Business school admissions are competitive, with schools looking for the right mix of experience, undergraduate grades, and GMAT test scores.
With so many components of an MBA application, sometimes it’s unclear what stands out most to a reviewer.
Isser Gallogly, associate dean of MBA Admissions at New York University’s Stern School of Business, visited Business Insider and provided some insight into what he most looks for in a winning application.
With 15 years of experience in MBA admissions at Stern, Gallogly has reviewed more than 50,000 applications.
Read on below to hear his best advice for getting into a top business program.
How do I decide between full-time or part-time business school?
“Business school is much more than the classroom experience,” Gallogly said. “A huge part of the MBA program [is] the networking opportunities … you’re building a network for life.”
There are trade-offs when thinking about pursuing a part-time or a full-time program.
“If being fully immersed in your experience in business school is incredibly important to you, a full-time program obviously optimizes that,” he said.
“With a full-time program, there’s more investment in terms of the cost because you’re forgoing income but you have more time to invest in the program. With part-time, you’re obviously keeping your job, keeping your income, so there’s less opportunity cost, but on the flip side, you have less time to go to business school and get engaged and involved.”
How do I write a great application essay?
“We often get the question how creative should you be when you’re writing your essays to business school,” Gallogly said.
“Should your first sentence be, ‘Call me Ishmael,’ or, ‘It was a dark and stormy night,’ or, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times?’ You don’t necessarily have to have a headline or a grabber.”
Instead, Gallogly said that it’s most important ensure you stay on message for the prompt.
“I always say ‘AQA:’ Answer the question asked,” he said. “Respond to the prompts, do it completely. “That said, make sure you get across who you are in this essay.”
Finally, convey yourself and your goals clearly. “I would treat this a little bit more like if you are presenting a business case on yourself and you are providing almost an executive summary as to who you are, what you’re about, and why you’re going to business school,” he said.
How can I get good feedback on my essay before I apply?
“The general principle about what stands out are people who are really speaking from the heart,” Gallogly said.
“I’ve been in the business for 15 years. I’ve probably looked at 50 to 60,000 applications in that time. The essays that stand out are the ones where you can hear the person’s voice, where you can feel the person’s passion.”
To ensure that you accurately present that voice, read your essay to someone close to you. “Just ask them the simple question: Does this sound like me? Is this my voice? Is this authentic to who I am?” Gallogly said.
“There’s a reason you want to go to business school,” he said. “We need to hear that excitement from you.”