This is a story about my student, an international applicant with a top GPA and GMAT score, working in finance, who failed to get into b-school last year. I’ve talked about what went wrong with her application last year here (link); here’s what we did differently this year.

Building Confidence in Presenting Oneself
We started in the summer, when my student was planning to attend an MBA info session hosted in her city by a top-5 MBA program. We talked using Skype video sessions, covering professional and personal topics.  I identified a few words that she was mispronouncing and a few terms that were too technical to use (unless the person on the other side was a finance expert). We practiced and practiced for hours, until she gained confidence and was better able to manage her pace, take breaks when needed, and just go with the flow of the conversation.

Working on the resume and essays

Writing new MBA essays was a big challenge. My client spent a lot of time on her essays last year, and also sent them to a service for final editing and proofreading. While the grammar of her essays was decent, the content was less inspiring. She talked mostly about what she did at work and how successful she was, but less about her decision-making process,  challenges, or what made her results so impressive. We talked about her career progression and stories, and identified the core of each experience – what was so special about it and why her actions were not what the average person would do.

Securing top recommendation letters, again
Getting recommendation letters again was not an easy task. Her supervisors had already written lengthy letters last year, and we had to motivate them to write strong letters again. We had identified the best stories to be covered by each of the recommenders, and how they were going to fit in with the rest of the application. We wanted to have some overlap with the resume and her essays but of course we were looking for a fresh perspective.

We spent many hours on the phone and Skype and in offline editing sessions to create the best possible MBA application for this candidate profile. This year, with no change in her GMAT or career progression (same role as last year), and the same level of involvement in community work, she was able to get interview calls from all the schools to which she applied. What a great first step!

To see how the interviews went from here, come back read the third part of this post. Or check out the first part of this MBA re-application success story.