Business school applications are notoriously complicated. What makes them feel like ancient Chinese torture is the uncertainty of how big of a role is played by each application parameter viz recommendations, essays, GMAT score, GPAs, extracurriculars (Best extracurricular activity for college admissions), work experience or the interview with the holy admission committee.
The best estimates of individual weights can only be either guessed or ascertained from articles such as this – What is most important in MBA applications?
Subjective they may be, however, they provide a little bit of insight into the black hole of the admission process into an MBA program. One thing everyone can be certain about is that an MBA application process is not very cheerful. It is long, sometimes confusing and often designed to probe your brain until its grey matter starts spilling out, making your hair greyer through the process.
Yes, the process is grueling and the usual profile of an MBA applicant is one who already has a demanding job. She is crunched for time, looking for ways to make the the whole admissions season efficient, for her. And that is why we decided to put together a list of tips to help you apply to the top MBA programs, based on experiences shared by many previous applicants and MBA students.
Disclaimer: We don’t claim to own or prescribe these tips. These are not our sermons, but rather a collection of diverse experiences shared by some of the been there done that gentry.
So here are some useful tips gathered from various sources (GMAT Club, Forbes, Clear Admit, etc).
50 Best MBA Application Tips
Collated from Students & Applicants on various MBA sites
General admission tips
- Keep a master application to save time on writing known facts over and over again. Keep it dynamic and add details you see fit. List out all the deadlines and requirements. This makes the process well planned and prioritized. In addition, it keeps you from scrambling for last minute paperwork.
- Start early. Applications, preparation, research, and studying take nearly a year. So if you are planning on applying to an MBA program, give yourself sufficient time to approach each step thoroughly. Read How to plan your MBA application timeline?
- Research your schools well. That way you will know which is the best fit for you, rather than which is the best school, regardless.
- Application process is much like a learning process. You get better with practice. So, leave your top priority schools for later. You will find yourself obtaining more clarity with each passing application.
- And for the same reason, don’t make the mistake of applying to all the 10 schools together. Split them up and learn from feedbacks, if you don’t manage to make the first cut.
- Contact your potential recommenders well in advance. That way it will not seem like a shock attack, on them, a few weeks before the deadlines.
- Choose your recommenders carefully, spanning a wide variety of viewpoints. If you get two professors to vouch for you, both will end up talking about your academic prowess. Similarly, there is no point in providing more than one manager to write your reviews. Vary the sources to create a more balanced account of your abilities, not praises that are polarized.
- Time is not going to be your friend. So prioritize your tasks wisely and remember to focus on your needs throughout the application process. Stretching yourself too thin or getting overworked, and stressed, will leave you less than capable of forming a sound application.
- Remember, GMAT scores are only so In fact many claim, from their experiences, that they matter only up to 25% of your application weight. So while studying hard for your GMAT is a smart move, obsessing about it is not.
- For international students, it is necessary to be aware of all the Visa procedures involved in getting a student, and subsequently, a work status in the adopted country.
- Make sure you have a clear understanding of the funding options. For the same, you may want to apply to a few schools where getting a scholarship may be fairly easy for your profile.
- Keep in constant touch with your recommenders. Your application is not their Also communicate to them what you have done in the past and what you would like to achieve from your MBA.
- Keep a back up plan ready in case your MBA applications fall through. It may be in the form of applications to mid range schools OR a career growth plan within the current employment, or beyond.
- Your essay is a narrative on your personality and achievements. But it doesn’t have to get biographical. Let it be clear, and the stories pointed at your skills.
- Keep the content natural and honest. Some schools may actually have a more formal format. However, wherever it is not, you can let the flow be engaging.
- Choice of school should not sound like a diarrhea of empty praises. Don’t mention things they already know about the school. Point out to them how your unique self has found a fit which is exclusive to this
- Nearly all candidates will be a cut above the rest, but what will set you apart will be the accomplishments. Don’t hold back but make sure you are self aware about your weaknesses at the same time. Don’t disguise a strength as a weakness. It will surely backfire.
- Career goals are really tricky. It is important to invest some time to research future jobs. Cliches and platitudes are unacceptable. Your objectives should be well defined. XYZ MBA program satisfies my craving for learning and leadership training loses substantive ground to This XYZ program will train me to find a competitive position at EFG company in ABC position.
- Try to match your career goals to your past and current experiences, and interests. Don’t try to impress them with what you think they want to hear. The more you bother about what’s trendy and fashionable the less genuine your essay will seem.
