I’d estimate that 3 out of 5 MBA applicants to top-tier schools have traveled widely, for work or for fun. It follows that in their MBA applications they cite travel as an activity they value and put it among the important experiences they have had. They think that journeying across the world speaks for itself as proof of “diversity.” Travel “broadens the mind” and all that.
This is true. But there is a lot of value to be had in travel that MBA applicants often don’t get to. Here I tip my metaphorical hat to the mother of an MBA Studio client who gave her son the following feedback — before he came to me — which absolutely dovetails with how I exhort clients to squeeze admissions value from their travel (and other) experiences. I quote:
“I don’t think you have written something meaningful enough about your travels. You have traveled widely but it looks like it doesn’t seem to have influenced you, affected your outlook about people, society.
“Perhaps write something meaningful about poverty, and yet the ingenuity of people who have very little but are innovative, creative, hard working.
“Can you think of reasons why you chose to travel to these places, culture, philosophy, history, etc.?
“Some insight into the way you and your friend chose to travel, no fuss, not staying fancy places.
“This travel was a test also in being independent, showing initiative, taking calculated risks in foreign places. (You don’t give yourself sufficient credit for these things.)”
If all mothers had this depth of insight, I’d be out of a job. But, seriously, the task here, and everywhere in MBA admissions, is to extract the full admissions value from any activity you have done, experiences you’ve had, or choices you’ve made.
Look at your experiences, look at the skill sets and character traits of middle-to-senior managers, and make the link.
In this case an applicant following this advice would be showing Adcom not just “travel,” but a nuanced outlook on foreign cultures; an appreciation of genuinely alternative value systems and social cohesion including alternative forms of innovation; a non-materialist sensibility; an ability to ride out adversity; practice at calculated risk-management, and so on. Now this is a platform a good b-school can build on, to create a senior manager for significant 21st Century organizations.