How to Stand Out as a Business Student

If you have navigated to this article, you have most likely decided to pursue an educational and professional career in business. In which case, congratulations! Without a doubt, this decision is guaranteed to be one of the greatest of your life. A degree in business establishes invaluable management and leadership skills that will give you the ability to take on almost any industry-specific role or position.

That said, succeeding as an undergraduate or a graduate-level business student can be an enormous challenge. It requires grit, focus, determination, and time, all of which can be difficult for anyone to appropriately allocate, especially those who lead busy personal, professional, and family lives.

Every student learns differently and has various academic necessities, and the ability to accurately identify and communicate those needs, both internally and externally, is exceedingly important. Business students must set themselves apart by being ambitious and exhibiting strong communication and problem-solving skills in order to stand out from the crowd in today’s competitive business environment.

Utilizing internships, networking, research, and extracurricular activities are great ways for business students to develop skills and gain experience, positioning them for successful careers.

This article offers some of the most effective strategies and tools that other online and on-campus business students have used to succeed with flying colors in their respective degree programs.

Applying to Business School

The application process alone can be extremely intimidating, but there are most definitely some great ways to stand out among many others. As always, it is vital to demonstrate that you have done well in school and on standardized tests. While not impossible, it is tough to stand out and get ahead without an exemplary GPA and high test scores.

Make sure to pay attention to your studies and listen to your teachers! For those who struggle with standardized testing like the SAT, ACT, or the GMAT, excellent study guides and prep courses are just a few mouse clicks away at excellent sites such as Beat the GMAT!

However, it is imperative to illustrate to your favorite schools the ways in which you have sought life and educational experiences outside of the classroom, such as business internships, travel, professional experiences and jobs, clubs and programs, and extracurricular activities. Make sure to highlight your passions. Anyone reviewing your application will remember you more clearly if you can show and explain why you genuinely care about joining the business industry.

Experience is key. If you are lacking in educational, professional, and life experience, it will be harder to get into your number one school.

A good time to shine is in your personal essays and interviews. Here is where you can show who you are as a person and how you intend to make a difference as a business professional. That said, it is always good to stick within the parameters of the question asked and not navigate too far away from the point.

Some excellent essay writing and interview tips from pros and former business school application essay writers include:

  • Authenticity is key but don’t be too boastful.
  • Stay focused on the question but think outside the box.
  • Be concise, short-winded, and get to the point.
  • Emphasize the risks you’ve taken to reach your goals (if any).
  • Use humor or show sensitivity to connect with the reader.

U.S. News and World Reports supply some excellent examples of successful business school admissions essays, which can be found by clicking here!

If you ace your essays and submit an impressive enough application you might be admitted outright (way to go!) or you may be invited to an interview with faculty and staff from the Departments of Business and Admissions. For many, this is the more high-pressure portion of the process. Some good things to remember for your interview are:

  • Practice makes perfect — run through hard questions in a realistic way.
  • Stay confident and dress to impress.
  • Prepare questions of your own for the interviewers to demonstrate proactiveness.
  • Have some personal/professional examples, compelling stories, and strengths/weaknesses at the ready.
    • Remember to turn your weaknesses into strengths!
  • Know the school and the business program to which you are applying very well.

After the admissions process, you will start to receive acceptance letters. This can be an exciting yet difficult time for many students, too. If you are unsure about where you actually want to go, now you can begin to analyze what it is you actually want out of your education and where you expect to find it since you aren’t competing for acceptance. Unless you are dead set on one particular institution, take some time to be wooed by what the programs have to offer and choose wisely.

The First Year

Completing the application process and gaining acceptance to business school is a tremendous accomplishment. It is okay to appreciate how far you’ve come and everything that you’ve done to get here. Now you can start to focus on what is really important! Business programs, especially those on the graduate level, are not for the faint of heart. So, the number one tip from BMD is BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. You can do this no matter what gets in your way! The more barriers you cross and obstacles you maneuver to achieve success, the more others will take notice. Here are some things to keep in mind as you begin your journey:

Be friendly but avoid overconfidence. Once you are in your program and ready to rock, don’t hesitate to introduce yourself and raise your hand! First impressions are lasting and teachers and members of your cohort take note of those who show unsolicited signs of leadership and demonstrate strong interpersonal skills.

These two soft skills alone will help you stand out throughout your entire academic and professional careers. Talk to your classmates and teachers before and after class. Look people in the eyes. Ask them questions about themselves to show your interest. Be the first person to say, “Hi.” All of these things will help you to stand out among your current and future peers and help them remember you.

But try and read the room and the person you are approaching. Friendliness can quickly backfire and come across as overconfidence or overbearing if you don’t appropriately analyze your audience and calibrate your actions.

Attend events and join a club. Many events, clubs, workshops, job fairs, and tutoring groups on school campuses are led by past and current students, teachers, faculty aids, and other people of considerable influence throughout your school’s Department of Business. Showing up at events and becoming a member of a business club or debate team will definitely show your drive to compete and succeed.

