Not every applicant to business school is blessed with a natural affinity for number-crunching. In fact, as more and more business schools are courting non-traditional applicants from under represented professions such as healthcare and education, many students find themselves wanting the degree, but lacking the quantitative aptitude MBA programs require.
All business schools differ slightly in their admissions requirements. Some are highly ranked and expect applicants to have exceptional GMAT scores. Others are far less competitive, or take a holistic approach. But no matter their ranking — or their admissions standards — all MBA programs share a curriculum that is rigorously quantitative. In today’s data and tech-driven marketplace, there is simply no way around this.
From finance classes, to statistics, to business analytics and operations management, many of the foundational business school courses are numbers-oriented and data-centric. Even the arguably softer study of marketing is ultimately data dependent. To succeed academically, business school students must possess some quantitative and analytical savvy. And no matter where a student is coming from in terms of quantitative skills, the math portion of business school will ramp up quickly.
Some MBA applicants will be able to work through their mild cases of math anxiety while filling out applications. They might even boost their weak records or lack of quantitative experience with some additional coursework and a solid math score on their GMAT exams. But addressing a weak record of quant skills is different than being honest with yourself about whether you have what it takes to manage an intense quant-driven curriculum.
Some individuals are just more mathematically-inclined than others. As a student, you might be able to use a calculator, work with tutors, and engage with a study group to squeak through your degree. But if quantitative work is a continuous struggle for you, you might want to consider whether this is the right career path for you. Many post-MBA positions are equally (or more) numbers oriented than a traditional MBA curriculum.
But now is not the time to give up. Whether you are a solid math student and just need to brush off some dust, or are truly intimidated by the thought of quant courses, if you truly want to earn your MBA then you will need to face the numbers — literally.
To become a strong applicant, you must demonstrate strong quantitative acumen. If your record in math is lackluster, here are some helpful ways to shore up that picture:
And leave yourself a few months, if not more, to study for the exam. The GMAT is a timed, standardized test. You will need to get familiar with the format of the exam and with the process of pacing yourself. Furthermore, you may benefit from being re-taught some basic math concepts. Many applicants are not necessarily bad at math, they just need to learn key techniques strategies for avoiding careless mistakes. With any luck, tutoring will help you become more knowledgeable about the kinds of math problems that tend to show up on the GMAT, become more confident, and score your best score!
Classes in finance, accounting, and statistics will all be helpful. It will be even more helpful for your record if you get an "A" in these classes. If you studied sociology as an undergrad, it may be tougher to demonstrate strong quant skills on your applications. But taking courses such as these will help bolster your quant profile. You might even get brownie points for realizing that your skills needed improvement, and being proactive in correcting them.
You can do this in the business school resume that you create and submit as part of your application, and even repeat this theme in your essays. Your recommenders might also be able to provide examples of your quantitative aptitude. If you excel professionally, learn quickly, and have some evidence of ability towards strong quantitative mastery, chances are you will be able to convince others of your fit for the MBA.
Strong quantitative skills are a requirement for succeeding in any business school, and are also needed in many post-MBA positions. Increasingly, however, admissions committees are seeking out diverse and well-rounded students. If you fall into this category but lack a proven track record of quantitative skills, you can be proactive in demonstrating your aptitude. No one expects you to be a math whiz. The trick is to assuage any concerns an MBA program might have that you will struggle as a student. If you can prove your ability to recognize weak areas and make adjustments, admissions committees will see that you are ready to take on the business school workload.