The Most Important Part of MBA Admissions

As students across the country prepare to submit college applications this fall, one of the more prominent programs is the Master of Business Administration (MBA). A graduate degree that is often essential to certain business and management careers, the MBA is usually the master's degree that top executives in various sectors earn. Since admission to these programs is competitive, students should have a good understanding of the application process and what to focus on.

Preparing the MBA application

An application to an MBA program generally includes the following components: an admissions interview, essays, a résumé, letters of recommendation, test scores, transcripts and career goals. The admissions interview could be blind (the interviewer is just now seeing the applicants), non-blind (the interview has already seen the applicant's background in detail) or even group. A group interview might have several applicants working on a problem together. Since interviewers can be influenced by any given group of applicants they see in one day, rather than thinking in terms of a larger pool or on individual merit, prospective students should do their best to prepare and stand out. One way to do this is work on responses to typical interview questions. If possible, mock interviews are another way to get ready.

A few short essays are usually required. The résumé should include work experience and education. Test scores such as the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) are almost always a requirement, and some schools may have a cutoff score. Having a record of consistent academic achievement is great preparation for MBA admission, in addition to having a GPA in a certain range. Unfortunately, admissions officers may not always consider that some schools give out inflated grades, which can leave students that actually worked harder but got lower grades at the bottom of the pile. Applicants should make sure to pick letter writers that are familiar with their background and also supportive of their continued education.

How MBA application essays have changed

One of the most notable changes in MBA applications is the essays. While a few essays used to be required, some schools are now greatly reducing the required number. Only one school so far has made essays optional. This means that while prospective students used to gear up to write 1,500 or more words, they might now expect much less.

The unfortunate reason behind this change may be that some applicants buy essays, plagiarize or have someone else write them. Applicants often use consultants to help with the application, but the extent to which this happens is debatable. Since the MBA admissions process is likely to continue changing due to these persistent problems, applicants planning to apply in the future should stay up on important application revisions.

What to focus on

So what does all of this mean? Applicants should look at the big picture when it comes to their admission packet. Worrying about a certain test score or bad grade in one class is not effective. Applicants should instead make an effort to show an admissions officer what makes them unique. One of the best places to do this is the essay section. Applicants may also have the chance to excel in the interview or through letters written by their former teachers. Since prospective MBA students may have little control over the interview, and can only pick letter writers and hope for a great recommendation, the essays can be an opportunity to shine. It's a chance for prospective students to stand out and differentiate themselves.


Harvard Overhauls Its MBA Application - Essay Optional, Louise Lavelle, BloombergBusinessweek, May 30, 2013, http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-05-30/harvard-business-school-overhauls-its-mba-application-essay-optional

How to Master MBA Interviews, Stacy Blackman, U.S. News & World Report, November 2, 2012, http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/MBA-admissions-strictly-business/2012/11/02/how-to-master-mba-interviews

M.B.A. Admissions Tip: Always Go for an Easy 'A,' Melissa Korn, The Wall Street Journal, July 31, 2013, http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323997004578640241102477584

MBA Admissions Interviews: A Numbers Game?, Erin Zlomek, BloombergBusinessweek, March 4, 2013, http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-03-04/mba-admissions-interviews-a-numbers-game

Top Executives, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, March 29, 2012, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/top-executives.htm#tab-4

The Truth About MBA Applications, Louis Lavelle, BloombergBusinessweek, June 13, 2013, http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-06-13/the-truth-about-mba-applications

Wharton Slashes Required MBA Application Essays, Louise Lavelle, BloombergBusinessweek, June 27, 2013, http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-06-27/wharton-slashes-required-mba-application-essays

What Matters Most in MBA Admissions?, Stacey Blackman, U.S. News & World Report, January 4, 2013, http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/MBA-admissions-strictly-business/2013/01/04/what-matters-most-in-mba-admissions

Iris Yellum

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