Applying for an MBA with a Nonprofit Background (Part 2)

MBA programs bring together future leaders from diverse backgrounds. If you’re applying from a nonprofit background, it can be challenging to figure out how to position your experience for the MBA application.

In our last post, we discussed connecting your post-MBA career goals with your experience in the nonprofit space. Now we will share some insights into how to highlight compelling professional anecdotes.

Part 2: Work Experience

Here are four tips for writing about your work experience:

Prove that you’re a change maker

You want the admissions committee to believe you are going to do big things in the world. Prove to them that you are this person with examples of your ability to be a change-maker. It doesn’t have to be big things. Did you positively influence the culture in your office? Did you come up with a more effective way to do something and convince others to follow your lead?

You don’t have to have already changed the world to get into business school. Your application needs to prove to admissions committee that you will by showing them that you have a track record of positive change.

Highlight transferable skills

You might not have the same core business skills of an applicant who has spent years creating financial models and managing business plans, but you do have transferrable skills. If you conducted fundraising campaigns, you can emphasize the sales and marketing-related aspects. Be sure to quantify the results of your initiatives. If you ran a community program, you can highlight project management skills. If you led volunteer programs, you can describe your ability to motivate and lead people.

Admissions committees are well aware that getting unpaid volunteers to work towards a shared goal is frequently more challenging than having those for whom you write an annual review do what you ask. These skills are valuable to MBA programs, and you can creatively demonstrate that you have them. Bonus that your experiences are unique!

Demonstrate analytical ability

The core curriculum of MBA programs is as rigorous as you may have heard it is. Admissions committees needs to believe that you can handle the finance, economics, and statistics classes.

As you reflect on your work experience, include examples of your analytical ability whether you have spent hours building Excel spreadsheets or not. Maybe you created a tracking system to measure the impact of a program, or perhaps you managed a budget. Not so much? Well, did you identify a way to do a process more efficiently and effectively? Think creatively about how to prove your capabilities.

Know the value of your experience

Part of the reason that MBA students average five years of work experience is the value that experience brings to classroom discussions and teamwork. Each student brings their own set of knowledge, exposure, and way of thinking. What have you witnessed in your nonprofit role that will allow you to share a unique perspective that your classmates may not have been exposed to? Did you work abroad or in cross-cultural environments? Were you immersed in a community that may have not been your own? What lessons did you learn? As you write, know that you have valuable experience to share that will enhance your classmates’ experiences.

Your application goes beyond just your resume and essays. Look to your recommenders to highlight the skills you have that enable you to positively contribute to and impact your current organization.

About Stratus

Stratus Admissions Counseling is a full service admissions counseling firm distinguished by its team based, multi-step process ensuring each application is crafted for optimum impact. Our MBA counseling team has a representative from virtually every top 20 MBA program, enabling us to provide school-specific guidance.


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