Let’s keep this short and sweet. Whenever a competition relevant to your field comes to campus, enter it. Without question. The competition can be anything from a case competition to a simulation to a startup weekend to a hackathon to a mock trial to a debate to an elevator pitch competition, etc. Whatever its type, competitions do some awesome things for you:
- Let you hone your skills in your relevant field
- Give you something substantial to talk about during interviews
- Allow you to meet and network with your likeminded peers
- If you place or win, build your resume
Almost every b-school app has a spot for awards and recognitions, and if you are going to have a shot at filling this section out wholly, you need to rack up some successes in competitions. B-schools want to see that you have a drive to succeed/win, that you can work with others (for team competitions), and that you are willing to try out a new, challenging experience. Plus, many competitions have nice cash prizes to go along with the victory. I’ve listed some of the competitions I’ve competed in below, along with a W/L/P (won/placed/lost) so you can better gauge how many might be a good number to compete in.
- Research poster show at my school (university, business students only) W
- Research poster show at my school (university-wide) W
- Financial Management Association International Forecasting Competition (note: must be FMA chapter member) W
- FMA Stock market competition (university-wide) W
- IBM Business Simulation (university-wide) W
- INFORMS RAS Problem Solving Competition (international) P
- Target Case Competition (university, business students only) L
- Buffalo Startup Weekend (city-wide) L
- Elevator Pitch Competition (university-wide) L
As you can see, winning isn’t everything. I lost a third of all of the competitions I entered into in undergrad. What is important, though, is trying. As cliche as it sounds, you simply cannot win a competition if you never enter it. You need competitions to really beef up your resume, and if you set aside the time each time one rolls around and try your hardest for the duration of the event, you’ll have some nice things to add to it when it comes time to apply to that dream b-school.