So you’ve selected your MBA program and now you ask yourself, “How do I apply to an MBA school?”
Applying for an MBA program can be a daunting process – but it doesn’t have to be if you are organized.
This guide should help you understand a little more about the application process.
How to Apply to an MBA Program With Great Success
Application: This is your personal information which usually includes your biographical data, scholastic background, and work history.
There is usually room to includree other pertinent information including academic and professional recognition, professional certifications, community service, clubs or organizations you belong to, or other information that may give the Admissions Council insight into your personality and professional prospects.
Resume: Your resume gives the Admissions Council a peek at your professional history including growth, tasks and responsibilities, and career path.
They want to see that you have progressed and have a clear career path. Don’t worry, there is no “best job” for MBA applicants. MBA programs like candidates from all backgrounds.
Official Transcripts: The Admissions Council at your prospective MBA program will want to see the work you’ve done at your previous schools, and more importantly, how well you did it.
Keep in mind that the Admissions Council will want official transcripts from all universities attended, not just the degree-granting universities.
GMAT Scores: The GMAT is the standardized test for B-school applicants. This is arguably the most important element of your application.
If your scores don’t at least fall into the normal median for accepted applicants, you probably will not be accepted to the program you apply to.
Here is what you need to know about preparing for and passing the GMAT.
Essays: The essays are your money maker! This is your chance to tell the Admissions Council who you are, what makes you tick, why you would be a benefit to their program (not why their program would be a benefit to you!), and what your strengths and weaknesses are.
Letters of Recommendation: It’s one thing for you to tell the Admissions Council who you are and what you do, but it’s another thing for someone else to tell them. Especially when that someone else was in a supervisory position over you.
Interviews: This is another chance to shine in front of the Admissions Council.
Treat this meeting like a job interview – be confident – not arrogant, dress well, and give thoughtful answers.
Application Fees: Don’t forget to pay your application fees; they are important!
Remember, getting into an MBA program is a very competitive and detailed process for everyone involved.
You want to ensure you get accepted into the best program you can, and the schools want to ensure they have the best and brightest students attending their MBA program because it is a direct reflection of their reputation and standing in the business community.
Do your best to prove to the Admissions Council that not only are you good enough to attend their program, but that you will be a good reflection upon their school and traditions.
Good luck with your application!
Step 1. MBA Application Paperwork
The MBA application process contains multiple parts, and one of the first things you will have to accomplish is the application itself.
Many people think they can breeze through when filling out the application paperwork, but the reality is the application paperwork says a lot about the applicant and his/her goals.
You should take your time and ensure everything is filled out completely and accurately. The good news is that many programs request similar information.
Tips to Help You Fill Out Your MBA Application Effectively and Completely
Brainstorm / Gather Information. Before putting pen to paper, write down everything you have done throughout your scholastic and professional career.
This will save you time when completing your application and ensure you have complete answers.
Double Check Facts. Make sure you enter the correct information, especially for your previous schools, employers, etc.
Proofread! MBAs are expected to be the cream of the crop. It does not look good for an applicant to misspell words or leave sections blank.
Have someone double check your entire application package. If you turn in an incomplete application, the Admissions Committee may place your application on hold until it is complete.
If this happens, you could miss out on your desired application round.
Information required on an MBA Application
Each MBA program may have its own requirements, but the following list should be fairly similar among most programs:
Contact info – be sure to use a professional email address (not hotpants43 @ email.com!). You can get a free email address from Yahoo!, Google, or Hotmail, among others.
Biographical Data – Programs collect applicant information on age, race, marital status, citizenship, etc. Some even ask for family information such as your parents’ level of education and where they attended school.
Program you’re applying for – Many MBA schools offer multiple program options such as an MBA only, or joint degrees such as MBA/JD or MBA/MD, etc.
Expected area of concentration – Applicants should have some idea of their professional goals and should choose their preferred area of concentration such as accounting, economics, finance, international business, marketing, logistics, operations, strategic management, etc.
Academic Background – At the minimum, this information will include the institutions attended and when you attended them. Many applications also request info on extracurricular activities you participated in.
Professional Designations – Include any professional designations such as CPA, PMP, CNC, etc. These show you meet certain professional criteria.
Employment history – Info usually requested includes: current employer, industry, job title, job function, dates of employment, starting/ending salaries, etc.
List every post-grad job.
Future employment goals – Many programs want to know which industry you desire to work in upon completion of your MBA.
