Now that you've decided where and when you will apply to business school, it's time to gather all the things you'll need to put together a stellar MBA application package — one that's sure to get you into the business school of your choice.
MBA admission: filling out the form
Accuracy and neatness make a good first impression. Make sure any handwritten areas of your application are legible and that you double-check for typos, alignment errors, and any other potentially embarrassing gaffes. You don't want to start off on the wrong foot with the admission committee.
You may want to photocopy the blank form several times and fill out a few drafts before you submit a completed copy. When your final version is ready, make a copy for your records before you drop it in the mail (or before you submit it via e-mail) — and don't forget the fee!
It may seem like a no-brainer, but every year MBA admission committees receive lovingly prepared and beautifully packaged applications from well-meaning applicants who've forgotten to include the fee. No matter how well the rest of your application is prepared, this oversight simply doesn't look good.
Most MBA schools require you to submit scores from the GMAT (and the TOEFL, if you're an international student). When you take it, you can pick up to five schools to which you'd like your scores sent. If you decide later that you'd like your scores submitted to other MBA schools, you'll need to make arrangements to get them sent. This can be done at www.mba.com for an additional fee.
Transcripts and resume
You'll need to provide each program with a copy of your academic transcript from every school that you've attended. Include transcripts from summer school programs, graduate work, and any classes you've taken since graduation. Allow at least a month for the program to receive your transcript, and be ready to pay for each copy. Review them carefully for any mistakes and keep a copy for yourself.
Some programs ask you to include your resume or curriculum vitae (CV). If you haven't updated yours lately, take the time to do so. Include information about articles you've published or papers you've presented, volunteer work, and memberships and positions in professional societies. Have someone else review it for accuracy and spelling.
Your resume or CV should highlight your accomplishments, responsibilities, and career progression, if applicable. If possible, show evidence of managerial or leadership abilities and highlight your skills at being a team player.
Letters of recommendation
Some of the best MBA programs require you to submit two or three letters of recommendation from your present employer or professors. If you're not comfortable asking these people, submit them from a coworker, a former boss, or someone else who can vouch for the quality of your work.
Provide the writers with a summary of your accomplishments (such as your resume or academic transcripts), as well as some details about the MBA schools to which you're applying and the criteria by which you'll be judged. Supply them with labeled envelopes so they can seal the recommendations when they are completed. Give your writers at least 2 to 3 months writing time, and then check in with them a few weeks before the letters are due. Lastly, collect the recommendations yourself — don't make them go to the trouble of mailing them for you.
Most business programs will ask you to respond to MBA essay questions, but exactly how many varies from program to program. Some will ask you to provide just one personal statement that discusses your past and your goals, while others will require you to respond to as many as five or more essay questions on separate topics.
In general, admission committees are looking for you to show them why you want to be admitted to their program, to review your personal background and goals for the future, to describe your accomplishments (and failures) and how they've shaped you, and to discuss activities that you enjoy outside of work and school.
What you can control
Obviously, you won't have much control over some elements of your MBA application. The information you include on the form is basic — your stats, so to speak. Transcripts and test scores are what they are and you can't go back and change the grades you got in college or the scores you got on the GMAT.
So, how can you show the MBA admission committees who you really are — with your recommendations and your essays! You have total control over these elements. By choosing the perfect people to recommend you and by providing some insight into yourself, you can turn an average application into an outstanding one and swing those admission committees in your favor.