Do you work in finance and want to apply to business school? You are certainly not alone! MBA applicants with a finance background often face stiff competition – particularly in the current environment where enrolling diverse classes is top of mind for Admissions Directors.
Whether you are working in investment banking, private equity, asset management, equity research, venture capital or any other finance role, Personal MBA Coach is here to guide you and help you stand out in the finance applicant pool. We have many years of experience helping both current and former finance applicants maximize their chances of admission to top business schools. Plus, many clients also earn significant scholarships!
Before we share our top application tips for finance applicants, it is helpful to review the business schools that accept the most candidates from finance backgrounds.
The Business School Landscape
While most top business school class profiles report finance within the top three pre-MBA industries, the specific percentage of former finance professionals varies from one school to the next. Candidates coming from a finance background, might be interesting in learning which schools enroll the largest percentage of students with finance experience. Unsurprisingly, Wharton and Columbia Business School have the highest percentage of finance students in their classes. In fact, 29% of students in the class of 2024 have finance backgrounds.
London Business School, Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB, NYU Stern and Dartmouth Tuck also admitted a large number of finance applicants, all making up over 20% of the class.
So how can you set yourself apart from your peers? Check out these 7 tips from Personal MBA Coach.
1) Convert Your Finance Resume to an MBA resume
A strong MBA resume will help you differentiate yourself as an applicant. While many MBA hopefuls approach the business school application process thinking they already have a resume on hand, an MBA resume varies considerably from a professional one, particularly a finance one.
While typical professional resumes detail your past and present work experiences, an MBA resume should focus more on highlighting your main accomplishments and transferrable skills.
Those coming from finance backgrounds should think about what they have done to exhibit leadership and success within their careers. While it is great to have quantifiable results, your resume should do more than just list the value of the deals you have completed. You want to highlight your specific contribution and leadership experience.
Looking beyond professional achievements, sharing one or two particularly noteworthy extracurriculars will help to show another side of your candidacy.
2) Demonstrate how you have gone above and beyond in your role
You want to show the admissions committee what sets you apart from other candidates. To distinguish yourself, you want to think broadly about your experiences and accomplishments.
Many candidates coming from a finance background have worked on large, impressive deals. Avoid the template to detail all of the different sized deals you have worked on. Even if you have worked on a $500M deal, the fact that you set up a new training program for analysts may be even more impressive to admissions directors.
Consider projects where you went above the expectations of your role and or/provided a new perspective. Examples include specific firm leadership activities, volunteer work within your company, a time when you mentored a junior colleague, or a time when you sought out additional projects. Any extra measures that demonstrate your initiative will benefit your candidacy as a finance applicant.
3) Look outside of analytics
Even if your analytical skills are some of the best out of your peers, make sure you leave room to show other sides of your profile.
Consider communication skills, impact, mentorship, and other softer leadership skills that will make your profile more well-rounded. Feel free to consider activities both at work and outside of work as you brainstorm strengths to highlight here.
4) Emphasize your uniqueness
A lot of business school applicants end up writing what they believe admissions committee members want to read. This is not the right approach, however, since doing so typically does not leave a strong impression. Instead, your uniqueness will be one of your greatest selling points, especially if you come from a finance background.
Think about skills, extracurriculars, hobbies, or volunteer experiences that will help demonstrate who you are and what type of distinguishing value you will provide at your target schools. Although Personal MBA Coach does not suggest detailing every skill or activity you have ever taken part in, selecting one or two that encompass different aspects of your profile will help you strengthen your application.
5) Go broad
Even finance professionals who have strong profiles may face challenges during application cycles when there are too many qualified applicants with finance backgrounds from one country or region.
Given that the MBA admissions process is somewhat of a numbers game, Personal MBA Coach’s average client now applies to 5 to 8 schools, with many targeting 6 or more schools.
Of course, your target schools must fit with your profile and be attainable based on your undergraduate GPA, GMAT or GRE score, and particular finance background. Personal MBA Coach offers honest feedback on clients’ chances of success at particular programs since we want them to be ambitious, yet realistic.
6) Take time to select and prepare your recommenders
Be sure to take your time to carefully select your recommenders. Your letters of recommendation should align with the rest of your application, once again setting you apart from your peers.
As an applicant from a finance background, you will want your recommender to be able to compare you to other candidates and exhibit how you have successfully made an impact in your career.
Additionally, your recommender should be able to pinpoint your career goals, strengths, weaknesses, and have a good understanding of your character and work ethic. Strong letters of recommendation will boost an already strong application, helping to paint a clear picture of your accomplishments and who you are as a candidate.
Scott Edinburgh is a Wharton MBA and MIT Sloan BS graduate and founded Personal MBA Coach 15 years ago with the goal of providing customized one-on-one support. Scott also serves on the Board of Directors for AIGAC, the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants, and is invited to speak at MBA Admissions events globally. Our clients have been accepted to all top schools globally with a 96% success rate. They received $6.5M+ in scholarships last cycle.
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