4 Things I Learned From Applying To Business School

I know, I know—you’re supposed to do the learning in business school. But I’ll assume that’s a well-understood point. Instead of getting into the same old discussion about learning how to network or positioning yourself to ensure future employment, I wanted to take some time to discuss some of the more intangible benefits I discovered during the process of applying to business school.

I’ll be honest—I was surprised by how much this process led me to learn about myself, and my hope is that by sharing I can help others get the most out of their experience.

1. Authenticity Wins

I’d like to think I’m a fairly authentic person. I think we all would. But when you’re attempting to showcase yourself—whether it's for college, graduate school, or a job you’re excited for—it can be easy to twist into an artificial version of yourself. You might get so caught up in embellishing your accomplishments, showing off your network, or fine-tuning your résumé that you forget the all-important step of showing them who you are.

As LinkedIn wrote in a post on lessons about applying to business school, authenticity is highly valued in the business world, and I’d contend that assertion extends to most areas of life. This is something I learned during my own application process, and something I’ll always carry with me. Being yourself pays off. It relaxes you, and it makes you more interesting to the people around you.

2. You Already Know What You Want

A lot of people — particularly young professionals or recent graduates — struggle with direction. We’re new to the so-called “real world,” and we might not know exactly where we want to go. And that’s okay! One thing I came to realize through my application process is that by looking into your past achievements and decisions, you can gain a better understanding of what you want in life.

Browsing through the Menlo Coaching platform online, which helps business school hopefuls with all different aspects of their applications, I was struck by a phrase in one of the testimonials. A student (who was later admitted to Harvard Business School and Wharton) noted that the coaching platform had helped him to make sense of previous experiences and how they connected to each other. This is something I think everyone should take to heart. Every now and then, some introspection is required to remind yourself not necessarily of an exact career path or set of goals, but of a more general sense of direction and priorities.

3. Experiences Pay Off

Don’t mistake that for the generic assertion that experience pays off. That much should be a given. I’m talking about specific experiences that might jump off of a résumé or give you and a potential employer or colleague something to talk about. U.S. News & World Report recommended last year that business school applicants should show international experience when applying, and while this advice came because of the increasingly global nature of businesses, it’s good advice for your life too.

It may sound harsh if you haven’t had the opportunity to travel, but people who have spent time with other cultures, worked, or learned overseas often have more interesting things to talk about. Unique, worldly experiences are invaluable when you’re seeking to make an impression or demonstrate your priorities.

4. Your Portfolio Matters

This is something I noticed in a previous article about lessons learned from starting a business. As stated there, employers care about your portfolio, and I’d say the same thing about admissions committees and potential partners. This doesn’t mean you need to have business experience before entering, even a small side venture can make a strong impression. The idea is that you’re showing some initiative, know-how, and interest in being productive.

I’d rank all of these as important tips or lessons for graduate school applicants. I’m also hopeful that these lessons can be applied in people’s personal lives too, because I know they’ve helped guide me.

Patti Conner is a freelance writer based out of Seattle, WA. She usually writes about career, investment, and business, but lately she's been looking more into healthy lifestyle topics. You can follow her on twitter @patti_conner14

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