- Promise of a secure position, upon completion of your MBA, exhibits a planning which may be appealing to the admission committees. Employment becomes a certainty if you mention that you have already arranged an impressive, and advanced, position in your current company, after your MBA.
- Be careful about who you get to proof read the essay for you. The proverbial too many cooks is applicable in this scenario as well. They may be excellent writers but essays are generally of a particular flavor, not necessarily palatable to everyone. If you can afford one, the best way to go about ensuring essay quality is through MBA admissions consultants.
- Never rinse and repeat. If you Ctrl C &V your essays for each application, you can be sure that someone in the admissions committee will know. Repetitive essays, without a well thought out individual character for each school, invariably become banal. Keep it real, and real-time.
- Keep the language simple and the heavy technical jargon toned down. Admission committees go through scores of application essays. Don’t make your essay sound like a 20 page manual.
- For the same reason, don’t let your essay go out of control. Be objective and contain the size to a reasonable, and readable, length.
- Check your essay for grammar and readability style. Microsoft Word has a way to proof read contents. There shouldn’t be any passive use of sentences, or grammatical mistakes, and try to stick to usage of polished words – in addition for also, however for but, etc. Read Flesch-Kincaid readability tests.
- Overall, create your personal brand and work it as if you are selling it to an interested investor.
Read How to show leadership in MBA essays and interviews: Focus on these 3 types
- Understand the difference between a job resume and an MBA CV. They are not the same.
- The business school resume is required to be a short document. So include only the most significant achievements, and not your entire life history.
- Focus on the language. The MBA resume is a serious, business document. Don’t try to be cute and funny in it.
- Use a font style and size that’s easy to read. The resume is not the right tool to highlight your designing and creative skills.
- Your resume should be objective, backed by quantifiable results of your efforts.
- Keep it simple and well-rounded by including extra curricular interests other than the ones demanded by your academics or job. They should reflect a curious mind, leadership qualities, team working abilities and appreciation for varied activities.
- Make sure you give it a good structure with the appropriate section names, so it is easy for a new reader to quickly makes sense out of it.
- Your job experiences should not just have a description of the position but rather some short blurb about your actual contributions.
Read more: MBA Resume tips
- No matter how confident you are with job interviews, MBA interviews are a whole other ball game. Practice endlessly with friends and colleagues.
- On campus interviews don’t hold a special trump card over off campus ones. Sometimes the casual atmosphere of off campus interviews serves well to take the edge off.
- While responding, be honest and keep your answers to the point. crisp and confident.
- Don’t give rehearsed cliché responses. Interviewers are trained to pick up scripted answers and unfortunately they don’t do well to up your image.
- Print out each application separately and read them thoroughly before the interviews. You should be prepared to respond to any question drawn from the application. And sometimes a lack of preparation can leave you fumbling, however benign the question may be.
- Don’t change your answers based on what you think the admission committee wants to hear. Don’t ever concede that your career plans are not well thought out or change your career vision while you are being interviewed. Believe in what you have decided for yourself and be prepared to defend it if the committee starts getting difficult with your choice. After all, conviction is a virtue.
- Remember to reflect your person in the answers. Any unnatural response will seem scripted. Focus on your fit with the school and how your contributions, or gains, will stand apart.
- Remember, while responding, that you cannot undo the failings of the past but you can certainly use any scars on your resume to spin the answers as a favorable learning lesson. Back it up with an instance, if possible.
- Exhibit a confident, can-do attitude.
- Dress formally for the occasion. Don’t end up at the venue (or even a Skype call) in a T-shirt and torn jeans.
- Try to keep sufficient buffer time between your scheduled interview and the deadline. In case an emergency shows up, it will be convenient for you to alter dates.
- Don’t use up your vacation days at your job. They will come in handy in the event of on campus interviews.
- Visiting the school is sometimes overrated. It can get too expensive and not so useful unless you use the big interview weekends when you may get to meet a lot of prospective candidates.
- Speak with past alumni for more of an insider’s insight.
- Talk to people with a career you are aiming for. You will get to know what you will be expecting. A well researched answer will be able to impress upon the committee that you know what you are getting into.
- Hire a good Admission Consultant, to prepare for interviews, among other resources (essays, resume, recommendations). However make sure that the team comes recommended, with high credibility.
Read Harvard Business School Interview Questions
There is truly an avalanche of information without the certainty of which tip will get you knocking on heaven’s door. However, the running theme is keeping it simple, confident and well informed. Consider the application process your first lesson in management – How to expand your career with the given resources of your past achievements and failures?
And for more MBA application details, try this Big Daddy List of Business school admissions.