Wednesday, September 11, 2019 at 10am

How Your English Major Can Be an Asset to Your MBA Application

How Your English Major Can Be an Asset to Your MBA Application main image

Your English major undergraduate degree will benefit you in a number of ways when applying for jobs, working within an organization, but namely, when working on your MBA application and embarking on your MBA studies.

Skills learned and refined through a qualitative undergraduate education will be relevant and valuable at business school.

Strength in writing, speaking, and listening can give you the upper leg over Quants who find it easier to calculate than communicate. Similarly, these particular skillsets – as well as analyzing and synthesizing content – will come in handy when you need to lead team projects or crack case studies.

Benefits of a liberal arts major

English majors come under the umbrella of liberal arts – a lucrative undergraduate degree for more reasons than you might think.

Firstly, they are communications-driven, with courses encouraging students to develop persuasive critiques.

Students with a liberal arts undergrad have a broad context to draw from and inform discussions. Grads aren’t pigeonholed into one way of thinking – their understanding of the world has widened. They’ve learned about literature, culture, history and the like; this gives them a world advantage.

These skillsets will give applicants an edge in the business world as well. MBAs leaving business school with a liberal arts background may in fact have a better understanding of the world, which could come in great use when managing or relating to people from across the globe.

Grads will be able to make decisions with a greater understanding of all the stakeholders involved.

Will I be accepted on the world's top MBA programs?

The GMAT

English majors as a group can surpass Quants in the qualitative sections of the GMAT.

Verbal Reasoning and the Analytical Writing sections may come easier to English majors. The skills for these two sections can be developed through the systematic and progressive study of literature.   

English undergrads are constantly writing and reading, expected to write and speak with clarity and focus, and use textual evidence in support of their arguments.

Thanks to their training and experience in these areas, students are able to complete analytical essay tasks and deal with the reading comprehension questions on the GMAT with confidence.

What do schools think?

Dee Leopold, former director of admissions at Harvard Business School noted that Harvard’s case method – whereby students examine actual business cases from all angles – benefits from a number of different perspectives.

It goes without saying if everyone in the class has a background in similar fields – wholly quant for example – the group wouldn’t necessarily boom.

Humanities graduates are comfortable working on problems that aren’t black and white, where there are a number of correct answers.

She said, “They’re used to managing ambiguity. They have an ability to think broadly, an ability to take a stand, and yet know there are other approaches.”

And there’s no need to fear if you consider yourself a neophyte in the business sphere. Students who need a primer in finance language will get caught up in no time thanks to pre-program courses like Harvard’s online platform, HBX, before their first class.

But how do humanities graduates tie into business school class profiles?

HBS Class of 2021

  • Economics and Business: 43 percent
  • STEM: 38 percent
  • Humanities and Social Science: 19 percent

The Wharton School Class of 2021

  • Humanities: 43 percent
  • STEM: 30 percent
  • Business: 27 percent

Stanford Graduate School of Business Class of 2020

  • Humanities and Social Sciences: 48 percent
  • Engineering/Mathematics/Natural Sciences: 34 percent
  • Business: 18 percent

The University of Chicago Booth School of Business Class of 2020

  • Economics: 25 percent
  • Engineering: 24 percent
  • Business: 24 percent
  • Liberal Arts: 15 percent
  • Physical Sciences: 7 percent
  • Other: 4 percent
  • Law: 1 percent

MIT Sloan School of Management Class of 2020

  • Engineering: 31 percent
  • Economics: 21 percent
  • Business and Commerce: 20 percent
  • Humanities and Social Science: 14 percent
  • Math and Science: 7 percent
  • Computer Science: 2 percent
  • Other: 5 percent

It's fascinating to see how welcoming top US MBA programs are to humanities majors.

So, don't hide your English major under a bushel

Admissions counsellors are interested in creating the most diverse classroom environment possible. That means your experience studying King Lear with Tibetan monks might have more zing in an MBA application than the story of someone who has been an intern/drone at Goldman.

What makes someone a qualified MBA student?

Brand yourself with a killer MBA essay

You are the ultimate driving machine. You are a product – show the accepting committee how your buttons work.

It seems odd to think of yourself like this, but it is exactly how you have to market yourself for the available MBA positions.

Be organized and focused, particularly in your entrance essay. Make sure your narrative is consistent and be specific when it comes to pointing out your uniqueness, your diverse background, and how you will add flavor to the incoming student group.

Include not only what an MBA can do for you, but what you can do for your MBA, while highlighting your passions.

With an English major, you probably have alacrity with text – your MBA essay is the place to use it. Here is where your secret weapons come into play. It's very likely your MBA essay will be much stronger than that of your average math major.

With this in mind, go forth and shine. Be confident in the idea that it is the road less traveled that will be your best asset when breaking into the business world.

Top tips for writing your MBA application essay

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Niamh is Assistant Editor of TopMBA.com, creating and editing content for an international MBA student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of the business world.  

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