Business school admissions committees generally evaluate candidates across a range of skills or experiences.

Below, we go into more detail on three of the critical areas every candidate needs to address to be in consideration at top MBA programs.

Academic Ability

Admissions committees look at two elements to evaluate academic ability: undergraduate GPA and GMAT/GRE scores.

  • Undergraduate academic performance is a good indicator of how you will perform in graduate school; the committee will look at where you went to school, your major or academic concentration, and ultimately your GPA. If you maintained a 3.0+ GPA you will not raise red flags at most top programs. However, if your GPA is lower than the school average, they will turn to your transcript to better understand how you performed in more quantitative courses (e.g. engineering, science, mathematics, etc.). Business school is highly quantitative, so schools want to see strong grades in those types of courses.
  • After reviewing your GPA, the committee will review your GMAT/GRE scores. While certainly not perfect, this standardized test helps a school compare academic ability across all candidates. Candidates for top programs should shoot for a score above 680 on the GMAT, though higher is always better. Another rule of thumb is to try to score in the 80th percentile or higher in both the verbal and quantitative sections of the GMAT/GRE.

Career Progression

Your professional experience and, more specifically, the progress you have made in your career will be evaluated by reviewing your resume and the stories told in your essays and recommendation letters. There are two things committees want to understand as they evaluate you:

  • Can you bring a unique and insightful perspective to the classroom from your real-world professional experiences? They will look to the companies you have worked for, the roles you have held, and the projects you have worked on. Business school classes are highly interactive; often the best learning comes from student discussions during class. As a result, top programs are looking to fill their classrooms with students who have amazing and diverse experiences to share.
  • Have you shown an ability to succeed in a professional setting? Schools want to see that you have grown and taken on new responsibilities in your organizations. Top schools are looking for future business leaders above all else; showing an ability to succeed early in your career is a good indicator that you will continue to succeed after business school, so find a way to demonstrate this on your application.

Career Vision

Beyond how you have performed so far in your career, business schools also want to know what you hope to achieve in the future. Here are some tips on developing and articulating a strong career vision:

  • Avoid being too broad--statements like, “I want to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.” This is a very common answer, but it doesn’t provide any insight into who you are or what your passions are as a person. It is fine to aspire to be a CEO, but you should provide more context, perhaps discussing an industry you want to impact and the steps you will take to get to this career goal.
  • Have a perspective. Don’t say, “I want to use business school to figure out what I want to do.” This may be true, but it is a poor answer because business schools want students who have a plan. Two years goes by quickly, and you will have countless career options once in your MBA program. Students who lack focus can get lost and not achieve their goals, and schools know this. Do yourself a favor: think through and be able to articulate a plan.
  • Make your career plan aspirational, yet achievable. Top schools are looking for driven, passionate, and motivated individuals, so dreaming big is good. However, make sure that your vision is achievable. That means it should make sense based on your work background, prior experiences, and passions. Choose target industries or organizations with missions that you have already shown an interest in so you can use your history to illustrate why this is your goal.
  • Always remember that you can change your career path later. No one will follow up with you five years after graduation to make sure you are living the vision you articulated in your application! The committee just wants to make sure you can develop a thoughtful vision and understand the steps necessary to achieve that vision, since this is an important skill all leaders have.

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