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How to Use Startup Experience in An MBA Entrance Essay

When you were applying to your undergraduate college, the essays were all about showing off your diversity and SAT skills. Maybe you waxed poetic about that summer you spent building houses with Habitat for Humanity in El Salvador.

Maybe you even included a photo of the time you won the clarinet competition. Or you leaned on the fact that you worked a half-time job throughout high school to pay for your first year on your own. That was all great stuff for an 18-year-old.

Now that you’re applying for an MBA, and the competition is going to be fierce no matter where you’re applying. Plus, MBA committees don’t care as much about test scores (does it really matter if you’re in the top 10 percent on your verbal?) and extracurricular activities as they do about what you’ve done to prep for the program and degree.

If you’ve been involved with a startup, you’ve already received a crash course in MBA studies and that’s a good thing. Use the six lessons below that you probably learned in the process to get you into that grad program.

1. Match your experience to the course descriptions

This is a great tactic, but don’t make it obvious (in other words, don’t repeat the course descriptions verbatim, but paraphrase them). For example, if one of the required classes is “Digital Marketing,” highlight how you headed up the Facebook campaign for your startup or designed an app that tied in with an e-newsletter you wrote on a monthly basis.

In this instance, you can certainly use the term digital marketing. But if the course is something a little more long-winded, you’ll have to change up the wording.

2. Highlight what you can give

MBA programs aren’t philanthropic organizations that really want to teach you everything there is to know about business. They choose students based on what each applicant can give and provide to the classes, the school, and the university as a whole.

The essay is your opportunity to highlight what you can bring that most other applicants can’t, whether it’s your experience with the 501(c)3 process or how you dealt with foreign clients.

3. Highlight what you can get

That being said, grad schools also want to choose applicants who will get the most out of their program. Show them you know what their courses are about, and make sure the committee knows this is your top choice (even if you have five other top choices).

It’s kind of like during a job interview, where you let the person know you’ve done your research on the company.

4. Describe your innovative funding

As a startup, you probably got a little creative when it came to drumming up capital. You’ll need to do the same thing when it comes to funding your MBA.

What will a committee think of an entrepreneur who’s asking for a full-ride scholarship with absolutely no mention of how he or she has come up with funding for a company? Many essays request a mention of how you’ll fund your education, so compare the funding outreach in your startup to your funding outreach for your education.

5. Showcase your preparation for round two

Being part of a startup is an excellent way to make a lot of mistakes and learn from experience. So why an MBA now? Let the committee know the mistakes you made, what you learned, and how their program can help you perform even better the next time around. Whether or not your startup is successful is moot; it’s all about the journey.

6. But don’t focus just on the startup

The fact that you were involved in a startup should be the foundation of your essay, but it shouldn’t be everything. Like it or not, committees still want diversity.

So talk about that volunteer trip to Ghana. Mention that monetized blog that has nothing to do with the startup. Most importantly, hire a professional writing service to give your essay that magic touch.