MBA admission requirements are unique for different schools as well as for different MBA programs. Although not all programs require the same criteria, it is important to know what an MBA admissions committee might be looking for. We will explore some of the more common admission requirements that you may run across.
While we do our best to provide accurate information here, it is general at best. It is always best to get your specific MBA program information from the business school itself. Usually the school's website will give you ample information. If not, an e-mail or phone call should do the trick.
There are really three areas that you need to be concerned with when it comes to MBA program admissions. These areas are: pre-MBA requirements, application requirements, and acceptance criteria. Each group is discussed below under its respective heading.
Pre-MBA requirements are those needed before you can even apply to a program. Usually such requirements take substantial work to finish. That is why it is good to know about the specific requirements and prepare for them early on.
Bachelor's Degree - Because an MBA is a master's degree, you are required to have a bachelor's degree before you enter the program. Most MBA programs do not required a specific undergraduate major. In fact, many programs prefer some diversity in that regard. Although, a specific degree may not be specified, a bachelor's degree in business can be helpful when prerequisite courses are required.
Prerequisite Courses - Some programs require that you complete a number of specified business "prerequisite courses" before you start. While the actual number of courses varies, it often ranges between two and 10. Sometimes schools give you alternate ways to complete the prerequisite course requirement (e.g. testing out, "quick courses", etc.). MBA prerequisites help you enter your program with a "common body" of business knowledge.
Admissions Test - An admissions test is a common requirement for MBA programs. The Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) is by far the most common exam. A significant number of schools also allow you use the Graduate Records Examination (GRE) test. Whichever test it may be, careful and devoted preparation will be required to get a competitive score. It is important to spend enough time to properly prepare for any MBA entrance exam.
Work Experience - Many MBA programs recommend or even require that you have a certain number of years of work experience. Generally, this is stated as post-college, full-time work experience. Some programs even specify that your experience should be increasing in responsibility or managerial in nature. Even when work experience is not explicitly required, realize that you are usually competing with other applicants based on this requirement.
International students (those outside of the United States) will likely have additional Pre-MBA requirements. One common requirement is for non-native English speakers to verify proficiency of the English language. English proficiency is usually verified using common tests such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).
Once you have met the pre-MBA requirements, then you are ready to apply to an MBA program. Application requirements take into account pre-MBA requirements as well as requiring other application materials. Knowing what items are required will give you head start when applying.
Application Form - There is usually some sort of application that you submit to officially apply to an MBA program. Most schools charge a non-refundable fee for each application submitted. These days, most applications can be submitted online.
Official Transcripts - You will need to send "official" transcripts from each college you have attended. This will be used to verify degree completion and any applicable MBA prerequisites you have completed. College transcripts also verify your undergraduate grade point average (GPA), a common consideration for acceptance.
Admissions Test Scores - Test scores are only required if an admissions test is required. When required, test scores must be sent to each MBA school that you apply to. Admissions test scores are usually good for 5 years. Test scores can verify that you have taken the appropriate admissions test as well as be used for acceptance purposes. (This information is also applicable to English proficiency test scores).
Work Resume - You will often be required to submit a resume to verify your work experience. Even if an MBA does not specifically require work experience, an MBA program could require a work resume. Remember, work experience may be an acceptance consideration whether or not it is explicitly stated as a requirement.
Letters of Recommendation - MBA programs usually want to know how you work with others people in both a business and academic environment. Therefore, two or three letters of recommendation will often be required. These recommendation letters usually come from people like previous professors, employers, and other associates.
Application Essays - It is very common for MBA programs to require one or more essays. Programs use such essays to really try to get to know you. Essays can be used to present yourself in a positive light. Most importantly, application essays allow you to tell why you want to pursue an MBA and why you are a good fit for the program you are apply to.
Some MBA programs may also require an interview of some sort. An interview offers a great opportunity for you to show why you belong in the MBA program you are applying for. Getting called for an interview is often a good sign that you are being seriously considered for placement into the program.
A note about procedures and timing...your application, essays, and resume can usually be submitted together. On the other hand, items like transcripts, test scores, and recommendation letters will have to be sent separately. Pay special attention to the application deadlines during the MBA admissions process. Make sure to get all of your application materials in before the deadlines!
The whole point of applying to an MBA program is to get accepted. Acceptance criteria are defined by the program and usually correlate with the various application requirements. Although it is hard to define exactly what all programs look for in a candidate, it can often be summed up in two methods. Simply put, schools either look for specific criteria or they take a holistic approach.
Specific Criteria - Some MBA programs focus on specific requirements for acceptance. For example, a program might focus heavily on your undergraduate GPA or your GMAT scores. On the other hand, a program could weigh work experience, recommendations, and/or essays more heavily. We have even seen programs that have a specific formula that guarantees your acceptance.
Holistic Approach - Other MBA programs will not focus on specific criteria for acceptance. Instead, such programs look at the applicant as a "whole" with all of his/her strengths and weaknesses. Stronger parts of an application can compensate for other weaker parts. We suspect that most programs that use this approach do not want to advertise what they look for specifically.
It is not always clear what a program considers important criteria for acceptance. It never hurts to ask a program specifically what they are looking for. Plus, you may want to look at their MBA admissions statistics. This will give you an idea of the types of students they accepted in the recent past.
As you can now see, there are many considerations when it comes to MBA admissions criteria. Knowing these considerations should help you in your research and your preparation.