Partner Sites

Logo BusinessBecause - The business school voice
mobile search icon

9 Hacks For MBA Application Success

Thinking about doing an MBA? These MBA application tips will set you up for success and improve your chances of getting into your target program

Tue Apr 4 2023

An MBA can enhance your employability, and develop your leadership capabilities and business acumen.

This is why getting accepted into an MBA program is far from easy. Acceptance rates at some of the top business schools can be as low as 8%, meaning that as many as 92% of applications are rejected.

Among these applicants are professionals with a variety of business management experience and academic achievements under their belt. So how can you ace the MBA application process and stand out among your fellow applicants? Also, how can you identify your strengths for your application?

Follow these tips to improve your chances of getting into your dream MBA program.

1. Define your career goals to choose the best-fit program

Before you even start to think about your MBA application, dedicate time to researching different programs to find out which is the best fit for you.

Whether you have years of experience and are looking to move into a leadership role, or you are in the early stages of your career hoping to enhance your professional reputation, there are an infinite number of degree and non-degree programs that can help you advance your career.

From specialized STEM MBAs, executive MBAs, full-time to part-time online programs, consider which will best suit your goals. There are tools to help you decide.

2. Speed up your application with GradSelect 

A great shortcut to connecting with your ideal schools is to sign up for the GMAC GradSelect service, a free resource that connects you with schools and programs best suited to your needs.

Simply register with GradSelect and answer a couple of profile questions. From here, the free search service will contact you to share information about programs, scholarships, career opportunities, events, and preparatory webinars relevant to you.

GradSelect is used by more than 500 business schools including Harvard, Wharton and Columbia, which is more than any other b-school connection service, and places you in connection with top business schools around the world that are suited to what you’re looking for.

The tool has proved useful to current MBA students who credit the service to helping them find the best program for them.

Current MBA students who've used GradSelect search say: “It's going to expand your opportunities and help you see what else is out there”, and “GradSelect helped me to get more information and to compile the list of schools I applied for”.  

To identify your strengths, you'll also want to take advantage of GradSelect Elevate, a new, free quiz tool that helps you to articulate your skills and attributes to confidently position yourself with your target schools.  

3. Make an application checklist

Once you have a shortlist of schools, then it is worth making a list of all the important application requirements via the schools' websites.

Look out for specific requirements applicable to you, for example, if you’re an international student, then you might need to take a TOEFL or IELTS language exam prior to applying.

Also check out the tuition cost, scholarships and financial aid details so that you know what the investment will be.

Business schools tend to request that candidates submit applications three to eight months prior to the start of the program, while some programs have multiple entry dates. Check out our Application Guide to understand the application cycles.

Since you will likely be applying for different programs, it is crucial to keep on top of deadlines.

4. Start your exam prep early

Being organized and efficient with your time will make a drastic difference to your MBA application. process

First, check which tests are accepted by your shortlisted schools. Many programs require candidates to hold a competitive GMAT score, while some accept GRE tests.

Ensure that you stick to a regimented study plan over a few months, and make the most out of online tools such as GMAT coaching sessions and study resources.

In late 2023, GMAT Focus Edition will replace the GMAT exam. GMAT Focus is an evolution of the GMAT, which is shorter, more flexible and focuses on critical reasoning and data literacy skills, as well as giving you personalized insights on your performance.

5. Brief your recommenders well

As part of the application process, you’ll need to provide at least two letters of recommendation. Make sure to select people who can allude to your leadership potential and work ethic, such as previous employers or colleagues. A top tip is to choose someone who knows your day-to-day work rather than a CEO you haven’t worked with directly and who you can’t give a personal letter of recommendation and won't be able to speak to your professional achievements.

Schedule meetings with your recommenders and explain why exactly you want an MBA. This way, they will be better informed when making their case about why you would make a great MBA candidate.

6. Connect with your shortlisted business schools

Be proactive and try to form a network in your shortlisted business schools. To do this, you should be on the lookout for webinars with these schools or upcoming GMAC Tours where you can meet with admissions staff or alumni directly. 

Reach out to alumni, student ambassadors or current students via LinkedIn and ask them about their experience at the school and the application process. This could impress the admissions team in your application or if you make it to interview.

7. Craft and personalize your resume 

Avoid sending each of your shortlisted schools the same resume. This is your chance to tailor your application to the specific school that you are applying to. Check out our Resume Guide for details of how to stand out.

Be sure to demonstrate why the school will help you attain your personal and professional ambitions. This is also a chance to market yourself outside of your academic transcript.

Highlight the leadership experiences you’ve gained though extracurricular activities and point out any quantifiable achievements from your previous work performance.

8. Polish your essayand proofread it carefully!

The essay provides the admissions team with insight into who you are as a person. Allow your personality to shine through in your essay, and try to share your story rather than simply stating your achievements.

Find out how to write a successful application essay in our Essay Guide. You could be asked what your goals are for the future and how an MBA will help you achieve them, or why you’ve chosen your specific program.

Admissions teams will be assessing your written communication skills and for how well you can market yourself as an individual, outside of your academic know-how. Before you press submit, make sure you proofread your essay thoroughly—spelling mistakes could be fatal.

9. Ace your business school interview 

Your MBA interview is an opportunity to convey your strengths and to impress.

It is critical that you research the program and school as much as possible and prepare for any questions you may be asked. Speak to successful candidates wherever possible for tips.

Once you have identified common interview questions, which you can find here, be sure to practice your delivery. Recruit friends and family to help you with this and undertake as many mock interviews as possible.

To connect with others who are on the MBA application journey, join the BusinessBecause Applicant Hub