What do the World’s Top Business Schools Seek in MBA Candidates?

What do the World’s Top Business Schools Seek in MBA Candidates?

Securing a place on the world’s top MBA programs is no easy feat. The first challenge for would-be business school candidates is a myriad of online application forms, the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), essays, recommendations and in-person or Skype interviews at their target schools. 

So, what are schools looking for in MBA students and what are the admissions trends of the 2017 application cycle that you should know about?

David Simpson, MBA admissions director at London Business School, says he wants to recruit people who aspire to use their skills to make a positive “social impact” on society. “The strongest applicants want to build on their skills and experience to advance in a sector they love or change direction,” he adds. “It’s not enough to want to do an MBA just to secure a great job.”

At NYU Stern School of Business, Isser Gallogly, associate dean of MBA admissions, says: “We are looking for people with emotional intelligence — the ability to communicate, inspire and lead teams.”

Tino Elgner, admissions director for IE Business School, reports anotable increase in international applications from countries such as Mexico, the UK, India and the UAE. “The percentage of female candidates has remained steady,” she adds.



David Simpson, MBA admissions director at London Business School, UK

We are searching for candidates who value the power of diversity. Not every student will join us with extensive international experience, but everyone must have a global mindset and a desire to learn how things work in different regions and cultures.

We also want active students, who will contribute to the education of others and in broader student life — whether it be planning the next Women In Business Conference or organising a sailing trip to Greece.

We have quite a high demand for candidates who show us that they can succeed in intense quantitative study, whether through test scores, their education or through theirwork.

Self-awareness is important, too. We want well-rounded personalities which balance drive and ambition with humility and team skills. Recognition that even after being the best in your class or work, you are now just one of many super-bright high-achievers, is important.



Kurt Ahlm, associate dean of full-time MBA admissions at University of Chicago Booth School of Business, US

For the Class of 2020, we’re looking to draw future leaders who demonstrate an inherent need to make their lives matter and have an impact on the world.

We seek students who are not only intellectually curious, but resilient enough to take advantage of the risks and opportunities, by going outside of their comfort zones.

We seek students that will maximize every moment of their two years to connect their unique background with their future goals and aspirations. If you look at our current students, you can see their passions and career goals are just as diverse as the students themselves. 

Ultimately, Chicago Booth seeks students who are looking for something beyond a two-year MBA experience: an education that continues to provide a framework to turn insight into action for the entirety of their career. 



Tino Elgner, admissions director for IE Business School, Spain

At IE Business School, we believe that unconventional thinking should be embraced. Sticking to the same old patterns will only lead to the same old results. Hence, for our IMBA program we look for students that embrace this mindset, by using their own unique talent to generate a ripple effect that creates knowledge. Our goal is to push our students to explore, thrive, exchange and experiment.

Before we redesigned our IMBA program, we asked our students and alumni how they would describe themselves, and what they think defines an IE IMBA student. They said: “Despite our diverse academic, professional, and cultural backgrounds, what makes us unique is our motivation to question the status quo and to embrace different points of views; it is our courage to dare to be different and focus on an inner transformation; it is our desire to expand and act outside our comfort zones to discover the limits of our abilities; and it is our wish to see other people succeed.” 


Seb Murray
Written by Seb Murray

Seb is a journalist and consulting editor who has developed a successful track record writing about business, education and technology for the international press.

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