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business | opinions & advice | applying to business school
Business School Application
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When you apply to business school, you'll be evaluated based on your GMAT score, college GPA, resume, essays, letters of recommendation and an interview. The first four are generally the most heavily weighted.
Fortunately, b–school admissions committees place great emphasis on getting to know you as a person. It is the entire application that determines whether you win admission. This system allows you to compensate for problem areas. Any weakness can potentially be overcome by a strength in another section, so make sure you emphasize whatever assets you have; don't take them for granted. The more competitive the school, the less room there is for weakness in any of these areas.
Here's a quick breakdown of your b–school application:
Virtually every MBA program in the country requires their applicants to take the GMAT. Great GMAT scores won't necessarily get you into the school of your choice (there are too many other factors), but low scores will almost certainly keep you out.
As a general rule, if your scores are more than 50 points below a school's average, you are facing an uphill battle. If you're in this situation, consider taking the GMAT again. Business schools generally focus on your most recent score.
Admissions committees look at your transcript to determine whether or not you have the drive and brainpower to succeed. Some business schools look more closely at junior and senior year grades than the overall GPA. They also consider the academic reputation of your college and the difficulty of the curriculum. A transcript loaded with courses like "Ballroom Dance" and "The Child in You" isn't valued as highly as one with more substantive courses.
Many schools will look especially closely at your performance in quantitative courses like calculus, statistics and microeconomics. Given the quantitative nature of many MBA courses, admissions officers feel that such classes are good indicators of your performance. If you didn't take any quantitative courses as an undergraduate (or didn't do so well in them), consider taking one before you apply.
The typical b–school applicant has between four and ten years of solid professional experience, so your resume will be evaluated to see how you measure up. Include as much information about your accomplishments as possible, highlighting team experience and leadership capabilities. Use action words such as "organized" and "created". Point out the quantifiable results of your work, such as money and man–hours saved, percent increased and revenue earned. And remember to include any community service or other notable activities.
A well–written essay will provide a window into who you are as a person, highlighting your strengths and acknowledging your weaknesses. When writing, be sure to check your ego at the door–you want to come across as confident, not arrogant.
Essay topics can run the gamut. You may be asked to describe a personal failure or explain how you will bring diversity to the class. You will certainly need to write about your reasons for pursuing an MBA at this particular school.
Letters of Recommendation
Most schools ask you to submit professional recommendations; some allow academic recommendations as well. Your recommendations should come from as high up the food chain as possible, but make sure that your recommender knows your work and strengths. A personal and specific letter from a middle manager is better than an impersonal one from the CEO. Find someone who has seen you in a role as a team leader.
Do NOT wait until late in the process to take care of this part of your application. Remember you are asking for a favor. Don't impose even further by asking for a recommendation with an extremely tight deadline.
Schools use the interview to find out who you are, beyond the scores and grades. Not all b–schools attach equal value to the interview. Some use it to screen all applicants, while others use it to evaluate applicants in the "maybe" pile.
Act quickly to schedule your interview. Admissions departments often lack the time and staff to interview every candidate. You don't want your application decision delayed by several months (and placed in a more competitive round or pool) because your interview was scheduled late in the filing period.
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