What You Need To Know
Getting your MBA can be a big career and life goal. And figuring out the MBA admissions process can be tough.
Graduating from college doesn’t mean you’re completely done with school. Some college grads may go straight into graduate school after graduation while others may opt to work a few years to get some professional experience under their belt.
Going to business school after college is a popular route for a lot of young professionals. It provides valuable skills and experience that can lead to a variety of good jobs. With so many people competing for spots in top business schools, getting in can be more challenging than business school itself.
If you’re considering going to business school, there are a few things you’ll need to include in your application. Aside from test scores, MBA admissions committees look for softer skills that demonstrate whether or not someone is a well-rounded candidate who can add value to the school.
This MBA admissions guide will cover everything you need to consider before applying to business school.
What Does the MBA Admissions Process Involve
The MBA admissions process is a bit different from other admissions processes. Instead of focusing solely on test scores or essays, MBA programs want to find individuals who are well-rounded and will add value to each incoming cohort.
Think of it like the draft for your favorite sports team. The goal during the draft is to select the best players to build a high-performing team. MBA admissions committees approach MBA programs with a similar mindset.
The application process typically involves three rounds. Each round is an opportunity to gain admission into the school of your choice. While the application deadline can vary by school, many business schools follow the same schedule:
- Round 1: finishes in the fall
- Round 2: finishes around New Year’s
- Round 3: finishes in the spring
As each round progresses, spots for the incoming class fill up. While applying in the first round won’t guarantee you’ll get admitted, it may increase your odds.
That being said, applying in the first round may not be ideal for all candidates. If you didn’t get an ideal GMAT score or you’re an international student, applying in a later round might be better suited for you.
What Do MBA Admissions Programs Look at From Applicants?
When you’re ready to apply you’ll need to assemble all of your application materials together. This includes test scores, your transcript from undergrad, an updated resume, essays, and acing the interview. You’ll also want to get letters of recommendation from mentors, employers, or advisors who can attest to your bona fides.
Standardized Test Scores
The Graduate Management Admission Test – or GMAT – is one of the most common standardized tests required for admission into an MBA program. Depending on the school, a GRE test score may also be acceptable.
While test scores aren’t necessarily the most important component of an MBA application, it does factor into how admissions decisions are made. Admissions officers use test scores to determine whether or not an applicant can handle the coursework associated with the MBA program.
Each school has its own test score standards but the top business schools usually look for candidates that have a GMAT score of 700 or higher. This won’t guarantee admission but it can be a useful benchmark, especially if you think you can retake the GMAT to boost your score, increasing your odds of getting in.
Aside from admissions, test scores for MBA programs are also correlated with national rankings. Outlets like the U.S. News & World Report are authorities on business school admissions. A program that wants to increase its rankings may seek out candidates with higher test scores in order to do so.
Preparing for the GMAT can take a few months, more if you think you might need to retake the test. Consider the score requirement for the schools you intend to apply to and develop a test taking strategy that aligns with your timeline for applying.
Related: GMAT vs GRE: Which Test Do You Need?
Another score you might need to provide is your transcript from undergrad. Admissions officers are not only interested in your overall GPA, but they want to know if you’ve taken any quantitative courses and how well you performed in those courses.
This is important to consider if you’re still in college and anticipate applying to an MBA program later on. If you haven’t taken any quantitative courses – like calc or stats – consider adding a few to your course load to get them on your transcript. Again, these courses won’t guarantee admissions but they can help demonstrate your potential to succeed in an MBA program down the road.
Admissions officers aren’t just looking for candidates who do well on tests or get good grades. They want candidates who will contribute in a meaningful way too. Diverse professional experience is one thing admissions officers strive to provide in MBA cohorts.
Your resume is a place to demonstrate what you bring to the table. It not only shows which projects you’ve worked on and things you’ve accomplished in your career but it also reflects your potential to operate as a leader and work within a team.
Like most admissions applications, you’ll need to write and submit an essay to get into an MBA program. This is an opportunity for you to make a case to the admissions committee telling them why they should pick you out of hundreds of other applicants.
Business schools look for your strengths as a potential member of an incoming cohort and the value you bring to a school. The essay topic will vary by school and is usually chosen by the admissions committee. Be sure to write a succinct, well-written narrative answering the prompt while articulating why you want to be admitted into the particular program you’re applying to.
An MBA interview is usually part of the admissions process. This is another qualitative screening mechanism to filter out candidates. If the other parts of your application put you on the cusp of being accepted, acing the interview can be a way for you to seal the deal.
Each school may have a different interview process. Some schools may ask you to dive into your professional experience or explain different decisions you made during your career. Others may entail group interviews to evaluate how you interact with other candidates and demonstrate the value you could add to the program.
Mastering The College Admissions Interview
Letters of Recommendation
The final part of the application package is obtaining letters of recommendation. These should be professional or academic in nature and be able to attest to your performance whether that’s at school or on the job.
It’s good practice to share your application materials ahead of time with the individuals you’ve asked to write your letters of recommendation. This ensures they are mindful to highlight your strengths. Keep your recommenders apprised of your application timeline so they have enough time to craft a well-written letter for you.
Tips for Getting into a Top MBA Program
If you’re considering applying to business school there’s a good chance you’re eyeing a spot at a top school like the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania or Harvard Business School. These schools churn out a large number of business professionals who have gone on to become CEOs of Fortune 500 companies or hold other prominent roles.
Aside from the formal application process, there are a couple of other things you can do to improve your application and increase your odds of getting into a top school.
If you can, make an effort to visit the school you want to attend. Walk around campus and visualize being a student there. This creates a setting for you to write your essay from. That can help you craft a more compelling narrative about why you want to attend that school specifically and why you should be considered for admission there.
You should also network with current students or alumni of the schools you’re applying to. Ask questions about their experience as a student. If you have a mentor who is an alumnus of the same program you’re applying to, ask for feedback on your application package.
Is an MBA Worth It?
Getting into business school is a challenge. For many young professionals, it’s worth it. But depending on your goals, it might not make sense for you.
For one, MBAs aren’t cheap. While you might be eligible for scholarships or your employer might cover your tuition bill, that isn’t guaranteed. There’s still a chance you could wind up paying for some – if not all – of your MBA out of pocket. If that’s the case you’ll want to make sure there’s a good ROI on your investment. An MBA can certainly help you get a high-paying job, but it’s never guaranteed.
Your long-term career goals will also help you determine whether or not it makes sense to get an MBA. If you want to get a job at a Fortune 500 company or a prestigious management consulting firm like McKinsey, having an MBA can help you get your foot in the door. But if you want to work for a startup or start a business of your own, you might find that an MBA isn’t very practical. A lot of the skills you’d need to excel in these roles can be acquired on your own without the price tag of an MBA.
Before going through the application process, consider if getting an MBA is actually worth it. Then if you decide it is, follow this MBA admissions guide to help you put together an application package that makes you a compelling candidate for the admissions committee at the school of your choice.