is the MBA program looking for in its applicants? This is the process that MBA programs teach their students to be successful during recruiting. Identify your strengths, weaknesses, reasons for pursuing an MBA, goals after school, and just how the program to which you’re applying would benefit from your perspective in the classroom. Use this positioning statement to craft a narrative through your application and ensure that every essay, resume, etc. points back to making that narrative stronger. Once you know exactly what story you are trying to tell and why an MBA program would benefit from having you in it’s classroom, you’ll be amazed at how much more confidence you have throughout the process, especially during interviews.

Temi Adekanbi (MBA ’20)

I took a firm stance in not obsessing over online forums where other nervous MBA applicants are posting. I checked the forums from time to time but always tried to remember that different things happen for different people at different times. The application process is a great time to start learning how to “run your own race.” Focusing on your own journey will serve you well into the recruiting period and beyond.

Cristina Wong-Namura (MBA ’20)

Make sure your application fully reflects you. Take some time and reflect on your personal and professional journey and think about what you have learned. Do not be afraid to dig deep! For me, I made sure that my highest and lowest points were transparent on my application — and I tried to make my personality shine through despite the word limit. That way, no matter the outcome, I know that I put my whole self out there. I had been thinking about pursuing my MBA for a few years before I applied. It took me a lot of effort, but by the time I hit ‘submit’ I could not have been more confident in my decision because I was fully committed.

Teresa “Tess” Engebretson (MBA ’20)

Give yourself plenty of time to step away from your essays before coming back to them. When I was applying to Darden, I was advised to ask someone to read my essay without telling them the the prompt. After they read it, I would ask them to guess the question, which allowed me to gauge the clarity of my response. Finding people I really trusted to read my essays and give my honest feedback was critical; they helped me ensure that I was clearly representing myself and highlighting different dimensions of my experiences.

AJ Amankwaa (MBA ’20)

Go where you are celebrated, not tolerated. I went through the MBA application process with a number of close friends and, my friends who chose schools based on culture and fit have been more satisfied with their programs and more successful with recruiting.