Business school application

You worked hard in college, gained some valuable work experience, and have assessed your career goals—you’re ready to take on the challenge of business school.

Now it’s time to showcase your skills in a stellar MBA application. We know from the business schools that submit their admissions data to us each year that the most important factors to MBA admission are: GMAT or GRE scores, undergraduate GPA, professional experience, and the essays. Besides grades and test scores, business school admissions committees place a great emphasis on getting to know you as a person.

Here's what you need to know about your business school application and the admissions process to stay on track:

Business School Application Deadlines

  • Filing periods range anywhere from six to eight months
  • MBA applications are processed in one of two ways:
    • Rounds: Schools that use rounds divide the filing period into approximately three timed cycles. Applications are batched into the round in which they are received and reviewed in competition with others in that round.
    • Rolling: Applications are reviewed on an ongoing basis as they are received.
  • Confirm the policy at the MBA programs on your list and apply as early as you can.

Standardized Test Scores

  • Virtually every MBA program in the country requires their applicants to take the GMAT or GRE.  Check which test (or tests, if either is fine) that the schools on your list accept.
  • Business schools generally focus on your most recent score.
  • Great test 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, the higher your scores, the better—but a score that’s below average at one program may be above average at another. Check out the admissions data in our Best Business Schools book or our business school profiles to see how your scores compare.
  • If your test scores are well below the average at your dream business school, consider retaking the GMAT.

Undergraduate Transcript

  • Some (but not all) business schools look more closely at junior and senior year grades than your overall GPA.
  • Academic reputation of your college and the difficulty of your course selection is a major factor in evaluating your transcript.
  • 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 success in grad school. 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.

Résumé

  • The typical b-school applicant has between four and ten years of solid professional experience, so your résumé will be evaluated to see how you measure up.
  • Include as much information about your accomplishments as possible, highlighting team experience and leadership capabilities.
  • Point out the quantifiable results of your projects, such as revenue earned, work hours saved or other metrics.
  • Remember to include any community service or other notable activities.

Essays

  • A well-written MBA essay will provide a window into who you are as a person. It is crucial that your essays work together to present a consistent and compelling picture of who you are, what you've done, and what you bring to the table.
  • Admissions committees are looking for students who are interesting, well-rounded, and likely to make a contribution to the school, both in and out of the classroom.
  • Business school 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.

Interview

  • Schools use the MBA interview to to find out who you are, beyond the scores and grades. 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.

Letters of Recommendation

  • Admissions officers use recommendation letters to support and reinforce what they’re seeing in the rest of your application.
  • Schools typically request a professional or academic reference:
    • The academic reference should be someone who can evaluate your performance in an academic environment. It’s better to ask an instructor or mentor who knew you well than a famous professor who barely knew your name.
    • For the professional reference, seek out individuals who can evaluate your performance on many levels. A personal and specific letter from a middle manager is better than an impersonal one from the CEO.
  • Advise your writers on themes and qualities you highlighted in your application. Suggest that they include real-life examples of your performance to illustrate their points
  • Early preparation is key: Make sure that you are giving your recommenders enough time to compose a thoughtful letter and that you are not springing deadlines on them without ample advance warning.

Applying to business school?

Get a free consultation with one of our MBA Application Experts.