What to expect from the MBA admissions process | TopMBA.com

What to expect from the MBA admissions process

By Laura L

Updated July 7, 2022 Updated July 7, 2022

Petia Whitmore is the founder of My MBA Path, a consulting service helping MBA candidates to find the right path for them through focused guidance, personal feedback and actionable advice. 

As a former Dean of MBA Admissions at Babson College’s FW. Olin Graduate School of Business, Petia has worked with thousands of MBA candidates applying to every leading programme, so she knows exactly how the MBA admissions committee works.  

“MBA admissions committee days used to be my favourite days when I was Dean of Graduate Admissions,” said Petia.  

“All the hard work that candidates put into their applications and interviews – and the work we did as a team to travel the world meeting prospective students, running events, reading thousands of applications and interviewing candidates – would come to fruition as we made the decisions that would determine the next MBA class.”  

What is the MBA admissions committee? 

The role of the MBA admissions committee is to review all MBA applications and determine the strongest candidates based on the class the school is aiming to build. Class profile plays an important role in business school rankings and is a source of pride for top schools.  

The committee will differ depending on the business school and programme, but will include admissions experts, including recruiters and directors. Some schools might have academics on the committee, like a dean or faculty director.  

You might notice that schools engage students and graduates in the interview process, to help assess candidates, but Petia says that this involvement is not a formal part of the committee and will not result in any admissions decisions.  

“The same can be said for external admissions readers who are employed by business schools to read through the thousands of MBA applications received each year,” said Petia. “The readers are responsible for making recommendations, but do not make decisions.”  

Processing your application 

Once you submit your application, the business school will do an initial read to make sure they have everything required to process the application. This part of the process is often undertaken by an operations or admissions team.  

“Once the application is processed, candidates can see the status of their application and a check list with anything missing,” said Petia.  

“If anything is missing, you will have the opportunity to submit the necessary documents within a certain, usually short, timeline so your application can be complete and ready for review and decision.”  

The initial review 

Once your application is complete and has been processed, the MBA admissions committee will thoroughly review your application for evidence of strong academic ability, significant experience and career progression, and a clear demonstration of development, leadership, overcoming challenges and accomplishment.  

This initial review will determine the candidates that are invited to interview. Petia said: “It’s different to the post-interview evaluation where the admissions decisions are made. At this stage, the committee will also consider the risk factor in taking you further through the process.” 

“The team will consider your purpose for studying an MBA and make a judgement call on whether you’re applying to the programme for the right reasons. Will you bring the right things to the table and be a good fit amongst the other students? Are your goals and ambitions realistic?”  

Invitation to interview 

If you receive an invitation to interview, it means that the business school is interested in you, according to Petia. “Getting to interview means you reach the school's standards for admission, but a decision still needs to be made to choose the final cohort of students.”   

She said: “The time you’ve spent on your admissions tests, essays and application forms has paid off and admission to the programme is now yours to win.” 

In your interview, you’ll be assessed on your interpersonal skills and how you communicate your experience and qualities to the panel. “This stage is about your personality and how you carry yourself. If you do well, you’ll move on to the full review stage,” said Petia.  

The full review 

Once you’ve progressed onto the next stage, your interview notes will be added to your application records. The full review process will entail a thorough read through of your application by one or two readers, who will each make a recommendation to admit or deny.  

Petia said: “Most admissions directors start this review with your resume as it provides a snapshot summary of who you are. Often, they’ll move on to the various short answer questions before diving into the longer essays and letter of recommendation. 

“Your application has already been through an initial assessment to see if you are admissible, so the purpose of the full review is to understand whether your application is compelling. Does it stand out? Is the committee excited about adding you to the next MBA class?”  

Once the readers have made their recommendations, the admissions committee will dedicate several days to get together and make decisions about the next cohort. This happens for each round of MBA admissions to compare and contrast the broad pool of applicants.  

“The sessions can also help to reach a decision about the candidates who do not clearly sit within the admit or deny categories,” Petia said. “If applicants are not admitted or denied at this stage, they may be waitlisted.”  

Receiving a decision 

Before you receive a decision about your application, decisions are entered into a system and face a thorough verification process to ensure the correct decision is made and posted, according to Petia. 

She said: “Once the decision is verified, the system will release the decision on a designated day. As a dean of MBA admissions, I could never sleep the night before release day. 

“Decision day can be a time of triumph or heartache for candidates. If you didn’t get a positive outcome, remember that the decision was only a verdict on your application, not your entire worth.” 

Through My MBA Path, Petia creates MBA success stories one candidate at a time, by providing help, solutions and advice through the admissions process. She said: “Every year, I work with candidates who are able to turn things around and go from multiple denials to multiple admissions.” 

A note on scholarships 

“Scholarship processes sometimes take place separately to standard admissions,” said Petia. “In my work as Dean of MBA admissions, scholarship decisions were made immediately after the selection process. Scholarship candidates are considered for an award based on the strength of their application.” 

The scholarship process is a place where the desirability of candidates plays a very important role. Petia said: “When making scholarship decisions, I used to think, how will this candidate make our MBA class, our campus, our global community, better and stronger?” 

This article was originally published in July 2022 .

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