A Reading List for Non-Traditional Applicants

Oh hey, non-traditional MBA applicant! How you doin’? If you’ve been researching MBA applications, you’re probably wondering what advice to follow. Most of the advice out there (do these things to stand out!) is really for typical MBA candidates — consultants, finance folks, bankers, marketers.

There’s a different set of rules for us non-traditional folks. Most of the focus is on non-traditional applicants from engineering, non-profit, and education backgrounds; but there are a ton of even less-traditional candidates like actors, athletes, and writers!

So where should you turn for the advice you need? You could start here! I’ve done some extra research to compile a list of the standard (and best) advice for non-traditional applicants, as well as some favorite articles and blog posts for you to look into.


The Standard Advice

  • You’re super intriguing… Imagine the life of an adcom come January. Reading hundreds of applications, most of them really similar…and then there’s you. What a breath of fresh air you are! You automatically stand out from the crowd, and the adcom will want to learn more about your unique stories and experiences. (They also make great icebreaker conversation topics!)
  • …but you have more to prove. Since you come from a non-standard career progression, the adcom will need your help interpreting your career progress. You’ll need to do more work than the average applicant to demonstrate your skills and what makes you an amazing applicant.
  • Check the stats. / Kill it in quant. The GMAT was designed to be a predictor of success in MBA programs, which is why it’s so important. A solid GMAT score will help the adcoms directly compare your abilities with other applicants’. You don’t need to get a 780 — just make sure that your score falls in your school’s GMAT range, preferably above their average.
  • Identify your unique selling proposition. You have different skills than a typical classmate, meaning that you bring diversity and a new perspective to the class (which is exactly what adcoms are looking for). Identify your unique skills you bring and how you plan to share them with your classmates. You can even swap, bartering public speaking tips for finance tutoring!
  • Have a clear reason for wanting your MBA and very specific career goals. Your job as an applicant is to demonstrate that you’ll land a job after graduation. Because you’re a risky admit, being focused and specific will help adcoms breathe easy. Know which companies you’re targeting, your short- and long-term goals, your ideal career progression, and at least one back-up plan. I was asked about my back-up plans in every single interview, so that part is no joke.
  • You’re not the only one who’s unsure. I struggled with self-doubt a TON while I was applying (and drove my friends nuts). Even after getting in, I’m scared that I won’t be able to keep up once I get to campus. But the thing is, everyone feels unsure. I’ve met a bunch of incoming Kellogg students, and many of them have expressed similar worries. If you feel self-doubt, know that you’re not alone!

Reading List

Image courtesy of MGM.

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