As a graduate assistant on the Broad Full-Time MBA admissions team at Michigan State University, I’ve had the opportunity to gain an in-depth understanding of the application process and admissions decision criteria. I would like to share some helpful application tips and interviewing techniques that I’ve learned through my experience on the admissions team to help prospective MBAs through the application process.

Graduate assistant, Abigaile Wu, shares advice based on her experiences of working on the admissions team.

Abigaile Wu, first-year MBA student

Apart from your test scores, transcripts, resume and references, here are some things that admissions officers look for in your application and interview that will help you stand out.

Clear short- and long-term career goals

It is important that you develop a compelling career plan that highlights your skills, background and experience, as well as what you hope to learn from the MBA program that inspires the admissions officers. They want to see that you have a well-thought-out plan that will truly benefit from an MBA degree.

Admissions officers know and understand that your goals may shift once you explore new topics and make new connections in the program, but coming into the interview and MBA program with clear goals is very important. After you have established these goals, determine what you plan to do during the program and post-MBA to achieve them.

Why an MBA is right for you

Consider why you are interested in an MBA program, who you are, what you have accomplished and what you have learned thus far. There may have been a time when you realized you lack the necessary skills, knowledge or experience to contribute to a project or achieve a promotion or industry change during your career. Make sure to clearly communicate what led you to conclude that an MBA is right for you and vital for your professional development to help you achieve your career goals.

How this specific MBA program can help you to reach your goals

Describe the reasons you chose the specific MBA program you are applying for and how it can assist you in achieving your future goals. On your application or during the interview, you may demonstrate the research you have done about the school, the curriculum, faculty and the numerous ways in which the MBA program enhances the lives of its students.

To fully understand an MBA program, you are encouraged to attend prospective student events and webinars, network with alumni and current students, read student blogs and learn more about the schools’ values and vision. In your application and interview, highlight your favorite things that you learned about the school and the program through your research and how the program offerings will help you achieve your personal goals and career goals. It is also important to research what career outcomes alumni from the program typically have and see if they align with your career goals.

What you will contribute to the MBA program

Based on your background, professional experiences and interests, you can provide insight into what you plan to contribute to the MBA program that you are applying for. Consider what is important to you, what you enjoy or where you intend to invest your time. You could talk about experiences and knowledge you want to share with your classmates and team members, clubs and organizations you’d like to be a part of, projects and initiatives you would like to lead, as well as how you plan to have a positive impact on those around you in the MBA program and contribute to the community as a whole.

Interview and communication skills

Of course, it’s easier said than done, but don’t think of the interview as a test. Think of it as a chance for the admissions officer to get to know who you really are. Let your personality shine through!

Interviewers want to know if you will be a good fit for their business college community. There is no automated set of quantitative decisions, such as whether a particular answer is correct or incorrect. Rather, the interview is a comprehensive assessment of your individuality. MBA programs have a diverse culture and require a significant amount of teamwork. Think about the kind of people with whom you would like to spend most of your time in this program. As a result, your first goal in any interview is to establish a genuine human connection with the person you are speaking with. The goal is to make them feel that you are someone they would like to have as a friend, as a professional connection and as a member of their network.

Furthermore, during the interview, you must be direct and concise in your responses. Explain your background, experiences and goals in a structured and clear way so the interviewer can follow what you’re saying. Answering interview questions concisely, stating important details without running on too long or getting off-topic, is key. You should conclude the conversation by stating why you are excited about attending the program and what you hope to contribute should you be admitted.