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harvard business school classA class at Harvard Business School. Flickr/Betsy Weber

Over the last few weeks, a number of friends and colleagues have reached out to get my take on applying to business school.

Many application deadlines are in the fall, and aspiring applicants are starting to get their ducks in a row for the first set.

I thought it would be helpful to relay some key themes that I've tried to impart on my friends who are looking to take the next step in the application process.

Envision your future (or at least try)

There are plenty of good (and bad) reasons to get an MBA. The most important thing is finding reasons that make sense for you and your career. To make sure you've developed sound reasons for pursuing an MBA, articulate how getting the degree will help you make progress toward your career goals. To actually answer this, you need to have at the very least a hypothesis for where you want to go and what those goals are.

People do change paths once they get to business school (that is the beauty of the experience), but at the very minimum, you'll want to come in with a well-educated hunch of where you'd like to be in the future.

From there, as you start to understand more about the value of an MBA (and the value of an MBA from a specific school), you can begin to speak more to how an MBA from School X will help you work toward your goals.

Think about others

Many applicants spend time thinking about how an MBA will help them achieve their career goals or make them successful. What they sometimes forget is being admitted to School X will enhance the value of the school and the other participants in the community.

As Former Harvard Business School admissions director Dee Leopold put it, selecting an MBA class is like putting together a diverse mosaic. As admissions puts together that mosaic, they'll want to know why they should select you instead of another great candidate. What do you bring to the table that will add value to your class?

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To increase your chances of being chosen, consider articulating the value that you'll add to the school as well as to your fellow classmates. Think about it like this: Admissions directors are making investments in you. The ROI you provide increases if you achieve your career goals, but also if you contribute to the community of the school.  

So what value can you add? What strengths or experiences can you share that will improve the lives of those around you? How will the community be better off because of you?

Saying to an admissions officer that an MBA will help you achieve your career goals is good, but explaining how you'll enrich the lives of your classmates is even better. That's what admissions officers love to hear.

Develop your narrative

Your application to a school is not just a summary of your qualifications, experiences, and reasons why you should get an MBA. Instead, it's a personal narrative that sums up diverse aspects of who you are and what you aspire to get out of life. Furthermore, when woven together and done correctly, this narrative should compel the reader to want to learn more.

Your ability to showcase your authentic self is what will help you seal the deal with your application. UNC Kenan-Flagler admissions director Sherry Wallace put it best: "What matters most is we see the true and authentic person."

Seems daunting, huh? Good news — since you know yourself better than anyone else, you can shape and mold the narrative you want to tell. You can construct the story that you want others to know about yourself.

Remember to focus more on your skills, qualities, and attributes that best describe you, rather than your title or role. Instead of a teacher, you're a change-agent for education reform looking to open and run your own school. Instead of a software engineer, you're a product-builder looking to create technology that will touch millions of consumers in their everyday lives.

So how do you develop that narrative? It starts with thinking about the many experiences, opportunities, and skills that you've had in your life, and looking for themes and threads that connect them. From there, it's understanding where you want to go and how your past experiences have prepared you to undertake this next phase (business school). If done correctly, a combination of your past plus an MBA will lead you to your desired end state.

Business school is a fantastic opportunity to reflect deeply on where you want to go in your career. Before you get there, the process is challenging, but can actually serve as a great precursor to the big questions you'll tackle while you are in school. As you work through your application, addressing these points should help you reflect upon how you can put your best foot forward with your application.

Read the original article on MBASchooled. Copyright 2016.