MBA Applications – Frequently Asked Questions Part 1
Welcome to our two part series on frequently asked questions from MBA applicants! While there are a ton of nuances in the process and lots of things you will encounter that will be highly specific for you, there are some general questions many applicants end up asking.
Here are some tips to help you get started as you navigate the MBA application process. Please keep in mind that these are guidelines and there may be exceptions.
In which round should I apply?
We strongly advise that applicants apply in round one unless they have some pressing reason that makes them unable to do so. The benefits to applying in round one are numerous. Right off the bat, it demonstrates your seriousness and passion for that particular school. MBA admissions data reveals that international students have higher acceptance rates in round one, and applying in the first round can improve your chances for a scholarship. When you apply in round two you are competing against other applicants for fewer seats, and you will be compared to students who have already been admitted. In round three you will face the same challenges, only amplified, so for your best chance, rounds one and two are the way to go, with round one best for the most competitive schools on your list.
How much does the GMAT matter?
The GMAT is a critical component of the application, and it’s often the first parameter that the MBA admissions committee looks at in an application. However it’s not the only criteria for being a successful applicant. The GMAT is intended to help the admissions committee assess your ability to thrive in business school. So a high score certainly can help make you a competitive applicant, but, in the end, it cannot compensate for a weak application or guarantee you admission. Likewise, a score on the lower end of the business school’s desired spectrum or average doesn’t mean you have no chance at being accepted, if the rest of your application demonstrates your strengths and fit for the program.
Caveat: many programs expect that Indian applicants will have high GMAT scores, especially if they attended an engineering college, so the benchmark is higher for Indian applicants.
How important are the things I do outside of work/school?
While you might think that the only thing that matters is your professional life and academic record, business schools are actually trying to learn everything about you as a person and assess your fit for their MBA program. Business school is social and network-oriented, and programs are looking for passionate dynamic applicants who bring energy and diverse life experiences to their campuses. The activities that you pursue outside of school and work highlight your leadership and other character traits and demonstrate your passions in life. MBA programs are interested in your college extracurricular participation as well as any activities you have done since joining the professional world. Anything you were involved with prior to college should not be included in your MBA application.
Should I quit my job to focus on my MBA applications?
We hear this question all the time, and our answer is always, NO! Please DO NOT quit your job before or during the application cycle. It will give you a gap in your career progression, which schools do not look upon favorably. As a rule, it is not advisable to leave your job for any reason during the application period (sick relative, soul searching, wedding planning, etc.). Besides the fact that quitting your job may leave you in an awkward position to ask for recommendations from your last employers, it will also demonstrate your inability to multitask, which reflects negatively on you. You want to be able to highlight your stellar skills at balancing your work and personal life – showcasing another of your strengths.
When should I begin working on my applications if I am applying in round 1?
As early as possible! We can’t emphasize this enough. Applicants all over the world find this process challenging and time consuming; they need to complete many drafts of everything from their resume to essays to recommendation pointers before they are ready for submission. We suggest you give yourself six months to complete the entire process so you have ample time to research your schools, think about your goals, flesh out your stories and write your essays, fine tune your resume, solicit your recommendations and, when the forms are released, work on the forms. The process for each school is in depth and time consuming and if you are planning to apply to 3-5 schools (or more), six months will give you sufficient time to think through and complete each application.
In Part 2 of this series we will address more commonly asked questions, so stay tuned. More to follow!