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Entrepreneurial Dreams versus Application Reality

Entrepreneurial Dreams versus Application Reality

Many applicants dream about forging an entrepreneurial path with business school, but that doesn’t always make the application the right place to share those dreams.

Over the past dozen years of admissions consulting and GMAT preparation at VINCIA PREP, interest among our students has consistently increased in pursuing prestigious programs as a means towards realizing dreams of becoming an entrepreneur.

Of course, the subject of entrepreneurship represented at business schools through the growth of incubators and accelerators to courses, electives and specializations has kept pace with and even fed this interest.

When it comes to choosing their students, however, elite business schools care more about your employability than an idea you have been quietly mulling over to be the next unicorn entrepreneur upon graduation.

That is because business schools are measured – by rankings, word of mouth and even their own career statistics – on their ability to produce highly employable, highly paid professionals with a promising career path.

Integral to all those methods of measurement is the first career move upon graduation. As well as being one of the easier statistics for schools to record thanks to proximity, students accepting job offers from prestigious companies like McKinsey & Co. or BCG (Boston Consulting Group) upon graduation offer a clear and trackable statistical starting point.

While an entrepreneur with a freshly launched project may have employment upon graduation, it’s not likely the entrepreneur will be earning a salary commensurate or as directly straightforward as a strategy consultant. And, what’s more, the salary could even be the same or less than what was earned prior to the program.

The two most important statistics to The Financial Times Global MBA ranking, representing almost half of its ranking criteria are “Weighted Salary” which is an alumnus salary averaged over three years following graduation and “Salary Increase” which is the difference in salary from before the MBA to after.

If you do become an entrepreneur and launch your dream following graduation, of course, unlike strategy consultants who earn guaranteed salaries (and bonuses) there is no guarantee it will start paying off significantly, even over a three-year period following graduation.

If all this seems like business schools might discourage entrepreneurship or pass on would-be entrepreneurs, they are most definitely not. In fact, from a public image and marketing perspective having a successful entrepreneur who launched their business idea during the program is an extraordinary benefit.

Take for example, Nike founder Phil Knight, who became a global billionaire business figure exploring an idea he developed into a business plan while pursuing an MBA at Stanford. Knight has done an extraordinary amount to build Stanford’s reputation and donated nearly half a billion dollars to the institution in 2016.

As of 2019, however, only 15% of Stanford’s 409 MBA graduates actually started or co-started a full-time business upon graduation. And, those 409 MBA graduates were picked from a pool of almost 8,200 applications, which would be about 5%.

To say it mildly, earning a spot in Stanford’s MBA is not easy but to proclaim in your application essays and interview you are definitely going to emerge as an entrepreneur from that highly selective classroom takes confidence.

Its statistically more likely your entrepreneurial dreams fall somewhere short of that level of certainty. If you are like the vast majority of Stanford students or even Phil Knight, who hired his first employee almost a decade after graduation, your new business venture will come after at least a few years working in more traditionally secure roles.

So, rather than explaining an entrepreneurial dream or desire in the precious little space given to applicants to describe their ideal future, a less risky path would be to emphasize post-graduation plans focused on higher probability careers and real hiring companies consistently hiring on campus.

This doesn’t mean you should hide all desire of learning more about entrepreneurship but don’t waste the opportunity to detail your employability and the accomplishments you’ve built so far in your career by exploring an entrepreneurial fantasy you may think makes you different or special.

Finally, if you are absolutely determined to share how you will leap immediately into entrepreneurship upon graduation, be forewarned you will need sterling credentials with demonstrable success already as an entrepreneur.

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