You don’t need a business degree to build a successful business — but formal business education can be invaluable in helping your business flourish and grow. Business owners who are looking to expand their operations in new and exciting ways might consider devoting a few years to the pursuit of a bachelor’s in business administration, which will provide them with a foundation in business knowledge that can prepare them for the challenges of a larger and more complex organization. However, getting into business school is not always easy, especially for prospective students who have been out of the school system for some time. If you are a non-traditional student eager to enter the business classroom, here are a few tips for earning an acceptance letter. Have Your Documents Ready The college application process for non-traditional students is slightly different from that of a traditional student. Once you have been outside the typical academic path — high school, then college — for more than five years, any course credits or exams you once took to qualify you for higher education have expired. What’s more, because you are applying as an independent adult, not a teenager in your parents’ home, you will need to submit different documents with your application. First, you should spend some time digging up your transcripts from high school and any other institutions you attended, like community college or any other undergrad you might have completed in intervening years. Transcripts can take weeks or months to obtain from education institutions, so you should start this process well in advance of your application due date. Many in-person schools also request copies of your immunization records, which can be equally troublesome to acquire. Fortunately, you can circumvent this requirement by enrolling in an online school. Some schools ask for proof of U.S. citizenship, which assists them in supplying financial aid. If you are applying for a business school outside the U.S. or if you are not a U.S. citizen, you might inquire with the university to which you are applying regarding what identification documents they want and need. You need to complete your application and submit it with the application fee. Business school applications have a few different components that you should be prepared to complete. First, you will likely need to submit a resume detailing your work history to provide the school with more insight into your business experience and background. Many schools demand at least two (and as many as three) recommendation letters. Traditional students typically receive recommendations from teachers; if you do not have a close relationship with an instructor, you might ask a supervisor, business partner or another professional contact who knows you well. Finally, you will likely have as many as seven application essays covering topics like how you have resolved a conflict, what are your career aspirations and when you went above and beyond in a task. Most of these essays are short, around 500 words, but they should be well-written and impactful. Know Which Skills Matter In the components of your application in which you are requested to list and explain your skills, you need to take the time to highlight the skills that most matter to business schools. Fortunately, as a non-traditional student, you have enjoyed more time and opportunities to hone your business acumen, and if you can showcase your heightened skills in your application, you are likely to receive an acceptance letter. You might pay particularly close attention to your soft skills, like communication, problem-solving, work ethic and leadership, which many business schools find useful and necessary. Be Clear About Your Goals In application letters and essays, you should align your goals for your career with the skills you currently have. You should also clarify how the degree program will improve your knowledge and skills to help you achieve your professional objectives. This will put you ahead of other applicants with more unrealistic or irrelevant goals because you already have some experience to facilitate your success during and after your degree program. Understand Your Value Non-traditional students tend to feel ostracized when they return to academia, but the fact is that you offer immense value to business schools. Your real-world experience is rare on college campuses, and your uncommon perspective can introduce new and useful ideas in the classroom. Thus, you should not try to hide your status as a non-traditional student within your application; rather, you should recognize and demonstrate your value within your application materials. You can benefit from a business school education — and getting into business school as a non-traditional student is easier than you might think. With proper preparation, you could see yourself in a classroom, learning all sorts of practical business skills, in a matter of months.