Key Elements of MBA Applications

When business schools evaluate your MBA applications, they focus on several key elements of your narrative. Each school places a slightly different emphasis on each element, but if you address all of them in your applications, you’ll be sure to make a good impression wherever you apply.

Reason for Applying.

When an admissions officer finishes reviewing your application, they want to have a strong sense of why you are applying to their institution. If the reason is unclear, or if the officer suspects the reason might be “because I think I can get accepted here,” your application will suffer. Begin with the end in mind; before you start putting your applications together, reflect on why you want to go to business school. Why is this the right time in your life, and what does each school you’re applying to offer that fits your needs and personality? Make sure that your “big why” comes through clearly in your application.


There’s no getting around it: grades and test scores matter a lot when you’re applying to MBA programs. You’ll be submitting college transcripts as well as a GMAT score, which provides an easy way to compare your academic performance to that of other applicants. Your undergraduate curriculum may be evaluated for academic rigor as well; each school will weigh your undergraduate institution and college courses/major differently.

Work Experience.

An MBA is one of the more practical post-graduate degrees you can pursue, which shows in the emphasis placed on work experience. Admissions committees want you to illustrate how your experience in the workplace has brought you to this point in your life. What lessons have you learned? What skills have you developed? If you’re applying to business school directly after undergrad and don’t have a lot of work experience, you may have to get creative with your definition of “”work,”” but you should never lie or be dishonest on your application.

Career Vision.

Whether you have significant work experience or not, you can demonstrate that you have a clear vision for your future career. You may choose to identify a specific role or position you see yourself taking on, but it’s even more valuable to articulate the impact you hope to make once you’ve obtained your degree and entered the workforce. What do you want to achieve, and how do you think you can make a difference?

Ability to Communicate.

Your written essays and your in-person interviews indicate how well you are able to communicate a message, explain an idea, and craft a narrative. Creativity and attention to detail count in equal measure here, but above all, you’ll need confidence in yourself and what you have to offer this particular institution.

Investment in Community.

Admissions committees are looking for candidates who want to use their knowledge to give back to their communities. Your extracurricular activities, especially volunteering, are a good way to highlight the care you have for the people around you.

Leadership Potential.

This facet of your application is a culmination of all the other elements. A leader must be able to communicate a vision large enough to benefit an entire community and engage others to support that vision. MBA programs will be excited to foster your leadership potential, provided that you can help them identify it!

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