How does a Start-up Experience help MBA Candidates?

startupWith the spring semester just around the corner, the mad scramble for gaining admission into a top B-school has begun and many MBA students are busy polishing resumes and building up their work profiles. So what really makes for that winning application for landing a seat in an MIT, Harvard or Cornell?

Many aspiring candidates want to know if a start-up experience—even an unsuccessful one—would give them the much needed edge over other competitors in their race to gain admission into some of the best business schools in the world. Well, there is good news in store for such candidates because prominent admission consultancies reveal that most leading universities including MIT, Harvard, Cornell, UCLA, Stanford, and Wharton are looking at enhanced diversification in their class profiles.  These universities now increasingly prefer to include students from different backgrounds against the tradition favourites—applicants from finance, banking and consulting backgrounds.

It is believed that even though such students comes with the baggage of a failed startup, they bring with them a rich experience of their own individual perspectives on different ways to secure funding, the reasons behind the failure, and the insights on what they could have done to salvage the enterprise.  Another, major reason is that most admission committees feel that by allowing admission to young entrepreneurs, they are fuelling the growth of new businesses and enterprises.

In the previous admission seasons many applicants with an experience of start-ups have been successful in securing admission into top business schools. They have interesting viewpoints and experiences to share, and they generally do well in the group discussion rounds due to this reason.  In fact having prior experience related to a start-up is now seen as an important strategy to gain admission particularly in cases where the candidate’s profile is weak, with not very impressive scores in graduation or GMAT.

However, there are several other angles to the story as well. MBA candidates should remember that although a start-up experience no doubt bolsters your resume considerably, the admission committee takes a holistic view of your application. At the end of the day, it’s the quality of your comprehensive profile that matters. While applying you should evaluate your profile carefully and shape it in a way that highlights your plus points, through your SOPs, LORs and essays. If you have an edge by excelling in cutting edge technology or bringing in new businesses, there is no way B-Schools are going to ignore these qualities. So enhance your profile in a way that showcases your strengths. Similarly, if you have plans of starting on your own enterprise, you need to substantiate how an MBA is going to help you in achieving your goals.

Other very important points to consider are your growth trajectory within the organization you are working for presently, and your role within it.  The admissions committee would like to know about how you have added value to the organization, and how your contribution has affected the organization. It also wants to know about your personal and professional growth over the years. They can measure your management and leadership skills by analysing the effect of your contributions. They want to know if you are truly passionate about problem solving and creativity, if you possess a proclivity for risk-taking, and if you showed true grit during challenging real-life situations.

While it is safe to say that a start-up experience does help MBA candidates, the experience needs to be bolstered by other well justified qualities and skills as well in order to gain entry into that dream MBA School.