In the 2010-2011 academic year there were 130,000 applications to full-time MBA programs… but less than half of those prospective students were accepted, according to a report from the Graduate Management Admissions Council[i]. Yikes! Nervous yet? Here, we peel back the curtain on the MBA admissions process so you can see exactly how you may be evaluated, whether you decide to apply to traditional MBA programs or online MBA programs.
On the “requirements” side of things, applicants to any MBA program will most likely be required to submit a completed application, which includes a personal statement and resume. Each school will also require a certain number of letters of recommendation, GMAT scores, an interview, and an application fee. Other standardized tests such as TOEFL might also be required, if relevant. Two of the most commonly stress-inducing parts of the application – the MBA interview and the GMAT – are explained in more detail below.
Beyond the basics, the process of selecting candidates for an MBA program doesn’t differ from most other graduate school admissions processes. MBA admissions committees seek stellar candidates. This doesn’t just mean intelligence and aptitude – it means applicants with outside-the-box thinking, who offer unconventional ideas and approaches. Think innovative self-starters, leaders, passionate entrepreneurs with a strong moral compass. That doesn’t mean you can’t be an introvert – stellar candidates come in all shapes, sizes, and personality types.
In short, your application process is no time to be shy. Demonstrate your skills and tout your accomplishments, but stop short of boasting or arrogance.
Take a deep breath – most admissions professionals agree that the MBA interview is not about trying to stump you with tricky finance-related questions. You’ll learn that stuff next year, once you start school! The MBA interview is about admissions professionals gaining a sense of who you are as a person, as well as assessing your insight into your strengths and weaknesses. Prepare anecdotes that exemplify your skills, and consider in advance how to best describe your areas for improvement. At the end of the day, the admissions committee member conducting your MBA interview wants to understand how your mind works and to find out whether or not you’re a match for their school.
Yes, your GMAT scores are important. The Graduate Management Admissions Council states that “in repeated research studies, GMAT scores have been found to be an extremely accurate predictor of academic success in graduate management education programs[ii].” Unlike letter grades that are somewhat subjective, the GMAT scoring provides an objective standard by which to evaluate applicants. The highest possible score is 800, which represents the 99th percentile; the top ten business programs accept students with an average score of 718, or the 93rd percentile.
GMAT scoring is determined by your performance in four sections: Analytical Writing, Integrated Reasoning, Verbal and Quantitative. The Analytical Writing section takes 30 minutes and involves writing an essay that demonstrates your ability to analyze and critique a specific conclusion. Integrated Reasoning involves synthesizing, organizing, and analyzing data. The Verbal section includes reading comprehension, basic grammar, and basic reasoning skills, and the Quantitative section evaluates the test-taker’s skills in arithmetic, algebra and basic geometry.
Surviving the MBA admissions process is the first step towards earning your MBA degree. Take the time to carefully prepare for each step of the process and think deeply about why you want to get an MBA. Ensure your application demonstrates you are an intelligent, well rounded person with the ability to think creatively and strategically.
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[i] usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/the-short-list-grad-school/articles/2012/03/15/10-business-schools-with-the-lowest-acceptance-rates | [ii] gmac.com/gmat/learn-about-the-gmat-exam/gmat-scoring-by-exam-section.aspx | [iii] kaptest.com/brochure/The-GMAT-Unlocked.pdf