Applying for an MBA can be a daunting process. With dozens of steps to take before you’re admitted, you may look for advice and information along the way. But not everything you read will be trustworthy.
We spoke to Shelly Heinrich, dean of MBA admissions at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, to dig into some of MBA application myths, and where the truth really lies.
Myth 1: You need a business background to apply for an MBA
If you’re applying without a business bachelor’s or traditional business work experience, you may fear you’re at a disadvantage to other candidates.
On the contrary, this could be what distinguishes you. Admissions teams look for candidates from a broad range of industries and backgrounds to fill the MBA classroom.
“The thing that makes an MBA classroom so rich is having diverging and diverse viewpoints,” Shelly says.
In the Georgetown MBA, just a quarter (26%) of the class has a business bachelor’s degree. Engineering (13%), maths & physical sciences (16%), and humanities (10%) undergraduates make up a strong proportion of the class.
Myth 2: Your GMAT or GRE score outweighs the rest of your application
You may spend months trying to perfect your GMAT or GRE score: but when it comes to it, you can’t get it over the average score of your target schools.
While getting a good test score is important, it’s not the be all and end all for schools. Shelly says top schools like Georgetown McDonough have a holistic approach to reviewing your application, evaluating your overall fit, as well as your work experience and undergraduate GPA.
Rather than comparing yourself to the average GMAT of your target school, Shelly advises you look at the 80th percentile range (which most schools release on their websites). At Georgetown, this is 650 to 720: if you fit into this, it’s worth applying.
Myth 3: There’s no point applying in rounds three or four
If you’ve left your application until later on in the year, when the majority of the MBA class has been filled, you might not think it’s worth applying.
It’s a myth to say that you don’t stand a chance. Schools deliberately keep seats available for top level candidates applying in the later rounds: even if you don’t make it, but you’re still a strong applicant, they’ll just tell you to apply next year. And, Shelly says Georgetown loves reapplicants; it shows the admissions committee they are truly focused on McDonough.
The same goes for scholarships: while most of the budget will be allocated, there is still typically funding for candidates applying later on.
International applicants to the US may want to leave more time for their applications, for visa reasons. “We’ve seen how visa applications are out of your control, and out of your school's control,” Shelly says. Even if you are accepted, but your visa doesn’t come through in time, most schools will help you defer your application until next year.
Myth 4: If you get rejected, there’s no point reapplying
If your application gets rejected, don’t despair: apply again next year! This will show your determination to get into that particular school.
Shelly says she speaks to dozens of candidates every year who don’t feel reapplying will do them any favors. “This couldn’t be further from the truth,” she says, “These are highly qualified candidates, but we’ve just run out of spots.”
Use your reapplication to dwell on some of the gaps or weaknesses in your application, and come back next year a stronger, more determined candidate.
Myth 5: You should only apply for an MBA if you want a corporate job
Consulting, finance, and technology draw in the majority of MBA graduates. At Georgetown, this is no different: these top three industries employ around 75% of MBAs.
That doesn’t close off the possibility of any other career. At Georgetown, 6% of students take social impact or non-profit jobs; a further 6% go into real estate. Given the school’s proximity to Washington DC, it’s no surprise that 1% go into government or public sector jobs.
Whatever sector you choose, MBA students are well-positioned to apply their broad skill set to transform departments and companies.
Myth 6: If you can’t afford an MBA, don’t apply
The cost of an MBA is a significant factor for many applicants, but it shouldn’t be a reason not to apply.
There are a number of ways to fund your studies. Merit and diversity scholarships are available to students with exceptional academics or from certain backgrounds. Around 43% of full time Georgetown MBA students are awarded funding, with over $1.5 million available.
Most MBA students at Georgetown also do paid summer internships, earning on average $7800 a month.
You’re also better placed to pay back your loans once you graduate. Georgetown MBA graduates receive an average signing bonus of $34,707, which can make a dent in your student debt. And don’t forget the impressive salary increases you’re likely to see: Georgetown MBA graduates earn around $161,000 annually within three years.
“View your MBA as an investment that will appreciate. It will open doors in the short term and long term that you may not have got as quickly otherwise,” Shelly says.
Whether you’re applying late in round four or early in round one, make sure you have all the right information available to you. And if it feels like the right time to apply, then don’t let the myths and rumors put you off.
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Georgetown: McDonough School of Business
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