Essential MBA Admissions Tips From The Gatekeepers At Stanford GSB, Berkeley Haas

September 11, 2018 | by Matt Symonds

“What I’m really looking for is what have you done and how has that mattered in any organization you’ve touched,” says Stanford GSB Admissions Director Kirsten Moss. “I like to get practical – some people aren’t great test takers. So, what have you done with your smarts?”

Moss’s remarks on the qualities she seeks among Stanford’s MBA candidates were among the gems that emerged during the 2018 CentreCourt MBA Festival in San Francisco, which featured a panel discussion with Admissions Directors from Stanford GSB, Berkeley Haas and Imperial College Business College. I had the privilege of moderating last weekend’s conversation, probing Admissions Directors for industry trends and insights to support business school hopefuls in the application process.

Here are seven top tips directly from the panel discussion on what MBA Admissions Directors are looking for. You can catch the full conversation in the video link above.

1. Stanford GSB on the GMAT

“The [GMAT] score and the GPA are two small things we look at in the whole application. For us what’s really important is the impact you’ve had – on your teams, your organizations, the groups you’ve been with… So please, don’t take yourself out of the process because your score doesn’t have a number 7 in front of it.” – Stanford GSB Admissions Director Kirsten Moss

2. Berkeley Haas on the importance of extracurriculars:

“To be honest, while the description of work achievements and things is very important, one of the things I enjoy is seeing what people put at the bottom of their resume… secretly I enjoy jumping down to the bottom to say, ‘what’s this person really about beyond their day-to-day job?’” – Berkeley Haas Admission Director Pete Johnson 

3. Imperial on having a typical profile

“We won’t look at any industry background unfavorably at all. It’s you, first and foremost – and your background, where you’re coming from and what you’re wanting out of this program and how you’re going to deploy what you’ve learned subsequently. We will not have any kind of blinkers on in terms of, ‘oh, we’ve already got those of people from banking or financial consulting.’ We are very much looking at an individual.” – Imperial Admissions’ Andy Durban

4. What GSB is looking for:

“When we read an application, we’re looking for your strengths. Not everybody’s going to spike in the same place… so think for yourself as an applicant ‘what are my strengths?’ …What I’m really looking for is what have you done and how has that mattered in any organization you’ve touched.” – Kirsten Moss, GSB

5. Mistakes to avoid:

“I’m often surprised by the amount of people who apply and they’re potentially taking a decision that is so important, financially and life-altering, without having properly engaged with the people that are there to be engaged… [Even if] you’re not able to visit us in person, there are so many other channels that you can you can use. Come to the webinars, get directly in touch with people like me and my team, connect with alumni on LinkedIn – [find] this whole wealth of alumni at your doorstep.” – Andy Durban, Imperial

6. The best way to gauge mutual fit:

“Talk with recent alumni about their experience and ask them some of the hard questions that you’re probably not going to ask us. I think that’s the best way to really find out what the experience is going to be like and what some of the opportunities are. The students and the recent alumni not only can relate their own experience, they can tell you about the experience of their classmates and friends.” – Pete Johnson, Haas

7. Your recommender strategy:

“I am looking for those fine details about what did this person do, how are they distinctive? There are 50 different ways to be a leader but tell me a couple of them… For us it doesn’t matter what their title is, whether they’re an alumni or not. It really is, who can tell us, and show us, the scope and scale of those accomplishments.” – Kirsten Moss, GSB

Stay tuned for more highlights from CentreCourt San Francisco and Los Angeles, coming soon on the Fortuna Admissions blog. The CentreCourt MBA Festival, co-hosted by Fortuna’s Matt Symonds and Poets&Quants, is coming next to Houston (September 13), Toronto (September 15), Chicago (Sept. 18), Washington, D.C. (Sept. 20) and New York City (Sept. 22). Learn more or register to attend one of these free events in a city near you.

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