How to ace your MBA application

So, you’ve decided to make a massive investment in your career by pursuing an MBA – brilliant! A world of new ideas, experiences, and connections is at your feet… Almost. First, you need to ace your application to bag a spot on your chosen MBA program. What’s more, the pressure is on: you’ve picked one of the top MBA programs in the world. (And rightly so, why get your MBA at all if you aren’t going to aim high?) The competition is fierce, so you need to write the kind of application that’s guaranteed to make you stand out from the crowd.

MBA admissions committees want to see well-rounded applications that show off each candidate’s various skills, abilities, and attributes. Your academic track record, professional experience, extracurricular activities, recommendations, and personal story all count towards the ultimate application, so make sure each aspect is covered.

  1. Make your GMAT score count.

Most MBA programs require applicants to submit their GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test) score with their application. As set out by the Graduate Management Admissions Council here, the GMAT “assesses analytical writing and problem-solving abilities, along with the data sufficiency, logic, and critical reasoning skills that are vital to real-world business and management success.” Both your GMAT score and undergraduate academic record are taken into account in the MBA application process. Prepare as much as possible for the GMAT to ensure a good score, since this can make the difference between being accepted or not.

2. Outline your career goals.

Admissions committees like to see candidates who have a clear idea of what they want to get out of the MBA program, and how they plan to use it to advance their career post-graduation. Make sure that you clearly articulate realistic career goals in the short, medium and long term. Here, it’s up to you to do your research on the school and program you’re applying to. Make sure that the MBA in question is indeed a good fit for your specific career goals. Then be sure to communicate why you’re a good fit for the school in your application essay.

3. Think carefully about who you ask to submit references.

Try not to rely on academic references, as business schools are more interested in the professional skills you’ve earned through on-the-job learning.Your professional references are an important part of your MBA application. Choose your references carefully and have a long, honest chat with them about why you’re getting your MBA. If they aren’t as excited about the prospect of you going to business school as you are, they’re probably not the best choice; you need someone who’s 100% behind you. References should have worked closely enough with you in the past to be able to supply specific, honest examples of your outstanding work ethic and unerring performance. Try not to rely on academic references, as business schools are more interested in the professional skills you’ve earned through on-the-job learning.

4. Focus on what makes you memorable.

This can be a tall order, but it’s worth spending some time thinking about what makes you unique. Do you have an inspirational personal story about how you’ve overcome adversity? Have you done something out of the ordinary, like climbed Kilimanjaro or lived and worked in every continent on the planet? Are you passionate about humanitarian causes? Try to build your ‘personal brand’ and convey that in your application essay. Remember, the admissions committee likely has to sift through hundreds of applications so make yours stand out!

Now you know why getting your MBA application together is no small task. Acing the written application process requires really understanding what you want out of your MBA experience and being able to articulate what makes you different to all the other candidates vying for the same spot.

5. Illustrate your leadership potential

Have you ever managed a team? If so, be sure to include this in your application. MBA admissions committee are always on the lookout for leadership potential. Never miss an opportunity to point out instances where you’ve demonstrated leadership skills or qualities, whether in the workplace or through sports, volunteer organisations, or musical groups.

6. Show your ability to work well in a team.

MBA programs typically involve a lot of group projects, so demonstrating your ability to work well in a team is essential. Highlight examples of great teamwork in your career thus far, and be sure to mention any instances where you’ve had to practice values like  patience, humility, or intercultural sensitivity. Remember, teamwork lessons learnt on the sports field count too, so don’t leave these out.

7. Include any international experience in your application.

This is particularly important if you’re applying to an MBA program with an international focus. If you hold multiple nationalities, have travelled, studied, or worked internationally, or if you are able to speak multiple languages, let the admissions committee know.

8. Highlight any volunteer work you’ve done.

If you’re passionate about any philanthropic activities or if you’re involved in any humanitarian organisations, outline your efforts in your application.

Check out the ESSEC Global MBA brochure or more info on our prestigious 12-month intensive international MBA program. Alternatively, head over to the ESSEC Global MBA admissions page to see if you might be a good fit for the school.

If you’re still undecided on which business school you should apply to, How to find the perfect MBA. In it, we unpack four key considerations to help you choose an MBA program guaranteed to help you thrive in your professional life.

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