1. Why you want an MBA (important) and why you want an MBA now (incredibly important). This is a no-brainer. Asking why you want to get an MBA is in almost any application you’ll pick up, and you should have a clear answer to this question. However, as an early-career candidate, there’s also an imbedded question here – you should be ready to describe why you want an MBA today. There is no right answer to this question – but it’s definitely something you should be thinking about.
2. How to strike the right balance between proving you can keep up with classmates who may have more work and life experience than you without being pretentious. One thing I’ve learned in nearly two years at business school is that no matter what I think I’m great at, I’m relatively sure there’s someone in my class that’s better at that skill/trait/attribute. One of the things I love about Booth is the quality and availability of resources to help you succeed. However, the most important resource ends up being your classmates. Given that these classmates are such important resources, the ability to demonstrate openness to their perspectives and willingness to take their advice is key. If you can’t distinguish yourself without arrogance, it’ll be hard to gain the respect of your classmates and their own willingness to share with you.
3. How you deal with serious challenges. Despite the picture accompanying this post, business school isn’t just a bed of roses. Whether it’s your grades, recruiting or many of the opportunities to get involved at Booth, it’s a given that not everything will go your way. One drawback of being an early career candidate is that you probably haven’t gotten the chance to fail many times in your professional life. If you come into business school expecting the same string of success, you’re bound to be disappointed. Last year, I had my heart set on being a facilitator for the LEAD program at Booth, and I knew I was going to get it. Being a facilitator is only one of the most competitive things to apply for at Booth, but I didn’t care. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t get it. As Linda pointed out in her post, needing to move past your failures isn’t an uncommon experience at B-school. To make sure you’re ready to handle the pressures, successes and (unfortunate) failures, you should make sure you can demonstrate your ability to bounce back! For me, although I was disappointed to not be part of LEAD this year, I found other ways to get involved, including writing on this blog and working with the admissions team, helping my future employer recruit and becoming a teaching assistant this quarter. The best piece of advice I can give an early-career candidate is to keep your eye on the big picture and to not let setbacks ruin your experience.