MS in Commerce Blog

Tips for Making Your M.S. in Commerce Application More Competitive

Before you request a reference or draft an essay, we encourage you to take time to reflect on how the M.S. in Commerce might fit with your strengths and goals. Here are three tips for using that knowledge to make your M.S. in Commerce application more competitive.

1. Be sure to tell your unique story.

Our committee practices a holistic review process, which means we’re interested in learning what motivates you, what your strengths are as a student, and what you have to contribute to the M.S. in Commerce community.  Resist the urge to think about your application as a checklist of items to complete or GPA/test scores you need to obtain. Use the application as an opportunity to communicate a robust picture of your personality, potential and fit.

Look at your transcript, resume and essays together. What story do they tell about who you are and what is important to you?   What themes or trends emerge?  How have you changed or matured intellectually, socially and personally during your undergraduate experience?  How has your career interest changed or matured?  How do the skills or experiences do possess line up with those that are needed in your chosen track?  Is there a story you can share in your essay that will give the committee more insight into your character or motivations?  Consider all of the pieces of your application – transcripts, test scores, recommendation letters, essays, prerequisites, and background information.  How can you best: highlight who you are; demonstrate how you can be successful in the M.S. in Commerce program; and show how your chosen track fits with your personality and goals?

2. Don’t be the hero in your essays.

Your application essays are one of the best opportunities to highlight your unique attributes and characteristics.  It is easy to default to talking about your accomplishments – how you came to the team’s rescue to salvage the project, how you reached out to someone from a different background to integrate them into your group – without sharing very much about who you are or what’s important to you.  The result is a missed opportunity.

The best essays are the ones in which candidates reflect on their unique experiences and share how that experience changed them or helped them learn more about themselves.  Yes, it can be more of a risk to let your personality shine through, but isn’t the willingness to take a calculated risk an important business skill to practice?

Special alert:  Please do not be tempted to resurrect an undergraduate college application essay, follow a “model essay” format, or engage the help of application prep or professional essay writing services.  (Yes, we can tell.  Why risk announcing that you do not feel ready to engage in writing and analysis at the graduate level?

3. Choose recommenders who understand and value your potential

The M.S. in Commerce application limits the number of recommendation letters to two.  We encourage you to two people who can best assess your potential as a graduate student and future business leader.   

  • Academic reference: At least one of your recommendations must be from a faculty member who has taught you.  That doesn’t necessarily mean you received an ‘A’ in his/her class.  It does mean they should have first-hand knowledge of your growth and strengths as a student.    Were you well-prepared or an active participant in their class?  Did your skills as a writer, critical thinker, analytical problem solver, or astute observer grow as a result of your efforts in their class? Did your academic skills improve over the course of the semester or between the time you took your first class with them and the second?  We assume that faculty within your major field(s) of study are the ones who will know you best.  If this isn’t the case, you may need to help us understand your choice using your third essay.
  • Additional referenceYou may choose anyone – employer, teacher, or adviser – who can attest to your unique traits, interests, or growth.  Please keep in mind you want a reference who can evaluate your potential as a future business professional.  Can he/she give examples of your work ethic, professionalism, willingness to take a risk, leadership, drive, etc.?  Can they relay a story of how you handled a particularly challenging situation or made a significant impact on others around you?  We strongly encourage you to resist the temptation to ask someone because of his/her title or role.  You will be best served by someone who can reflect on your growth and potential through their personal observations.

We suggest that you schedule time to discuss your academic and professional goals and your motivation for applying to the M.S. in Commerce program with your potential recommenders.  During the meeting, you will want to learn: (1) if they feel they can provide a positive evaluation of your potential as a graduate student and/or business professional, and (2) if they have the time to do so by the deadline you have identified.  Listen carefully.  If the potential recommender cannot enthusiastically agree to both, then you should thank them for being candid and move to the next person on your list.

If you would like to discuss these tips or your individual situation, please feel free to reach out to any member of our recruiting and admission team.  Please find our contact information here.

-Written by Cyndy Huddleston, Associate Dean, Graduate Admissions & Corporate Relations

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