The MBA admissions process can be broken down into three stages: pre-application, application and post-application. It’s important to plan ahead and devote adequate time and attention to your application. The earlier you start, the better your chances of success. Experts recommend beginning to prepare 6-9 months in advance.
The pre-application or consideration stage includes evaluating the benefits of an MBA as well as researching schools and program options to find the best fit for you. When deciding where to apply, select a mix of business schools and include at least one reach school (that’s unlikely to offer you admission) and one safety school (that you could almost certainly get into). Schedule a campus visit at each school when classes are in session so you can experience the teaching firsthand and talk to current students. Oftentimes this can be more enlightening than the official admissions tour.
Test prep is another important activity in the pre-application stage. Nearly every MBA program requires their applicants to take the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) or GRE (Graduate Record Examination). Aim to take one of these tests at least 3 months before you apply to allow enough time to devote to the other components of the application process and plan to spend about 3 months studying before taking the test.
Be sure to confirm which test the schools on your list accept. In general, the higher your score the better but a great score alone doesn’t pave the way for acceptance into the school of your choice; however, a low score is likely to keep you out. If your scores are lower than desired, consider retaking the exam. Schools typically focus on your most recent score.
Some schools split their application season into three rounds with round 1 deadlines in September/October, round 2 in January and round 3 in April, while others review applications on an ongoing basis as they are received. Check deadlines and confirm the application policy for the MBA programs on your list and apply as early as possible.
In addition to the application, you will also need to submit undergraduate transcripts, test scores, a resume, recommendation letters and an essay that clearly expresses your personality and shows your strengths. Also, be prepared for an interview. Some schools use interviews to screen all applicants while others use them to engage only with questionable candidates.
The goal of this stage is to utilize all of these evaluation materials to present a solid and compelling application. The stronger each element is, the better your chance for admission.
Consider taking some business classes as a refresher, especially if you’ve been out of school for several years.
If you are not selected for admission, take a critical look at your application before your next attempt. You may even want to consider investing in expert help from an MBA admissions consultant.
Remember, the MBA application process is a marathon, not a sprint. Begin the process early and work consistently to assemble the most compelling application possible. Applying for an MBA is a big step in your academic, personal and professional life. Take time to review your application once it’s complete and revise where needed to make it as strong as possible. Get started now by registering for a Virtual MBA Tour to connect with the world’s leading business schools.