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How A Personal Brand Can Make or Break Your MBA Application

Posted by Chioma Isiadinso

For too many applicants, putting together an MBA application package is all about checklists and numbers.

They take a look at the class profile for their target schools, and try to work out a checklist of everything they need to get in: high undergrad GPA, top-percentile GMAT scores, a certain number of years of work experience, recommendations by CEOs and VPs. Then they make sure to use the word “leadership” a lot in their resume and essays, and figure they’re good to go.

What they don’t do is pay any attention to how the application works together as a whole, or to the perspectives of the admissions committee members who will be reviewing the application.

Every MBA application tells a story.

The story the application above tells is of a candidate who, bright as he or she may be, hasn’t taken the time to think through what business school really means for their life and career.

If you want to create a successful MBA application, one that maximizes your chances of getting admitted to your target schools, you need to take charge of your own story.

You need to develop a personal brand.

Your personal brand is the guiding principle that ties together your MBA application as a whole. It’s what tells the admissions committee, “This is the trajectory my education and career has followed so far, how I’ve shaped that trajectory, and where I want to go next.”

If you’re starting to work on your MBA application package – or just starting to think about applying to business school – this is the perfect time to define your personal brand.

What Personal Branding Does For Your MBA Application

It shapes your strategy

At its core, personal branding is all about introspection. In order to define your brand, you need to think about your experiences, your values, your motivations, your goals.

For many MBA applicants, who often think of business school as the “logical next step” for their career, defining your personal brand is a great way to pause for a moment and think about what that next step actually looks like, and where it’s leading you.

When you define your personal brand, you think about where you’ve found success and when you’ve struggled in the past.

Often, applicants find that this process helps them narrow down the list of schools that would be a good fit for them, and to really crystallize their answer to the “Why business school? Why us?” questions that b-schools love to ask.

Gaining an understanding of your personal brand can even help you choose the most effective recommenders, and let them know what elements of your brand you would like them to emphasize or reinforce in their recommendation letters.

It focuses your thoughts

Generic MBA application essays are the bane of admissions committees. They boil down to much ado about nothing, with candidates spouting cliches and platitudes they think will convince the committee that they’re excellent b-school material.

If you want to get admitted, you need to get specific.

Once you know the brand story you want to present, it’s much easier to write application essays that make an impact.

You’ll have a clear understanding of the message and themes you want to convey, which will make it easier to choose specific, relevant examples from your past experience for each prompt. And you’ll understand how to tie your ideas back in to your overall brand.

It mitigates your weaknesses

When we read fiction or personal narratives, we expect a certain structure. We expect to see obstacles in the protagonist’s way, so that they can become stronger by overcoming those obstacles.

When you use your personal brand to guide your MBA application strategy, you will have an easier time mitigating your weaknesses.

You’ll be able to understand and contextualize them as learning experiences that have helped you grow, and to balance them with discussion of your strengths.

It makes you memorable

People remember stories far better than they remember disconnected sets of facts and figures.

With hundreds or thousands of applicants to weed through, anything you can do to make yourself more memorable is a benefit. The “checklist” style MBA application doesn’t offer admissions committees to grab on to.

When you’ve done a good job of weaving your personal brand throughout your application, of reinforcing it in your resume and your essays and your interviews and your recommendation letters, the admissions committee will come away with a sense of who you are as a candidate.

They will understand how you’ll use their program to achieve your goals. They’ll have a sense of how you will mesh with their school’s culture. And when it’s time to build their incoming class, that’s what they’ll remember.

Making It Your Own

No matter where you are in the MBA application process, understanding your personal brand will make your application stronger.

The next step is to learn how to communicate your brand – your passions, your values, your experiences – in a way that helps you to make an impact.

If you’d like a leg up in standing out from the crowd of other MBA applicants, EXPARTUS can help. Our Personal Branding Services will help you reflect, create, and convey your brand statement. To learn more, reach out to us at 844.259.4506 or by email at

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