While many of the included items in the application may seem very personal, the Admissions Committee wants to know as much about the applicant as they can in order to pick the best fit for their program.
Sometimes, the application paperwork is all the AdCom has to judge by if the student is not able to interview for the program.
The application paperwork may seem trivial, but trust me, it is not!
Step 2. Create an Attention-Grabbing Resume
The resume you use for your MBA application should speak volumes about your professional and/or academic career.
Your resume will represent your entire career and educational experience, so you need to carefully craft it to make sure it has the impact you need to gain the Admission Council’s attention.
Include your contact info. First and foremost, your resume should identify who you are. Be sure to include your name, address, telephone number, e-mail account, etc. (no silly or risque e-mail accounts or voice mail recordings!)
Use a clean, professional design. A professional looking resume makes a big difference.
Type with a simple font, and use headings and bullets for organization and print on plain white paper with black ink.
Be clear and concise. Write action words to state your accomplishments and roles, and highlight your leadership attributes.
Delete fluff words that do not add value.
Remove jargon. Don’t assume the person reading your resume has intimate knowledge of the words that are specific to your industry.
Most of the time they won’t.
Write so that someone from outside your industry can easily understand what you did for your organization and how you did it.
Quantify statements when possible. Which sounds better?
- Participated in making new computer organization system to track all of our company’s inventory.
- Led 12 person team in developing $3 million inventory tracking system responsible for maintaining information concerning location and status of 287,000 company assets valued at $108 million.
Include your professional history. You should demonstrate leadership growth through promotions, tasks, projects managed, etc.
Don’t forget to include internships and other work experience that took place in a professional environment.
Include professional certifications, awards, and accomplishments. These are important items that give the Admissions Council insight into your professional makeup and abilities.
Include extracurricular activities. List the professional organizations, clubs, volunteer groups, athletic teams, and other groups you participated in.
Be sure to highlight any leadership positions or offices held.
This is important to the Admissions Council because you demonstrate the ability to be part of a team and show them you are not just living a singular existence.
Items Not Necessary for Your MBA Resume
References – You will have reference letters to accomplish this. Instead, use the space for more valuable information about your professional and educational background.
Mission statement – The Admissions Council knows why you are applying, and you will have essays to tell your story.
Instead, use this valuable space to a write one sentence summary statement of who you are and why you will be a valuable addition to their program.
For example, I have 8 years experience developing statistical based software models and leading teams in a project management based environment.
How to Organize Your MBA Resume
Order your resume as follows:
- Contact information
- Summary Statement
- Work history
- Community Involvement and Activities (include awards, offices held)
- Educational background
Bonus tip: If anything on your resume changes between the time you send in your application and the time the admissions committee makes their decision, you may consider sending in additional information.
I would only revise if there is a substantial change relevant to your application – for example, you move to another company, receive a promotion, or win a substantial award.
Some programs do not accept additional information, so be sure to call your respective school’s admissions office for more details.
Step 3. Which Transcripts Are Needed When Applying for an MBA?
Applying for an MBA program is no easy task!
You need to make sure you are organized and have all your papers in order. This is part 3 of a comprehensive 8 part post on applying for an MBA program.
Why transcripts are important: The Admissions Committee at your prospective MBA program will want to see the work you’ve done at your previous schools, and more importantly, how well you did it. Keep in mind that the Admissions Council will want official transcripts from all universities attended, not just the degree-granting universities.
What you need: Official transcripts from each undergrad or graduate program you attended. This means you will need a transcript from a university or other institution even if you only went there for a short spring term or summer school session.
Don’t worry about your grades! At this point, there is not much you can do about your past grades. Your coursework is completed and your grades are set in stone. Instead, focus your energies on creating the best application you can – score high on the GMAT, write stellar essays, and send in a complete and accurate application.
- Get an official transcript!!! This is the most important step to remember. Many universities will issue unofficial transcripts to students, and some universities issue transcripts that are official only as long as the envelope is sealed. Be sure you send official transcripts with your MBA application!
- Request your transcripts with plenty of time to spare – it may take several weeks from the time you request your transcripts until your prior university will be able to issue it to you.
- Be aware you may have to pay for your transcripts. The cost can easily be $5-20 per transcript. If you are sending applications to several MBA programs, this may add up quickly!
- Know where to have the transcripts sent. Some MBA programs prefer the transcripts to be sent directly to them, while others prefer they be sent with the rest of the application package. Do your research and have the application sent exactly where it should go.
Remember, your grades are already set in stone.
