What is MBA Application Strategy?

Applying to business school? Start with Application Strategy—by crafting your academic, professional, and leadership background into a single, cohesive narrative. In this compact article, we'll show you how to do it.

Posted May 11, 2024

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Okay一you’ve picked the MBA programs you’re going to apply to. Well done!

Now it’s time to actually start the application. The first step is to sit down and craft your MBA Application Strategy. That means writing down your strengths, areas of improvement, career experience, goals, and all other leadership / extracurricular achievements, and shaping them into a concise, coherent package.

Easy, right?

Of course not. This is one of the harder parts of the application! It’s the foundation of the rest of your materials, so it’s important to get it right. In this article, we’ll walk you through how to think about the various components of your application strategy, then offer some tips on how to condense those into a punchy “headline”一the one line that describes you as an applicant.

Eight Elements of MBA Application Strategy

To start, let’s go through the eight different elements of MBA Application Strategy:

1. Strengths

What are you uniquely exceptional at? Write down three things that set you apart from other applicants, and include a short anecdote for each.

Pro tip: For anecdotes, short and specific is key. Whenever you’re telling a story in your application, use the STAR framework:

Situation 一 What was going on at the time?
Task 一 What was the task you were required to perform?
Action 一 What did you do to resolve that issue?
Results 一 What were the results? Be as specific as possible (use numbers if you can)


Pro tip#2: Click here for more guidance on How to Write A Powerful MBA Essay.

2. Areas of Improvement

What are things you’d like to work in, personally or professionally? Write down three attributes you’re trying to improve. (This will come in handy in some MBA applications when you’re crafting guides for the people writing your letters of recommendation, and during your interview.)

3. Career Experience

For each of your jobs, write down the following:

  • Your role, and a short description of your responsibilities
  • Your greatest challenge in that role (remember, STAR)
  • Your greatest achievement in that role (remember, STAR)
  • The three things you took away from that role
  • Why you left that position

4. Career Goals

If you’re applying for an MBA, chances are you don’t know exactly what your career will look like, but to the extent that you can, write down the following:

  • Ideal job post-MBA
  • Ideal job 15 years after your MBA
  • Your dream job

It’s hard, introspective, work, but laying out even a rough plan for your career will help you craft stronger essays and present a clear, compelling case for why you deserve a spot at your dream school.

5. Leadership Experience

MBA programs are looking for future leaders, and the surest indicator of future behavior is past behavior. Write down the three experiences in your life when you best-demonstrated leadership (personal or professional).

6. Awards

This seems obvious, but we’ll say it anyway: Admissions committees love awards. They indicate excellence and dedication, two qualities necessary to succeed in an MBA program. Write down any and all awards you’ve received, personally or professionally.

7. Extracurriculars

Admissions committees also like to see extracurricular activity; it’s a sign of an engaged, well-rounded MBA candidate. Write down all meaningful extracurricular experiences, including volunteering, community service, charity work, and any other organizations you’re involved with outside work. List the dates of your involvement, and your key contributions.

8. Fun Facts

Finally, write down three things about yourself that wouldn’t show up in your application otherwise. This might be the fact that you love to play piano, are writing a children’s book, or are obsessed with barbecue. Little touches like this go a long way.

Great一now you’ve got a list of your key attributes and accomplishments, all of which you’ll use when completing your application!

Crafting Your MBA Application Headline—With Three Examples

Now for the last step: to condense these into a single headline: a sentence that describes you as an MBA applicant.

Here’s why that’s important: more than one MBA admissions officer is going to read your application, so the sharper and punchier your headline is, the easier it will be for you to transmit your excellence to the entire committee. Think to yourself: What would one admissions officer say about me to another? Then try and write that sentence.

To help you out, here are 3 examples:

  • All-American tennis player, renewable energy rockstar, seven promotions in four years
  • Venture capital climber, LGBT advocate, passionate about social impact in the Bay Area
  • LDS leader, high school valedictorian, all-star product manager, father of two

If you’re having trouble articulating your attributes and accomplishments, or need help with your headline, consider hiring an MBA coach. We have dozens of vetted, world-class coaches on Leland who are skilled at precisely this process, and they’ll be able to guide you through this first, critical step.

With that, you’re ready to kick off your MBA application journey!

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