Applying for MBA

Applying successfully to an MBA program is straightforward--but not easy. Any application for business school requires a demonstration of clear thinking, clever planning, and a steadfast resolve to show why you're an excellent candidate.

Each business school has its own unique set of application requirements, which means you'll need to read instructions carefully and think of different ways to demonstrate your abilities to the target admissions audience. Here are some key tips on how to apply.

While each business school has entry criteria to help ferret out candidates, almost all MBA programs require the following:

  • An application form
  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  • An essay
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Transcripts
  • Standardized test scores
  • A personal interview
  • Financial aid application

The MBA Application Form

Your completed application form is the first document a business school reads, and it can be a dealbreaker if you're careless in preparing it. Application forms can include a personal biography and a list of personal, academic, and professional accomplishments.

You may want to make photocopies of the application forms before you start, since you may make errors in filling them out. Create several drafts of your statements on your computer so you can revise them. Use straightforward language and do not try to impress anyone by gilding the lily. Your accomplishments should speak for themselves. Even though you use a spell checker, be sure to have someone you trust read through everything, searching for typos or grammatical errors. Then complete the form.

Resume or Curriculum Vitae

Some business schools take a close look at your resume--not only at job history, relevant content, and clarity, but at your business presentation. Read application instructions carefully, since many MBA programs spell out precisely what they're looking for in this document. List your work experience chronologically or by skill set. If you're submitting a CV, follow academic formatting. You may want to search online for resume models to copy.

Application Essay

Not every business school considers the essay a vital component--but most do. Before you write a word, be sure you have read the instructions carefully, since many MBA applications require specific essay topics. Here's the best tip of all: address the topic squarely, add no filler, and do not stray from the required subject.

You'll need to write a unique essay for each school to which you apply. Some typical topics include:

  • Why are you applying to business school?
  • What are your career goals?
  • Why have you chosen this MBA program?

Letters of Recommendation

Reference letters should be written only by people with a business or academic orientation, and who are directly familiar with your work and accomplishments. The application may require them to address specific topics, but also be sure to ask your prospects to provide clear examples of your strengths and potential. Ask them to cover:

  • How long they have known you and in which capacity
  • What strengths distinguish you, and what your best qualities are
  • How you interact with others
  • Specific examples of how you have impacted business, academic, or personal projects and relationships.

Transcripts

Round up transcripts from every academic institution you attended, whether you graduated or not. Be sure to request these early enough to meet the application deadline, or you can jeopardize your acceptance.

Standardized Test Scores

You'll need to take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) and submit your scores to get into an MBA program. Some business schools place high value on your scores; others are more interested in your combined academic and work experience. If you already have a sub-par grade point average, you can boost your chances by doing well on the GMAT. A high score, however, is no guarantee that you'll be accepted into an MBA program. If you want to increase your chances of scoring well, take a GMAT preparation course.

The Personal Interview

Many business schools require interviews, while others allow candidates the option of skipping it. If you don't interview well, you may want to avoid this option. But if you're well-spoken, this is a great opportunity to enhance your application.

Want to know how to excel in your interview? Relax. In most cases, a school will not ask you in to interview unless they already were satisfied with your test scores, your application, and your letters of recommendation. Here are some tips:

  • Dress appropriately in formal business attire
  • Speak candidly about your strengths, with assurance
  • Don't stretch or pad your accomplishments
  • Be friendly

Financial Aid Application

If you've decided to attend business school, don't wait to complete your applications for financial aid. There are deadlines for scholarship committees, lenders, and grant institutions, so you'll want to coordinate your efforts in applying to an MBA program with seeking financial assistance.

Options include government and private student loans, but government programs usually offer more favorable terms. Federal Stafford Loans are fixed-rate, graduate-school loans with a life-time ceiling up to $138,500. They may be subsidized based on student financial need. Federal Graduate PLUS loans are fixed at 8.5 percent and can be taken up to the full cost of your business school education, less previous loan amounts.