How to build your MBA Application Narrative
Updated: Feb 1
What exactly is an “MBA Application Narrative”?
Business school applications are different from other applications you might have done in the past, such as for a job or undergraduate studies. This time, reviewers (admissions officers) typically only spend around 20 minutes per candidate application.
At the end of it they won’t remember everything. They will remember a simple summary of you as an MBA applicant. We call this your “MBA application narrative”. It’s a sum total of all of the other components of your MBA application (resume, letters of recommendation, org charts, etc).
With clients, we prepare the MBA application narrative before we start writing essays. Once we have the MBA application narrative pinned down, it forms the foundation for all the b-school applications.
So, how to build my own MBA application narrative?
Building your MBA application is a step-by-step process. Here’s how we do it at SWC:
Step 1: Reflect
Think about four different periods of your life: upbringing, undergrad, previous work experience and current work experience. Write down your impactful stories from these four periods. These might be stories of successes, failures, challenges overcome, strengths, weaknesses, motivation tests, passion, morals, ethics and so on. These are the events from your past that shaped who you are today, so this will be unique to you.
(By the way if you’re struggling to identify your weaknesses, go to 16personalities.com and take a personality test. It’ll give you a list of typical weaknesses for your personality type).
Then Brainstorm questions such as:
What are my goals in life?
Why do I want to pursue an MBA?
What are my post-MBA short and long-term goals?
Why do I need an MBA to achieve your goals?
Is this the right time to pursue an MBA?
Step 2: Research
Your personal stories can be the same across different school applications, but your motivation for pursuing an MBA at “school X” over “school Y” must be unique to each school. Here are a few ways to demonstrate your commitment to a school’s program:
Trawl their website: Find out all about their curriculum, electives, specializations, Professors, class profiles, post-MBA recruitment opportunities, clubs, societies and alumni community. The more detail, the better.
Connect: Join the webinars, coffee chats, information sessions and fireside conversations hosted by the school, where you can meet up with alumni, professors and the admissions team. Engage with them during these events by showing active participation to show them that you are a really serious candidate. Ideally, use the event and follow up emails to secure a one-on-one conversation with a student, alum, or member of the Admissions team.
Visit in person: If possible, plan a tour of the school and even attend a few classes if possible. You can arrange this by reaching out to the Admissions team via contact options on the website. Remember to prepare good questions: You might want to check out 28 questions to ask the school.
Cold reach outs: Sometimes, you’ll just have to reach out to current students and alums out of the blue and try your luck! Show them in your message that you’ve already done some research and they’ll be more likely to accept your advances.
Step 3: Mapping
By this stage, you know a lot more about yourself and your target schools. Now connect these dots.
You need to demonstrate your fit with the school. To do this convincingly, you need to weave an authentic and honest narrative about your past: who you are, what you’ve done, the impact you’ve had, ideally including the values and purpose that have driven you. Then, connect it to your future aspirations; the impact you intend to have, why you need an MBA to do this, and this school will help you reach your goals. Now, you’ve got your own unique “MBA application narrative”. You’re ready to start writing your MBA application essays. Your next task is to look at the essay questions and start mapping this content to the essays.
Check out our recent blog posts on the MBA application timeline for a detailed step-by-step breakdown of the process we follow with our SWC clients.
If you are still feeling daunted by the whole process and need some help in building your MBA application narrative, book a chat with us right away.