University Admissions Blog
ANNOUNCEMENTS & ADVICE
Hello! And welcome to the first of a two-part article on the frequently asked questions about pursuing an MBA in the United States.
1) What do business schools look for in an applicant?
The first criteria any business school will assess is your academic competency. Although Admissions Committees (AdComs) will look to your GPA and GMAT or GRE scores, they tend to be more reliant on the standardized test scores when determining an applicant’s academic ability. GMAT and GRE scores allow AdComs to compare candidates against the same measure, whereas GPA can vary by undergraduate school and program.
Clearly defined academic and career goals are also one of the most important factors in any MBA application. Why do you want to pursue an MBA? It seems like an easy question, but it’s actually quite challenging. Business schools know you’re applying to advance your career - the question is why. Displaying that you have a clear, attainable vision for the future will show business schools that you are mature, introspective, and prepared for an advanced degree.
Every strong MBA candidate possess the skills sought after by employers. The list is long, but leadership, communication, and collaboration skills are at the top. AdComs turn to the personal statement, letters of recommendation, resume, and possibly video to find a track record of these skills. When have you motivated someone to do something? When have you negotiated a better deal for your company? When have you solved an important problem? These are things you should consider and find a way to add to your application.
Business schools want to assemble classes that have the ability and desire to make a real contribution to the MBA community and beyond. You must demonstrate “fit” by showing AdComs your unique perspective and capability to enhance the learning environment. The application is seen as a two-way street: What will you get from the program, and what will you offer the program?
2) How do AdComs review an application?
Of course every program’s application review process is different, but in general, this is how it goes:
Step 1 - Review for Completion
A person in operations will go through your application to make sure it is complete. If it is not, your application will be put on hold until you are able to submit the missing materials. Because this can turn into a back-and-forth between you and operations, your application may not be looked at by the AdComs for weeks.
Step 2 - First Review
A minimum of two AdCom members will independently review your application and complete a one-page summary. They will score you on: grades, GMAT/GRE, essays, work experience, and references.
Step 3 - Interview Decision
If the AdCom members reviewing your application independently decide to offer an interview, you will be offered an interview. If both members decide to decline admission, you will be rejected. If one member wants to offer an interview and the other one does not, your application will be reviewed by two different AdCom members to see if a decision can be made. If not, you will be waitlisted and your application will be reviewed again at a later date.
Step 4 - Interview
If you make it to this point, you have a 50/50 chance of admission. The interviewer will have a pre-established interview guide to follow and will take notes on your answers to add to your application file.
Step 5 - Second (or third) Review
At this point, your entire application will be reviewed a second or third time by new AdCom members. Some schools conduct this review independently, while others discuss the applications as a committee. However, a majority of the reviewers need to agree to admit you. At that point, your file will be place into the “admit” pile and sent on to the final step.
Step 6 - Final Review
Your application will get one more review by the Director of Admissions. If he/she signs off on it - congratulations - you have been admitted into an MBA program!
3) Which programs should I apply to?
The only way you are really going to create your MBA application list is by knowing what you want in a program. Ignore, at least for now, the ranking, and think about why you are interested in an MBA. What are you long-term and short-term goals, and how will an MBA help you achieve them? Think about what business sectors interest you, which MBA concentration(s) you want to pursue, and the program factors that are most important to you (such as rigor, support, size, location, post-graduation employment rates and opportunities, extracurricular activities, etc.). A knowledgeable consultant can walk you through this process and help you curate a list of schools that fit your specific criteria.
From there you will need to conduct research. Don’t simply visit the university website, but reach out to processors, current students/alumni, and companies that coordinate with the business school. Ask for current course syllabi, find out what life in the program is really like, and consider the internship and/or networking opportunities you’ll have. Attend admissions events, and, If possible, visit the school to see if you fit in with the community.
By the time you have completed these steps, you should have a clear short list of programs to apply to.
Come back next week for more answers to your MBA questions.