Many business school applicants worry they need a more substantial quantitative background to get into a top program. If your entire career has been in marketing, for example, how can you convince an admissions committee that you’d be able to handle core classes like finance or accounting? Thankfully, schools have no intention of composing an MBA cohort made up entirely of bankers and accountants.
Top programs know that people from industries that aren’t traditionally quant-focused, like healthcare, education, or cybersecurity, can offer firsthand perspectives to their classmates on things that dominate news headlines. They also know that a private equity analyst can learn a lot from a brand manager—and vice versa. Likewise, military applicants always offer unique and compelling perspectives. So, rest assured, AdComs seek qualified candidates from all industries and functions to make up a diverse classroom.
“However, they don’t want to admit someone who gives them reason to believe they might struggle with an intense MBA curriculum,” notes SBC Principal Consultant Caryn
“Even if your day-to-day responsibilities don’t include building financial models or running the numbers, there are still multiple ways an AdCom member can assess your analytical skills,” she assures. Today we’re recounting the sage advice Caryn shared on this topic during her insightful conversation with host Erika on the B-Schooled podcast. Let’s dive into some of the tactics you can use to strengthen your quant profile and prove to the admissions committees that you won’t have any trouble with those heavy MBA courses.
Curious about your chances of getting into a top B-school? Contact us to talk strategy with a free 15-minute advising session with an SBC Principal Consultant.
Your Letters of Recommendation
A lot of the time, people underestimate just how vital their recommender letters
“I always tell clients to suggest to their recommenders that they highlight any analytical work whatsoever that they’ve done,” Caryn says. “Your recommenders want to help you. They might even be willing to review your career to date and help you remember quantitative aspects of your own past projects you might have forgotten about.”
Your MBA Resume
Applicants should retool their MBA resumes to highlight the quantifiable results of their work whenever possible. Don’t write something like, “Ran training sessions that increased quarterly revenue.” Instead, say, “Ran six training sessions for 100+ sales team members that ultimately increased quarterly revenue by 7 percent.”
Or, instead of saying, “Grew account portfolio,” you could say, “Grew account portfolio 50% to 10 accounts, increasing monthly spend to $15 million.”
You can think along these same lines for any industry: who was or will be impacted by your work? Details like these give the AdCom reader a greater understanding of your role and bring to life why what you did matters. Remember, you always want to quantify things when it helps your case.
Your GMAT or GRE Score
Candidacy evaluation by the MBA admissions committee is a holistic process. Yet GRE and GMAT test scores play a significant role in assessing academic readiness. Since you can’t time travel to boost any of your grades in your college math classes, you’ll want to go hard at the GMAT or GRE. By that, we mean investing 100+ hours studying and preparing to get the highest score possible if you really want to strengthen your quant profile.
“The scores provide important information to schools about whether you’re prepared to handle both the intellectual rigor and the significant coursework of business school,” explains Anthony Ritz, SBC’s Director of Test Prep
SBC consultant Caryn adds that there’s a massive misperception that taking the GMAT or GRE multiple times looks terrible to the admissions committee. “In fact, only taking it once, not doing that well, and then never trying again really looks much worse.”
“You want to show them that you’re persistent and that you recognize this weakness in your candidacy. Self-awareness is a huge trait AdComs are looking for,” she explains. “Trying again, even if you get the same score, is still better than having that lone score on your report.”
If the GMAT or GRE is still on your horizon, do not miss this comprehensive postwith expert advice for test-taking.Advertisement
We encourage clients to mix up how they study if they aren’t happy with their first or second test scores. So take a class, use a different prep book or app, or hire a tutor. Just tackling the same test over and over in the same way with the same approach isn’t going to get the results you need.
Partner with Stacy Blackman’s best-in-class GMAT and GRE experts and increase your score significantly. Check out our test prep services here.
Supplemental Quant Courses
A supplemental math class may be just the ticket to strengthen your quant profile. This is especially true for applicants with a low GPA, GMAT, or GRE score or who otherwise haven’t been exposed to finance or accounting in their careers. SBC consultants often recommend an online Math for Management class offered through UCLA and UC Berkeley’s online extension programs.
“I really like these two specific classes because they not only give you give an overview of your quant skills, but they also help you prepare for the MBA curriculum ahead,” Caryn says.
You might also take a calculus or statistics class at a local college if you took those courses in undergrad and got a B minus or below. “I like these classes better than finance or econ as they are truly straight quant classes, and A’s in them will most directly address any kind of deficiency,” she adds.
Senior SBC consultant Dione shares another option popular with time-crunched applicants. “For clients who have either been unwilling or not had enough time to take a class, then MBAmath.com is a fast and affordable option to mitigate concerns about quant (but it’s not a cure-all),” she says. “We tailor our recommendations according to the applicant’s transcript, work experience and test scores.”
The Optional Essay
The last thing you want is to leave the AdCom guessing whether you can handle MBA coursework. That’s where making good use of the optional essay comes in to address any weakness in your candidacy directly. First, tell the AdCom that you’re aware that they might be concerned about your low GPA, GMAT, or GRE score. Then let them know you don’t believe those data points accurately reflect your current abilities. Explain that you have worked hard to strengthen your quant profile.
You want to point to evidence where you have succeeded quantitatively. For example, a strong showing in your undergraduate quant classes can counterbalance a low-ish GMAT score. Conversely, a stronger GMAT or GRE performance will offset a low GPA. If both are low, point to the recent class(es) you have taken to prepare for the rigors of their program. Also, emphasize all the highly analytical work or quantitative projects you’ve done in your career thus far.
Lastly, you should relay that you believe those examples are better indicators of your current abilities and potential. Show you feel confident that you’ll be able to handle X school’s challenging curriculum.
Ultimately, the GMAT or GRE is just one component of the application. In truth, a high score doesn’t guarantee success in business school. MBA hopefuls should do all they can to offset a lackluster quant profile by demonstrating they can handle the work. Make it your mission to wow the admissions panel with your compelling essays and extracurricular and leadership activities.
Convince your target business school why an MBA is the best next step in your career progression, and prove to them that you have what it takes to succeed.
Stacy Blackman Consulting offers multiple services to meet your MBA application needs, from our All-In Partnership to hourly help reviewing your MBA resume. Contact us today for a free 15-minute advising session to talk strategy with a Principal SBC consultant. Meanwhile, here’s a snapshot of the caliber of expertise on our SBC team.