Even if you aren’t in an assigned group project or struggling with the course content, these types of extracurricular activities drastically enhance your soft skills, written and oral communication capabilities, and networking connections. If none of the clubs, organizations, or groups meet your interests… Start your own!

Don’t delay! Engage! During class requirements like projects and presentations with your classmates, be the first to take charge. Many students are discouraged by group projects because they don’t want their grades to be contingent on the effort of multiple people, particularly those who don’t pull their weight. Be the group member to ask questions, engage with others, and take the reins when no one else will.

Today, many schools use highly advanced learning platforms that allow teachers and teacher’s assistants to monitor group projects and take note of how much each person contributes. Therefore, even if you are the only person in your group who does any work, it will not go unnoticed.

Be a strong leader and a team player. People often want to see themselves as and strive to be strong leaders (especially in business school). Leadership is a massively critical skill for those who are trying to become executives, upper management, or business owners.

These individuals are often responsible for numerous employees if not entire organizations, so it is pivotal for them to learn appropriate strategies and techniques in order to do so. No matter where you enroll, you will definitely be able to enhance your abilities in this area.

Keep in mind, though, that it is just as important to keep your assertiveness in check and be a good listener for your classmates, coworkers, and subordinates. Remembering to be a team player as well as a compassionate manager will drastically help the cohesiveness of your group. It will also help people see you more as a leader and less as a commander.

Summer Breaks

Many graduate schools of business require students to have professional experience before applying; sometimes several years worth of experience. In fact, many programs are designed to actively enhance your skills and knowledge in a current position and company.

That said, if you plan on taking summer breaks in a master’s program, or you are an undergraduate student, it is important to stay sharp and remain at least somewhat engaged with your academic pursuits. A lot of schools offer competitive summer programs, study abroad/international study trips, and enrichment experiences that offer outstanding real-world exposure.

Keep an eye on your school’s Business Department Event Calendar, if possible. Chances like these only come around once in a lifetime, so it is now or never for many people! Take advantage while you can. It is these kinds of experiences that stand out to future employers and other educational institutions. 

If you are not able to afford or find an appropriate summer program, then there are definitely other options out there. Many businesses hire summer employees for clerical jobs which looks great on a resume and keeps your head in the game. Or you can pursue paid and unpaid internship opportunities on your own or with the help of your school!

The Second Year and Beyond

Once you are established in your business program you can start to focus more on your individual pursuits. That’s not to say that you should not always be focused on your personal goals at all times, but it is easier to navigate complex academic and career-based pathways once you have learned the ropes and established yourself within your scholastic community.

Your biggest resource in school is the people around you. Do not be afraid to lean on your mentors, faculty & staff, and classmates. There is no reason to avoid getting help from others, especially when you are in school. Access to these experts is perhaps the best possible networking resource available to you. Making a good impression and establishing friendly working relationships will allow you to take better advantage of opportunities available through these individuals in the future.

Make a lasting impression! Be calm yet confident and your unique self. Make sure they remember you.

First impressions are important, of course, but lasting impressions are just as pivotal. Business school is still a safe space to practice good behaviors and make mistakes. When you’re trying to create a networking connection, here are some valuable tips to keep in mind:

  • Present a calm, confident, open, and unhurried demeanor.
  • Be authentic and genuine. 
  • Smile and be kind.
  • Be on time. Do not be late.
  • Engage in small talk and make people feel welcome in your presence.
  • Pay attention to them and make them feel heard.
  • Look them in the eyes.

Almost all of the tips and tools offered here can be utilized under nearly any circumstance. While some might seem obvious, it is the smallest and most seemingly insignificant details that are often the most important, such as communication and punctuality (two of the most important qualities in any business person!).

When in doubt, it is the little things that can save you. If you can master these simple tips and tricks then there is absolutely nothing that can stop you, no matter what line of business you decide to take on.

The last piece of advice that we at can offer you, dear reader, is to never forget your passions. Fall back on that old business adage, “It is not what you sell, it’s how you sell it” and do not lose what it is that made you decide to pursue a challenging career in a competitive field.

Ultimately, you are the product that you are selling and the more you can stand out among a huge number of students, competitors, colleagues, and superiors, the more you will be able to land your dream job or start your dream business. If you can take everything that you have learned here and put it into action, we guarantee success!

What is the most important quality a business school looks for in its students?

The most important quality a business school looks for in its students is motivation. Business schools want to see students who are intrinsically motivated and committed to lifelong learning, growth, and success. Students should demonstrate a genuine passion for learning, a willingness to take on challenges, and the ambition to become successful business leaders.

Additionally, schools look for students with strong emotional intelligence, excellent communication skills, critical thinking abilities, the ability to cooperate with others, and leadership potential.

Learn what to expect in an MBA prospective student interview:

Rowan Jones
Chief Editor