Applying to Business School as an Entrepreneur

MBA AdmissionsFor the vast majority of business school applicants, pursuing an MBA is primarily about the opportunity to secure employment at their dream corporations. If you are one of the the ambitious few who are interested in entrepreneurship, your MBA dreams may align with incubating your own venture and forgoing the sanctity and security of the more traditional post-MBA career paths.

Applying to business school as an entrepreneur sets up a very specific set of considerations applicants should be aware of, however. Let’s discuss a few things that should be considered before applying to MBA programs as an entrepreneur:

Chances of Success:
How confident are you in the viability of your concept/business? Applying to business school as an entrepreneur is very risky from an application perspective. The Admissions Committee will surely scrutinize your plan and its potential for success, so it is important you have run a similar “stress test” on your concept or business.

Generally, business schools want to make sure their students are employed after graduation – an MBA who is not placed at a job at graduation (or 3 months after) can not only bring down the statistics of the school’s post-graduation employment report, but it can also cause that graduate to be an unhappy alumnus, which can lead to a negative perception of their MBA experience. As such, it will be best to make sure your entrepreneurial ambitions are clearly achievable, to both yourself and to the Admissions Committee.

Back-up Plan:
A high percentage of startup businesses fail. Do you have a contingency plan if your concept fails or if you just decide entrepreneurship is not for you? Schools will be looking to know that you have thought through all of the permutations and combinations of your decision. This can commonly manifest itself as an application question, essay prompt or an interview question, so have an answer ready that is well-thought-out and aligns with your past experiences.

Program Support:
Are you targeting MBA programs that have a track record of supporting entrepreneurship? The more your school is receptive to the challenges of the entrepreneurial lifestyle, the more well-received your application will be. Don’t think this makes your chances of admission much higher, as these schools are also looking to weed out those less committed to their goals. Also, some programs support entrepreneurs as alumni through funding and loan forgiveness, which could be advantageous during those lean early years of launching your business, and will be handy to keep in mind as you compile your list of target schools.

Does your timeline for diving into entrepreneurship make sense? Often, applicants will identify entrepreneurship as their short-term post-MBA goal. However, if the road map to starting your business appears a bit murky, shifting this short-term goal to the long-term may help make a better case for your profile. The Admissions Committee tends to be a bit more forgiving with long-term goals, given that so many things can happen before reaching them, but with short-term goals, the expectation is these should be highly achievable.

Applying to business school as an entrepreneur can be challenging, but can also represent a tremendous opportunity to pursue your dreams. Consider the above factors before you start your own application process.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or request a free MBA Admissions Consultation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTube, and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more articles by him here.

Chad Troutwine in Today's Wall Street Journal on the Value of an MBA for Entrepreneurs

Business School AdmissionsToday on the “Hire Education” blog on the Wall Street Journal, Veritas Prep co-founder and CEO Chad Troutwine questioned the conventional wisdom that business school is no place for aspiring entrepreneurs. Some would-be entrepreneurs see business school as an unnecessary (and costly) pit stop on their way to to startup success, while others actually think that sitting in a classroom and dissecting case studies could actually hurt them in their quest to start a successful company.

Is this true? Could two years in the classroom effectively neuter the world’s next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs?

Not so. While it’s true that the most successful entrepreneurs contain drive and ambition that can’t be picked up in an eight-week business course, those important traits are only modestly useful if one doesn’t supplement them with the harder business skills needed to navigate a startup’s delicate early years. Managing cash flow, securing investors, identifying target markets to profitably go after… These are the things that even the most ambitious entrepreneur needs to be able to do at some level.

While business schools were slow to embrace the teaching of skills that can benefit entrepreneurs and their early-stage startups, that started to change in the 1990s (partly driven by the tech and dot-com booms). Nowadays its common to find a second-year MBA student whose time is spent almost exclusively in entrepreneurship-related classes, business plan competitions, and pro bono consulting work for local startups. Some of those students even stick around after they graduate, taking advantage of the school’s business incubator and related resources.

And, while you’re sketching out your business plan, your future leadership team might draw heavily from the people sitting around you in the business school classroom. According to Chad’s article:

Graduate business schools offer an unrivaled professional network. Top M.B.A. programs admit between 200 and 900 students each year. Members of the same class, particular those in the same smaller cohort, develop a close bond, one that can last for a career. M.B.A. graduates are privy to the shared experiences of an extraordinary group of professionals. A typical class includes former investment bankers and future venture capitalists (your source of capital), marketers (your brand guru), accountants (your CFO), management consultants (your chief strategist) and other types of industry insiders. Most business schools are also part of a larger university network, further expanding your business relationships. Alumni connections can also provide a source of evangelists for your product or service.

Entrepreneurship will always be a tough game. It’s not for everyone. But, by arming yourself with the skills and connections that come with an MBA, you will only increase your likelihood of success.

If you’re considering applying to business school, be sure to download our free Annual Reports, 15 completely free guides to the world’s top business schools. And, as always, be sure to subscribe to this blog and follow us on Twitter!

Considering Starting a Business? Now May Be the Best Time!

Believe it or not, a recession, when loans are hard to come by and customers are less likely to spend, may actually be the best time to start a business. According to a blog post on the City University of New York’s web site, a recession often directly and indirectly creates a set of circumstances in which it’s easier to get a small business off the ground.

First, a soft economy will often spur local and state officials to eliminate or reduce red tape in an effort to stimulate growth and get back some lost tax dollars. The result can mean getting a license just days or weeks after applying, rather than months. Second, vendors and suppliers, who are often struggling to maintain their own businesses, often are much more willing to accommodate an entrepreneur with lower prices or better service. Need something delivered to your new storefront today? No problem… The supplier’s truck is empty and available whenever you need it. And anyone who has seen all of the “For Lease” signs posted all over the U.S. shouldn’t be surprised to hear that commercials rents are quickly dropping in most markets.

According to data published by Columbia University’s Entrepreneurship Center, the number of small businesses that shut down actually declines during a recession, in part because of the factors mentioned above. And, as a recession drags on, the number of business started each year tends to grow, perhaps as an early sign of a pending turnaround.

If you’re interested in starting a business, should you dive right in, or perhaps earn an MBA first and then try your hand at entrepreneurship? That largely depends on your own personal situation and how much experience you have, but one thing is clear: Don’t worry too much about timing the market, since even a recession may be a great time to start a business.