Congratulations on choosing to tackle the MBA application! Undoubtedly, there are many of you who may be a little nervous about the process and your specific application. I hope I can allay some of your concerns by sharing some areas of my application that caused me some anxiety.
For those of you “fortunate” enough to have worked through the recent economic downturn, it is reasonably likely that you were laid-off or left a job at least once. This may have created a “gap” in your employment history. Business schools will ask you to explain this gap. Don’t panic: remember that you are not the only one – the economy has been bad everywhere. Find a way to feel confident in explaining that gap. Tell admissions what you did during this gap and what you learned; removing ambiguity can reduce negative inferences that may otherwise be made. Put slightly differently, it can actually be pretty meaningful to show how you adapted to adverse conditions and created a new path for yourself during a difficult time. Additionally, for all the Ad Com knows, you took that “time off” to volunteer in Guatemala? Either way, explain with confidence and don’t feel disadvantaged by a glitch in your application.
The same advice goes for discrepancies in GMAT scores. It is very likely that you may need to take the test more than once. If (fingers crossed) your second score showed marked improvement over your first, that’s a good thing. However, it may look a little weird to have a weak first score and relatively strong second score. Be able to explain (not excuse) how you improved so dramatically. Admissions should take your highest test score only, but may still question the degree of improvement. Feel free to refer to other areas of your academic or professional record that indicate strong examples of consistency and high caliber performance.
Remember, no one part of your application is going to “make or break” you. The overall cohesion of your story is what will convince the admissions committee that you belong at their school – not one specific component. Have confidence if your application and yourself during the process – show how fun and interesting and accomplished you really are!
Laura Bentzien, Forte Fellow
Class of 2012
UC Berkeley Haas School of Business