Cracking the Code: The Ultimate Guide to M7 Admissions Success

M7 business schools are known for their prestigious MBA programs and are highly sought after by aspiring business leaders from around the world. In this blog, we bring you insights from a thought-provoking session featuring Guillermo, a candidate at Columbia, Priyanka, an incoming candidate at Booth with a finance and accounting background, and Aarti Kukreja, an admissions consultant with 18 years of experience specializing in top 20 schools, specifically the M7. Together, they share valuable tips and strategies to help you succeed in the competitive M7 admissions process.

WHAT’S UNIQUE ABOUT M7 APPLICATIONS?

“Well, there’s a lot of things that make it different. But the first thing that popped into my head is kind of like the amount of people that are applying to the school, either national or international. Everyone knows these schools from everywhere in the world. So you’re going to be having a lot of competitors, people that will be applying with different stories, different things. And huge, enormous number of applications. And the applicant readers will be reading tons of applications. So that’s for me, what makes these M seven applications pretty much different.” ~ Guillermo (MBA candidate at Columbia)

M7 applications are distinct from other business school applications in terms of international competition and the sheer number of applicants. As Priyanka mentions, the acceptance rates at M7 schools indicate the intense competition you’ll face. To stand out, it’s crucial to create a unique and compelling storyline. This requires introspection to understand your strengths, weaknesses, goals, achievements, and why you need an MBA. 

“When I decided to apply to M7, I think the first thing I looked at was the acceptance rate, because I think that gives you a clear picture as to how many people you’re actually competing against or alongside. So definitely trying to differentiate yourself is something that is key and that’s something you tried to do with every other application as well. When you look at the class profile of the people who have gotten into it, it might give you a serious complex sometimes. As i thought that I was nowhere a match to them. I think that’s when doing a lot of introspection comes in handy. I think I did that a lot more when I was doing an M7 application because I think how can I project myself in the best possible light is not enough, but also how am I going to address some vulnerabilities in my application or things that I think are probably not so good in my application.”~ Priyanka (incoming MBA student at Booth)

Standing out among the pool of applicants with diverse backgrounds and impressive profiles is a significant challenge in the M7 admissions process. As mentioned, candidates may encounter others with better work profiles, academic achievements, or similar skill sets. However, what sets applicants apart is their unique storyline and the way they structure their application.

CREATING YOUR UNIQUE STORYLINE

The M7 schools receive a vast number of applications, including a significant proportion of international students. This amplifies the need for differentiation. To succeed, candidates must craft an application that stands out in multiple dimensions.

1. DIFFERENTIATION THROUGH PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES: 

The key to standing out is a compelling and authentic storyline. This entails introspection and understanding one’s personal journey, motivations, and career aspirations. 

Once you’re an applicant looking to study internationally, you want to go to the best school. But guess what? Everybody’s thinking exactly the same thing. You need to take a little bit of a step back and ask yourself, how are you different? How can you say it differently? By presenting a narrative that is genuinely distinct and memorable, you can capture the attention of admissions committees.

“I also feel like the difference between M7 and other B schools is that M7 needs a lot more introspection.”~ Aarti Kukreja

While profiles and experiences may overlap, individuality lies in personal attributes and how they have shaped one’s perspective. Highlighting unique qualities, passions, and life experiences adds depth to the application and differentiates it from others.

2. ALIGNING WITH SCHOOL VALUES: 

Each M7 school has specific values and qualities they seek in their students. Guillermo highlights the challenge of aligning with these values, as M7 institutions are highly selective. You must demonstrate that you are the right fit for the school by emphasizing your compatibility with their personality and value system. This requires a deep understanding of the school’s culture and ethos.

As Aarti says, “Schools have a varied set of values and qualities that they are looking for. Explain to the school that you are the right fit, which is much more tough for the M Sevens because they are legendary schools. If they pick a value like, say, collaboration, you just have to show that you are collaborative, whereas the rest of the schools are fairly flexible.” 

Aligning personal goals and values with those of the school enhances the likelihood of acceptance. You must demonstrate why they are an ideal fit for the school’s culture and how they will contribute to the community.

STORYTELLING

Storytelling is paramount in M7 applications. Your story must be authentic and introspective, reflecting your uniqueness and differentiation. As Priyanka shares, “introspection is the key to projecting yourself in the best possible light and addressing any vulnerabilities in your application”. By telling a compelling story that resonates with the school’s values, you can set yourself apart from other applicants.

UNDERSTANDING “WHYS”

Storytelling is not just about narrating a series of events; it’s about delving into the reasons behind one’s choices and decisions. To begin, applicants must sit with themselves and explore their strengths, weaknesses, goals, failures, and achievements. Understanding the “why” behind each aspect of their journey is essential. Every question they ask themselves should have a deeper layer, leading to the core motivations and aspirations.

As the applicant uncovers the bottom-most “why,” they find themselves with a clear purpose for pursuing an MBA. Backing their answers with evidence and experiences allows them to frame a compelling narrative. This storytelling process is key to presenting a unique and differentiated story compared to their peers.

A crucial aspect often overlooked is understanding the value system of the business school they are applying to. Each top business school has its own distinct culture and values. Aligning one’s personal values, aspirations, and goals with those of the school increases the chances of being a good fit. This alignment showcases a genuine interest in the school and a potential contribution to its community.

And here comes the MBA and Beyond help! To develop a well-crafted story MBA and Beyond helps applicants go through a nine-step process. Among which, content gathering is a vital component. It involves brainstorming and reflecting on goals, strengths, weaknesses, failures, achievements, and the reasons for pursuing an MBA. The process also includes considering elements like international exposure, extracurriculars, and the right thought process within a well-defined framework.

Applicants benefit from brainstorming sessions with various individuals, including consultants, content specialists, friends, peers, and colleagues. Engaging in discussions with these individuals helps in gathering diverse perspectives and insights, which can further enrich the storytelling process.

One of the key factors that differentiate the M7 application from others is the emphasis on introspective and differentiated storytelling. It requires applicants to put significant thought into their long-term goals and the reasons driving their pursuit of an MBA. Starting this introspective process early, even if applying next year, allows candidates to refine their story and present a strong application.

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