At this point, just focus on getting an official copy of them to the MBA Admissions Committee and let the rest of your application speak for itself!
Step 4. GMAT Scores (or Equivalent Test)
Most top-tier MBA programs require applicants to take a GMAT or equivalent standardized test.
Some executive programs do not require these tests but will require the applicant to have applicable work experience.
You should take these tests seriously, as scoring in the lower ranges on the test may not do you any favors in being accepted into the MBA program of your dreams.
While your standardized test scores are important, you may not need to ace the exam to be accepted into your program of choice.
Most top-tier MBA programs are looking for more than just high test scores.
The administrators want to see someone whom they believe will excel in the program and add to their school’s legacy.
This is why it’s so important to have a well-rounded work experience and highly crafted resume before you apply.
Your application is more likely to be approved if you can prove to the admission board that you can not only score well on a test, but that you bring other highly sought after skills to the table.
Step 5. Essays (if Required)
Not all MBA programs require essays. But if yours does, take the time to show off your communication skills.
Soft skills, such as communication, leadership, acting as a team member, speaking, and interacting with others have become increasingly important in today’s workforce.
Schools and businesses don’t have problems finding people with knowledge.
There are plenty of people who can read a book and spout off equations and definitions. Instead, schools and businesses want leaders and followers who are able to function as part of a highly skilled team.
Use your essay to communicate what separates you from the crowd.
This should include concrete examples of times when were you faced with a challenge and excelled – or failed, and what you learned from it. Or consider writing about how an experience changed how you live your life.
There are hundreds of directions you can take.
Just make sure you write from the heart, and that your essay is memorable from the hundreds of essays the admissions board will read during the application season.
Step 6. MBA Program Letters of Recommendation
Your Letter of Recommendation shows the admissions board what the letter writer thinks of you and your ability to grow in your career.
Having an excellent Letter of Recommendation can go a long way toward having your application accepted or rejected.
Asking someone for a Letter of Recommendation can be intimidating.
But it doesn’t have to be.
Here are some tips to getting a stellar Letter of Recommendation:
Choose wisely: You don’t want to ask just anyone to write a Letter of Recommendation. Make sure you ask someone who knows you well and can speak to your work abilities, character, and qualifications. You should generally choose a current or former supervisor (your current supervisor is generally better than a former one).
Help them to help you: You want to prepare the letter writer by providing him or her with a copy of your resume, some projects you have worked with under their supervision, and any additional information which may be helpful when writing your letter.
You should also provide them with your goals for starting the MBA program, the school or schools you are applying to, and instructions for the Letter of Recommendation.
You will want to give them a deadline for the Letter of Recommendation, and plenty of time to complete it.
Finally, it is good form to follow up with a written thank you note after the writer provides the Letter of Recommendation.
Step 7. MBA Interview
Many MBA programs require an in-person or online interview, using Skype or a similar video service. This is your chance to reiterate the strong points of your application and address any potential shortcomings.
You should perform some mock interviews ahead of time, if possible, and rehearse potential questions and your responses.
This practice will give you more confidence and help you be better prepared for the interview.
In many ways, this process is similar to a job interview, so these job interview tips will come in handy.
Be sure to take your time before answering questions and to thank the interviewers when you wrap up the interview.
Final Tips for Applying to an MBA Program
Keep these things in mind:
- Make a checklist. And follow it!
- Make a calendar highlighting important application dates. This is the best way to stay organized and on track.
- Apply for tuition assistance. Business school is expensive! Be sure to apply through the financial aid office for possible aid or scholarships. Even though you may have earned a lot of money in the previous year, if you plan on going to school full-time, you may be earning next to nothing during the school year. Every bit of extra money helps. Also – fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). All government grants or scholarships are determined based up the FAFSA, and many graduate schools use the form as well.
- Apply for scholarships. Not every MBA program offers scholarships, but many do. Research your prospective program and find out if you are eligible for any scholarships through the school. There are also many places to find private scholarships, some of which may cover full tuition.
- Give your application package a thorough screening. Double check everything in your application package to ensure it is the representation of yourself that you want to show the admissions committee. When it’s good, send it in.
- Breathe. You’ve sent in your application, now all you have to do is wait. By the way, it generally takes a few weeks or even a couple months, so relax. There’s not much else you can do!
Bonus tip: If anything changes between the time you send in your application and the time the admissions committee makes their decision, you may consider sending in additional information. Call your respective school’s admissions office for more details.
For more information about selecting an MBA program, please check out my previous article – How To Choose an MBA Program