MBA Consult Calls: What I Learned

My last post was about scheduling free evaluation calls with admissions consultants to get advice about your candidacy and let you know what parameters you should meet to be a competitive applicant.

Now I want to share the specific feedback from the calls that I made. A lot of this advice applies broadly to non-traditional applicants or folks without a strong quantitative background. I hope this gives you a good foundation going into these calls so you can ask more specific, detailed questions during these calls than I did. (NOTE: Look at my application stats if you want context.)

The Big Question: Fitting In / Standing Out

When I made these calls, my big question was how to make my application unique. But the consultants I spoke to told me that my uniqueness was totally a non-issue — instead, the big question was whether I would fit into an MBA class. Could I handle the course load? Would an MBA really serve my career goals?

Because my low-quant background made me a risky admit choice, I needed a compelling application with a strong narrative, direct and logical career goals, and a clear plan for how I would use the MBA to achieve them.

The Challenges

  • Prove your quant skills. This advice was unanimous. Every consultant I talked to stressed that I needed a solid score on the GMAT (between 70th and 80th percentile), and if I couldn’t get a strong quant score, then I should consider taking quant-related classes (and get good grades in them, naturally) before applying.
  • Entertainment is an unusual pre-MBA career. It was unlikely that adcoms would be familiar with the entertainment industry, so I needed to describe my work experience using familiar vocabulary for them. The consultants suggested highlighting my leadership, project management, and client management skills.
  • Don’t be a burnout. There is apparently a stereotype (not sure how prevalent) that entertainment people apply for MBAs once they’ve burned out and want to leave the industry. I needed to highlight my passion for producing and demonstrate that my career still had momentum.

The Strengths

  • Entertainment is sexy, y’all. People will be curious about your work, especially if they’ve seen it, and your conversations are more likely to be memorable as a result. Plus, every time you explain the inner workings of entertainment to someone, you’re teaching them and giving them a glimpse how you will share your expertise with your future classmates.
  • Hustle. There is rarely a set track or advancement schedule for creative professionals, and in entertainment, your career success depends on referrals and the strength of your network. Many traditional pre-MBA careers come with a bit more structure, so the entrepreneurial nature of building a creative career is a great differentiator.

The Big Questions

I had a high bar set for my essays because it was super important for me to draw clear, logical connections between my work experience, my career goals, and how the MBA played into them.

  • Why do you want an MBA? The MBA should be a clear, direct link between your work experience and your career goals. Lucky for us creative types and non-business people, a lot of the time our reasons for wanting an MBA are to gain foundational business knowledge. (For me, it was to study analytics and marketing to pivot into marketing for a data-driven entertainment firm.)
  • What are your career goals? These goals should make sense and relate to your background (work, academic, or volunteer). Schools want to know how plausible it will be for you to reach these goals, so you should be specific about where you want to work, your specific function, intermediary steps between your long- and short-term goals, and backup plans.
  • Why switch from content creation to content distribution? First, why would someone with a successful creative career switch gears? I think some people assume that creative professionals are ultra-passionate starving artist types, so you should have an explanation ready. Second, what is motivating your career change? Again, this needs to be linear and linked to your background to be believable.

I hope this helped illustrate the kind of information you’d get from these calls. The consultants I talked to also gave essay topic suggestions and gave stream-of-consciousness assessments of whatever information they had about me, which I found helpful. Happy calling!


Image courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.


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