MBA admission is always competitive. Some of the top international business schools attract up to 7,000 applicants per intake, which results in admission rates as tiny as less than 10%.
Although competition is overwhelming, you should focus on building an MBA application package which presents your potential for graduate management education in the best possible way. This is entirely within your control, but requires commitment, discipline, and focus.
Here are the elements of an MBA application for admission.
You can apply for admission to a Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme only after you graduate from university with either a Bachelor’s or another Master’s degree or their equivalent. It is also possible to apply for an MBA if you have a higher academic degree, such as an M.Phil. or Ph.D., but the Bachelor’s degree is the required minimum.
When applying for admission, you should submit a copy of your university diploma as part of your application package. It should be a verified copy of the diploma with an apostil accompanied by a certified translation in English. Please make sure you check with each of your targeted business schools for any additional requirements.
Your university diploma should be accompanied by original official academic transcripts which list the courses taken, the scores achieved, the final GPA, and other academic details. Certified translations are required if the original academic transcripts are not in English.
MBA programmes rely heavily on the professional experience of their students. This is why you must have several years of full-time professional work experience in order to be eligible for admission to an MBA. The required experience varies among different business schools, so make sure you check in advance. At least two or three years of professional experience are needed to apply for admission to MBA programmes. At least five years professional experience plus managerial roles are required for Executive MBA programmes.
Your experience is presented in your MBA application resume. It should be focused on the application and include the information which is most relevant to admissions staff. The resume includes details about your professional, personal, and academic life, as well as accomplishments. Some of the facts in your resume will also appear in the letters of recommendation.
There are different formats of CV/resume. Please, check with your targeted business schools whether they have any preferences or requirements.
Language test scores
International MBA programmes are taught in English. To be able to enrol in a programme, you should provide proof of your English language proficiency. This is why business schools require official scores in internationally recognised English language proficiency tests.
The most popular of these tests are TOEFL and IELTS. Please check with your targeted business schools what their requirements are for a minimum score in these tests. For initial orientation, you may assume that you need a TOEFL iBT score of at least 100 (out of 120) and a IELTS score of 6.5 (out of 9.0).
The scores of these tests are valid for two years after the test date. Business schools normally ask to receive official original score reports.
Check out: How to Score High on the Language Tests
Aptitude test scores
GMAT or GRE scores are often required as well. These are not language tests, although they are conducted in English. GMAT and GRE are aptitude tests which assess the level of your skills needed for graduate management education, such as quantitative, analytical, and reasoning skills.
The scores of GMAT and GRE exams are valid for five years. These tests are usually much more challenging than English language tests and require more time for preparation.
Please check with your targeted business schools what their requirements are for a minimum score on these tests. For initial orientation, you may assume that you need a score of at least 620 (out of 800) in the GMAT and the equivalent in the GRE.
Check out: How to Prepare for Admission Tests
Letters of recommendation are an outside source of information for the MBA admissions committee about your potential for graduate management education. They are part of the application package. MBA programmes require you to submit professional letters of reference, not academic ones.
Most business schools will have their own forms for the recommendation letters as well as instructions and guidelines for the recommenders. Make sure you read these carefully and provide them to your recommenders.
It is very important to select your recommenders carefully and according to the requirements of the business schools. Also, allow enough time for your recommenders to prepare the letters. Finally, each recommendation should be school-specific. You cannot have one-size-fits-all letters of reference.
Essays are one of the most interesting and challenging parts of the application package. Admissions committees pay a lot of attention to the essays.
Each business school provides one or more essay topics – usually two or three. The topics vary between schools. Much like the recommendation letters, your essays should be school-specific. You cannot have one and the same essay for different business schools.
Your MBA application package should be accompanied by an application form. Each business school has its own application form. Most often it is submitted online.
The application form contains important details about your profile, your academic and professional experience and other information related to the MBA admission. The information which you provide in the application form should be in line with the rest of the documents in your application package. It is recommended that all documents be submitted as a package so that you can double check before submission that all facts are correct.
Most business schools will charge a non-refundable application fee in order to review your application package. The fees vary per business school, but the average is about EUR 100.
Most business schools will conduct an interview with applicants for admission to their MBA programmes. Interview policies differ between business schools. Some will interview all applicants, others will interview just the preselected ones. Most schools usually conduct only one interview.
If you are invited to an interview, this only means that your application is of interest to the admissions committee. In no way does it mean that you are admitted. The actual competition is still ahead of you. Your performance during the admissions interview greatly influences your admission and scholarship chances. Make sure you prepare well for the interview. Start early. Do not wait until the interview invitation because it often comes at very short notice.
The value of the application package
The application package is the second most important part of your MBA project, the first one being selecting the best business schools for your goals, profile, and potential.
The preparation for MBA application can take a year or more before the actual start of the programme. Squeezing your preparation into less time will result in compromising the quality of your application and placing too much stress on you and the other people involved in the process. Plan ahead and commit to your preparation so that you can improve your chances of admission to the most appropriate MBA programmes.
Most business schools require that applicants submit official scores of aptitude tests such as the GMAT, GRE or a school test. These tests are quite challenging and achieving a good score takes discipline and several months of preparation. Successful GMAT test takers invest about 100 hours in study and practice. They can spread this over three or four months. However, depending on one’s starting level and intensity of preparation, achieving a high score can take about six months – and more than one sitting of the test. The same applies to the GRE.
You should add another month for booking a test date and one more before the official score can be reported to you and business schools.
Business schools will also require non-native speakers to take an English language proficiency test such as TOEFL or IELTS. This can add another couple of months to your test prep calendar.