Use a matrix approach to show balance across your MBA application

One thing we generally recommend to clients is to use a traditional matrix approach to ensure you are communicating a balance of core essentials to the MBA admissions committees.  If you use this approach, you will be much more organized as you apply and will also be able to quickly ascertain where you may be coming up short.  

How does it work?

Start by listing core competencies that you would like to showcase in your application.  Some suggestions for what adcoms are looking for: Leadership, Creativity, Intelligence, Maturity of vision/perspective, and Teamwork skills.  These are some of the critical areas that all business schools desire to see in their applicants.

Make a grid on a piece of paper with these attributes across the top columns.  

Now on the left side of the grid, list the areas down the vertical rows that are covered by the short answer questions (by the way, this also works with the long essay topics).  

For example, if there is a question in your application about your short and long term goals, write “short term goals” and “long term goals” in separate rows.  Make sure you skip some rows between each topic to give you space to fill in information about yourself.  

Now comes the easy part.  Simply revisit your experience in your mind, and jot down what you see as relevant or compelling information about each topic.  

Don’t worry about whether or not you get everything exactly right, just stream your thoughts.  Once you have the rows filled in, go across the grid and check off boxes which you think are adequately demonstrated by that piece of information.

For example, if your short term goal is to work in investment banking, and your background is analyst work in an investment bank, you can check off the “maturity” box as well as likely the “teamwork” box, since you probably worked in a team environment and your post MBA goal selection demonstrates a mature vision and plan (because it builds upon something you did in the past).   If you feel something is detrimental to a particular area, or does not demonstrate leadership, creativity, teamwork, intelligence or maturity, give yourself an X in that box.  

Of course by the end of the exercise, you will have a scorecard from which you can see where you are strong and where you are weak regarding these four critical areas.  

If you don’t have any checks in the leadership column, for example, you should dig deeper into your experience to try and draw out examples of such.  Feeling like your information communicates immaturity in some way?  Try to tighten up your goals and plans or think of a situation you’ve had to handle which required wisdom.  Thinking your job was a bit independent of working with others?  Draw out examples of how you work in teams in your extracurricular activities. Sometimes, this exercise will expose an area where you need to go out and bolster your experience further.  That’s why it’s good to do this early in the application process.  Staying organized with a matrix approach can really help make sure you aren’t leaving anything critical out of your application!


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