How to Make Your MBA Application Stand Out From the Crowd

How to Make Your MBA Application Stand Out From the Crowd main image

Sponsored by IE Business School

Deciding to embark on an MBA program is a big step, both for your career and your life. The professional benefits will propel you to new heights in your job, while the social and networking experiences will leave you a broader-minded, more worldly individual.

With that in mind, it’s worth paying close attention to the application process. You want to get into the best, most appropriate school for your needs in order to maximize the benefits, and a strong application is key to this. We explore some of the top tips for MBA application success.

Choose your schools carefully

Choice is everything when it comes to the MBA; not all programs are created equal. First and foremost, consider which schools offer the electives, study pattern and external opportunities that suit you.

For example, if you want to focus on marketing, disregard schools without the option to specialize. Or, if you want to gain experience abroad, concentrate on schools with exchange programs. IE Business School’s Long Exchange program is a good example, allowing you to choose from over 50 partner institutions around the world.

Of course, it’s also important to be practical. Focus on what you want, but make sure you don’t end up with a list of unrealistic dream schools. Include an ambitious option by all means, but balance that out by choosing other schools with different levels of competition. You’re free to apply to as many schools as you want, but it’s wise to focus on four or five to avoid spreading yourself too thin.

Ace the GMAT

This may seem self-explanatory, as the GMAT is a requirement for many MBA programs. However, some applicants still fail to appreciate how useful a good score can be. Applying for an MBA means putting yourself in competition with the best and brightest in your field. Most applicants will have solid undergraduate degrees and varied, interesting work experience under their belts. Focusing on the GMAT will allow you to gain an advantage in a field of equally interesting and impressive applicants.

So, how should you go about this? The first step is preparation. IE Business School, for example, offers applicants free GMAT practice papers, with a micro test, a larger mini test, and a full mock examination all on offer.

Try to do as many practice papers as possible to familiarise yourself with the format and style of the test; the internet is awash with resources, but make sure you choose wisely to avoid poor quality ones.


Build leadership and entrepreneurship skills

The MBA is all about leadership. As a prerequisite for most top MBA programs, you need some work experience, and experience in a leadership capacity is best. However, don’t feel you need to rely on paid experience alone. You can demonstrate your leadership potential in a number of ways, such as engaging with community projects, doing pro-bono work or charity work, and following your entrepreneurial interests.

In today’s business environment, this last point is particularly useful. Companies, and therefore MBA providers, are looking for leaders with entrepreneurial flair; those who know how to take an idea from inception to reality by sheer force of will and dedication.

Show your chosen schools that you have a passion for business, not just a bright mind – this will count for a lot in a crowded field, and could end up being a significant part of your MBA journey. At IE Business School, the Entrepreneurship Centre exists for just this purpose, helping students pursue their practical ambitions alongside their studies.

Make alumni connections

One of the main things schools are looking for among hundreds, if not thousands, of impressive applications is knowledge about the institution and the programme. Identikit applications may save you time, but they’re a surefire route to the bottom of the pile.

Instead, try to learn as much as you can about each institution you apply for. Ask yourself why you want to study there, what the school offers you that others don’t, and what you yourself can bring to the student body.

A good way to show you’ve considered these things is to connect with the school’s alumni. This will give you valuable insights about the program, so you can think about how you’ll fit in. If you give this real thought, it will come across in your application and your interview, giving you an edge.


Every school is different in terms of how you might go about this, so do your research. IE Business School, for example, offers a range of alumni resources, but others may force you to dig a little deeper. Don’t be afraid to reach out. The MBA community is inclusive and open so you won’t have to look far for a helping hand.

Written by Temoor I.

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