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How To Write A Winning Master's Application

Applying to a business master's program? Here's three ways to make your master's application stand out from the crowd

Thu Nov 5 2020

When you're putting together a business master's application, you really have to know the schools you're applying to so you can demonstrate you're a great fit. 

In this Applicant Question, written by Aude Henou from Emlyon Business School, you'll learn three ways to successfully demonstrate your desirable qualities to your chosen schools:

1. Adjust your application to each program or school

The first thing you must have in mind is that your application needs to stand out amongst a whole host of others.

Business schools may all have different admissions processes, so you need to try and understand what matters to them, depending on what is required.

Every piece of information you get will be useful, and you can collect this information online or through information sessions.

The time you spend on reading about the program and admissions expectations is never lost, and will prevent you from taking a standard approach based on preconceived ideas you may have.

Applicants who really try to understand what is required and do not produce a standard approach, like the same documents, similar texts and the same angles for all programs, are more likely to match the admissions expectations.

Read carefully about the positioning and branding of the school. Look at the vocabulary, values, and spirit expressed to check if you are on the same page.

At this stage, you can predict your own profile and think about your personal winning qualities that matter the most for the program.

It is important to produce an efficient application. Depending on class size and the admissions process, your application file may be reviewed by automation and then by admissions officers.

Data treatment requires that you produce clear input that will help to identify whether you match first level criteria.

For instance, it is important to think about the keywords you will use. For complementary qualitative pieces, tests or examinations that will be read and assessed by a person, you need to facilitate their reading and evaluation.

Simple rules apply here; don’t make it too long, focus on facts and proof rather than general features, proofread your English and orthography, and respect the format of the documents required (resume, recommendation letters).

Likewise for interviews, take into account the same environment analysis, and focus on responding to questions, more than overselling your qualities.

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2. Be genuine and highlight what your strengths really are

Many applicants believe they need to match a standard profile.

They talk generally and try to fit in and may be tempted to invent or compensate their shortcomings.

Beyond your measurable skills and background, that will be assessed at some point, program directors are looking for diversity and need to understand the student and learner that you will be.

I strongly recommend that you assume your weaknesses and show how you are aware of your progression in order to focus more on your personality, assets and future contribution as a classmate.

You need to showcase how you will contribute to teamwork, how you will behave as a student and in your future professional environment, and justify your points to avoid superficiality.

As diversity matters, and many different profiles of students and personalities will be welcomed, you should give examples and focus on your experience and self-assessment to provide insights on the learner you will be and future graduate you could become.

Are you thinking about joining an industry that your profile doesn't necessarily suit? Are you afraid your atypical path may not serve you well?

These may be the differences that will be interesting for the program cohort in the end.

Of course, any original or remarkable experience can be shared. If you have not yet accomplished something significant, or lack international experience for instance, think about what could compensate as your own winning qualities.

What matters is also what you have learnt from your experiences. Connect this with what you really want to pursue if you join a program - this will help the program and admissions team fit you into your future learning environment.

One useful tip is to think and express why this program is suitable for you, highlighting your qualities, rather than what you expect from the program and the business school.

At this point, admissions is more about what you will bring to the class, professor and program, rather than the opposite.

3. Know what's expected for general versus specialized masters programs

Depending on your level of seniority and your profile, the expectations and impact will not be the same.

If you are applying for a generalist program (usually with a longer format), it may make sense to still consider different professional possibilities if you do not have a definite project.

Your winning qualities will entail the link between your previous academic path and your next step: self-awareness and skills.

In the end, even if you will deepen your perspectives during the program, with employability as a final outcome, the gap should not be too large. Your winning qualities when applying for a specialized program, will more likely be for the program and admissions depending on: how familiar you are with the activity sector/domain; if your interest is not superficial; if you match with the environment criteria.

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