To get into a top MBA program, it’s important to start by creating a solid academic foundation. This will help you build up a track record of success that MBA programs can see.
Start by choosing your undergraduate major carefully and sticking with it. Find an area of study that really interests you and motivates you to succeed academically. Make sure that this field has classes at the college or university you want to attend for your undergraduate studies.
Organize study groups with other students in your major, take advantage of the tutoring services offered through the school to help you master difficult concepts and material, and never be afraid to ask questions during class or office hours if something isn’t quite clear. By working hard now, when it comes time to apply for graduate schools, many years down the line, people will remember you as one of the leaders in your academic department who always did well on projects and exams and got great grades in classes
Get work experience.
Once you get your bachelor’s degree, your next step will be to gain at least two years of full-time work experience. For most MBA programs, the number of years doesn’t matter as much as demonstrating leadership in a professional setting. It’s also important that you can show how you’ve grown and developed over time.
If you have a job in business, this might be easy for you; but if not, it’s no reason to panic! You can still get work experience in any field and apply for an MBA program later on. In fact, many successful MBA candidates bring diverse work experience and backgrounds to their programs because they show different ways of thinking—an asset when it comes to group projects and collaboration with other students and alumni after graduation.
If you feel like your current job doesn’t give you the opportunities to take on more responsibility or do something new, consider taking on an extra project or two outside of work hours or volunteering your time with an organization that shares your interests. This could also be a way to explore careers while still working full-time, so don’t be afraid to try new things!
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Be involved in extracurricular activities.
Extracurricular activities show you’re well-rounded, a leader, and passionate. Extracurricular activities aren’t limited to sports and music. You can also be involved in performing arts (drama, dance), community service or religious groups, student government, political organizations and more. They allow the admissions committee to see your commitment and leadership skills. But if you were unable to participate in extracurricular activities due to work obligations or family responsibilities, don’t worry; the admissions committee understands that most students are not able to participate in these activities while working full-time.
If you do get involved in extracurricular activities it’s important that you are a leader. That doesn’t mean being an officer or president of an organization but rather taking on responsibility for events or other people within the organization. For example, if you were a member of the tennis team for four years I would hope that by yourJunior year you were coaching younger players or helping with equipment or fundraising. Even if it’s just putting together practice schedules or making phone calls that shows initiative and leadership ability!
Create a list of schools you’d like to apply to and research them online.
- Create a list of schools you’d like to apply to and research them online.
- Think about what you want to do when you graduate from business school
- Check out the alumni network and see if it matches your interests and goals
- Look at the school’s ranking, but don’t get too hung up on it
- Research the school’s faculty members
Know your GPA, GMAT and TOEFL scores.
Most top MBA programs consider three primary criteria when reviewing your application: your academic background (your GPA and transcript), your GMAT/GRE score and TOEFL score.
To get into a top MBA program, you’ll need to have a competitive GPA. If your GPA is low, try to make up for it by having a high GMAT/GRE score or TOEFL score. For example, if you feel that your undergraduate grades weren’t as strong as you would have liked, then take the time to study for the GMAT/GRE or TOEFL with an emphasis on improving your scores.
Internationally educated candidates should know that many U.S. schools require them to submit scores from both the GMAT and the GRE – be sure to check each school’s requirements before applying! Similarly, if English isn’t your first language, find out which English proficiency test is accepted at each of the schools where you plan on applying (TOEFL or IELTS). Having scored 100+ points higher on the TOEFL than my peers helped me stand out in my successful applications at Stanford and Berkeley-Haas!
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Highlight your strengths and plan for weaknesses
When considering your strengths, you should think about your personal and professional achievements. Ask yourself questions like “What is my proudest achievement?” and “What am I best known for at work? What are things that other people say I do well?”.
Once you’ve identified your strengths, you can concentrate on building them into the foundation of a solid application. This will show the admissions committee that you’re a capable leader who has clear goals and knows how to achieve them successfully.
The most difficult part of this exercise is being honest with yourself about what you need to improve. When listing your weaknesses, consider areas in which you have less experience or skills that might not be necessary for success in the role for which you’re applying.
For example, if your goal is to join a marketing firm, it probably won’t be helpful to highlight weaknesses in areas like engineering or accounting because they may not be relevant to the program or industry in which you want to work.
To make things easier on yourself, prioritize your efforts by focusing on making improvements in two or three broad areas, such as personal skills (e.g., effective teamwork and leadership) rather than individual activities (e.g., public speaking). Focus on improving these key abilities so that an admissions team-member sees an overall improvement from any previous applications rather than just one specific skill set.
Work toward a specific goal or target for each school.
There are several aspects to consider when determining which schools will be the best fit for you. A few elements to think about include:
- Graduate programs: What do you want to study? Choose a school that offers a program that meets your needs.
- Admissions requirements: Do you have what it takes to get in? If not, build up your profile.
- Career services offerings: Does the school help students find jobs or internships?
- MBA courses and curriculum: Does the curriculum match your needs and interests?
Learn about how admissions work.
Before you apply to a top MBA program, you should have a strong understanding of the school’s admissions process. [Link: https://hbr.org/2001/08/the-mba-admissions-process]
Each school has different requirements for admission including application deadlines, materials, and activities to be completed outside of class that are important to the schools’ culture. The requirements can differ greatly depending on which schools you’re looking at.
For example, Harvard Business School has two application rounds with deadlines in September and January. Applicants must participate in an interview with a member of the school’s alumni community before they are considered for admission. In addition to the interviews, applicants need to provide three letters of recommendation, their GMAT or GRE scores (and if applicable, TOEFL or IELTS test scores), academic transcripts from all colleges attended and official documents proving work history and military service status (if applicable).
At Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business there is only one application deadline in April for students beginning their programs in September. For that first round of applications Tuck requires two essays—one about why you want your MBA and another about how you plan on using it—three recommendations from professional colleagues who can speak to your career goals as well as transcripts from all undergraduate institutions attended and standardized test scores (GMAT or GRE).
Learn about the school’s career services offerings.
Because your MBA degree is an investment in your career, it’s important to get the most out of your education. Before you apply or choose an MBA program, find out what services the school offers to help graduates find jobs and internships.
Some schools offer mentoring programs in which alumni mentors current students. Students benefit from learning among peers and professionals. Some schools also have career services departments that assist students with networking, job placement, and interviewing skills.
What are you looking for? A school with a high percentage of alumni that attend networking events? A school with a large international network? Find out how much support the school will give you during and after graduation by talking to current students or visiting the schools’ career-services websites.
Write great essays.
When you’re ready to write your essay, it’s important to research your topic and how you want to present it. Pick a company (or two) that interests you, and find out how they hire people. Use the internet to find information about what they do, their history and culture, as well as current news around them. Take into consideration the fact that this is an MBA application essay, so you want to answer the question in a way that makes sense for an MBA candidate.
You can read more on each school’s website or ask your advisor for help:
Getting into a top MBA program takes hard work – but it’s doable!
With the increasing number of MBA applications, it is becoming more challenging to get into a top MBA program. However, with proper planning and preparation, it’s not impossible at all.
The admissions team looks for well-rounded applicants who have shown academic excellence, professional success, international exposure, leadership potential and other unique personal qualities that will make them stand out from the crowd.
Do your homework before applying to a top MBA program. Know how you are different from others – think about what you can bring to the table and how you can add value to your institution through extra-curricular activities. Many candidates focus excessively on their GMAT score or their work experience but do not highlight their strengths properly in the essays or interviews. They end up getting rejected by some of the top schools because they didn’t do enough work prior to applying.