How to apply to business school with a non-traditional background

career advice MBA admissions

Applying for business school as a non-traditional candidate can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially when the top schools are constantly advertising their placement in consulting, investment banking and tech companies.  But there is a reason business schools are not 100% filled with students from those backgrounds, as business school is truly a place to learn from the experiences of others.  As someone who went from being a middle school teacher to Columbia Business School, I have a few pieces of advice for a successful application journey.

1. Know your “Why MBA”

There are a wide range of reasons to get an MBA, but for me, I knew an MBA was the best way to get business fundamentals and exposure to a new range of opportunities.  Over those two years, I took classes in corporate finance, healthcare mergers & acquisitions, sustainability growth, and many others that helped me figure out where I wanted to focus the next part of my career.  Ultimately, I left business school and was able to restart my career in management consulting

2. Understand your strengths and opportunities to improve

You should spend time to think through your strengths and opportunities to improve for both your application, and your business school experience.  For me, I came into Columbia with a strong foundation in interpersonal and leadership experiences, but I knew I had to mitigate a lack of business fundamentals knowledge such as accounting, corporate finance, and data analysis.  Knowing these ideas helped me frame my application and figure out how I would prioritize my time while an MBA candidate.

3. Use your network

Every school has MBA students and alums from every conceivable background (TFA, Peace Corps, military, athletes, non-profit work).  One of the most helpful things I did was reach out on LinkedIn and ask for time to discuss their journey, their specific schools, and how an MBA benefited them.

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