What You Need to Know to Get Started with the MBA Application Process

What You Need to Know to Get Started with the MBA Application Process main image

 The most important thing you need to know about applying for your MBA is that you should get started on your application as soon as possible. Most Business schools have 2 to 3 application deadlines. It's important to be among the first to apply before all the good spots are taken. You should know about the type of admissions process used by your top choice, so you can develop the best application strategy possible. There are two types of MBA admissions:

The first type is Round Admissions, where there are 2 or 3 periods of time (or rounds) when you can submit your application. Round 1, which takes place in the fall is your best bet for acceptance since more spots are available. If you need more time to prepare your application or retake your GMAT, waiting until the winter for Round 2 may be a good idea. Waiting until the spring for Round 3 is best avoided since the fewest spots are available.


Here are the components you need to provide in your MBA application:




  • Each school interprets your GPA differently.
  • The median GPA for those accepted into business school is 3.5.
  • If your GPA is lower than average, don't fret. You may still have a chance of getting in if you focus on having a stronger application.


GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test)

  • The GMAT is a computer-based standardized exam that tests your basic math, verbal and analytical writing skills.
  • The average GMAT score is between 400 and 600.
  • The median score for applicants admitted into the top schools is 700.


Recommendation Letters


  • Most colleges prefer at least two letters of recommendation.
  • While the letter should be written by someone who knows you very well to make the best impression on admissions. Focus on getting letters from people you've worked with instead of family and friends, since getting recommendations from people who are too close to you can backfire.




  • In order to apply to business school, you may have to write as many as 7 essays between 2,000 and 4,000 words each.
  • Essays are your opportunity show admissions that you are a good fit for the MBA program you're applying for.
  • Writing a good essay is hard work, but it's worth it if you can write an essay that can set you a part from the competition in a positive way.




  • An interview isn't always required and some schools offer them an invitation-only basis.
  • Preparing for an interview is just as important as preparing for the GMAT.
  • While a good interview doesn't guarantee that you'll get into your business school of choice, a bad interview can greatly hurt your chances of being accepted.




  • The resume portion of the MBA application is your opportunity to show what you've accomplished in your career.
  • This is often the only document an interviewer will have going in to get to know you.
  • Tweak your resume specifically for the MBA program so that it tell the story from the perspective of both your work background and personal goals.


Which of these components is the most important? That depends on the applicant. A high GMAT score or GPA in itself won't be enough to get you into business school. According to Sarah Neher, the Director of Admissions at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, you need to balance out your application. That means compensating for the areas you can't change by strengthening the factors you can change. For example, if your undergrad quantative work isn't strong you'll need to make up for it with your GMAT scores. If you have less work experience, you need to demonstrate that you have strong intellectual ability. Above all, you need to focus on what makes you an above average candidate and make sure that comes across in the story you tell the admissions committee.


While it's important to show the admissions committee who you are, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to show too much of who you are by constantly calling, hounding or demanding face time with the admissions committee. People have done some pretty wacky things to get into business school, including marriage proposals or sending admissions a picture of them holding a bazooka. These tactics will get you attention, mostly negative attention that will hurt your chances of getting into an MBA program. Gifts, no matter if it's a $100,000 check or a breakfast bagel, should be avoided.


Instead, your best bet is to show confidence without an attitude. In the words of Dee Leopold, Director of Admissions at Harvard Business School, "Humility is the magic word and it is a quality that is not diametrically opposed to confidence. The challenge that applicants face in the written applications is to be honest and to be clear. That should be the guiding principle. By all means they should tell us about their achievements, but be honest and clear."

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