by Daniela Dandes
When applying for a Master of Business Administration (MBA), you find motivation by realising how this diploma will help your future career. But before you can dive into the business world, you need to go through the application process and fulfil certain requirements. If you are looking to apply for an MBA abroad, then get ready for an intense, but well-worth application process.
Because applying for an MBA is a big step in your academic, personal and professional life, we’ve prepared an essential 10-step MBA application checklist. This will sum up the main elements to consider during your application process.
We’ve also sprinkled a bit of magic that will help your MBA application succeed, with tips from us and industry professionals who deal with MBA applications regularly.
1. Pick the perfect MBA degree
Choose an MBA specialisation
Before applying to an MBA programme, you first need to choose an MBA specialisation. And there are plenty of options out there. We’ll list a few to get you started, but feel free to search for your favourite discipline:
- MBA in General Management
- MBA in Marketing
- MBA in Entrepreneurship
- MBA in Human Resource Management
- MBA in Engineering Management
Learn more about the different types of MBA specialisations.
Choose a business school for your MBA degree
According to the latest QS Rankings, these are some of the best business schools for future MBA students:
- Stanford Graduate School of Business, the US
- London Business School, the UK
- HEC Paris, France
- IE Business School, Spain
- SDA Bocconi, Italy
- Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
- IMD Business School, Switzerland
- Melbourne Business School, Australia
- National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore
- Rotterdam School of Management (RSM), the Netherlands
Here are other business schools we recommend:
- Northeastern University, the US
- Hult International Business School, the UK
- BI Norwegian Business School, Norway
- Sustainability Management School (SUMAS), Switzerland
- Maastricht University, the Netherlands
Choose between online vs on-campus MBAs
Of course, the next step is to choose between an online MBA or an on-campus programme, depending on your schedule and possibilities. If studying online is more appealing, you should check out:
- online MBAs from universities in the US
- online MBAs from universities in the UK
- online MBAs from universities in Spain
- online MBAs from universities in Switzerland
- online MBAs from universities in Australia
2. Prepare your transcripts of records
An accredited undergraduate degree is an essential prerequisite for your MBA application. Do take time to prepare official transcripts as evidence of your previous studies and achievements.
Depending on the country you come from and the university you are planning to apply to, there will be other materials that you will need to provide. The most required documents are passport and proof-of-identity documents and/or their copies, usually translated in English.
For most business schools, you don’t need a Bachelor's in Business itself to get in an MBA. Such programmes intentionally look for students with diverse backgrounds to join their ranks.
3. Consider if you need a high GPA for your MBA
Your GPA or grade point average is the number representing the average value of your final grades earned during previous courses. Your GPA is calculated by adding up all accumulated final grades and dividing that score by the number of grades awarded. The GPA is awarded on a 0 to 4.0 scale. A 4.0 score represents the “perfect” GPA score.
Usually, business schools ask for a GPA score ranging between 3.5 and 3.7. But if you come from a country with a different grading system, one that doesn't use GPAs, the university will convert the grades itself or it will ask for additional details. Check with your specific higher education institution to find out the exact score you should be aiming for.
Tips about your GPA from a pro:
Personal qualifications and professional experiences can help overcome a mid to low GPA. Karen Marks explains how she has helped candidates with a 2.4 or 2.6 GPA get admitted and funded at top-tier business schools:
"To admit you with a low GPA, the school needs to fall in love. You must convince them that you, personally, are so spectacular that it’s worth absorbing your low numbers and taking the academic risk. So, talk about what the opportunity means to you, why you know the school is a perfect fit, and TANGIBLY explain what you will contribute.”
4. Take the GMAT and GRE scores seriously
Most MBAs will require Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) scores as part of the application process. As Stacy Blackman, an admissions consultant told The Economist: “In a sea of highly qualified candidates, the GMAT is an important screening tool.”
You should also consider the GRE test. Especially if you feel the GMAT is too strict, the GRE is a viable alternative. The GRE test features questions that reflect the kind of thinking and analysis you'll do in graduate or business school.
We recommend you take special classes that help you prepare rigorously. For both the GMAT and GRE, the results are valid for 5 years from the moment you receive them.
5. Prepare your resume and professional experience
Strong professional experience indicates that you are ready to upscale your skill-set. That is why it is important for you to come up with a clear and sharp resume, presenting your professional achievements.
What needs to stand out in your CV is your unique selling point. What is the one thing that makes you THE candidate for your dream business school?
Tips from a pro about your MBA resume:
Chioma Isiadinso explains in The Financial Times: “You can have 10 investment bankers doing the same types of deals but the schools will only take one or two. Those are the people who show how they add value beyond just doing a good job... Know your difference and how you add value.”
6. Write a professional motivation essay for your MBA
Writing your motivation essay is not exactly like meditating while standing on one foot on top of a mountain, but it’s no piece of cake, either. Start by putting down your ideas for the essay in a draft.
Leave some space to edit your essay and even ask for input from your friends. By combining different feedback points, you’ll create a nuanced, strong motivation essay.
Motivation essay pro tip:
Stacy Blackman suggests putting together a “brag sheet” at this stage in the process. “Write down all of the things about you that would not necessarily appear on a résumé: languages you speak, all extracurricular involvements, family traditions and more. This can also be mined for essay content.”
7. Don’t dismiss your recommendation letters
Professional endorsements increase the credibility of your MBA application. At the same time, this is a great opportunity for you to reflect on yourself as a professional. Make sure that the person who is recommending you is familiar with your personal achievements.
Connect with these people well in advance, in order to leave them time to write their input. Be sure to give them at least 4-6 weeks time to reply to your request. Additionally, check if the school needs these recommendations in a certain format.
Adapt and address the recommendation to the institution that will receive it. Think about the language used and the requirements the business school values most.
8. Make sure you have the necessary English skills
If you don’t speak English as your first language, you will need to prove your language proficiency by taking an accredited English test. The most known and accepted English examinations are TOEFL, IELTS, and PTE Academic.
Check the minimum the university expects and the accepted exams. After that, you can take the right language test.
9. Prepare for the admission interview
After submitting all your documents, it's likely you will be invited to participate in an admission interview. Some institutions prefer to have an online video interview, some will ask you to present yourself on campus. Of course, this also depends on where you live at the time of applying to that university.
For your interview, you will need to have a clear idea about why you have chosen this particular MBA and business school. You'll have to be able to talk in depth about your career goals and interests.
Most common interview topics include leadership, entrepreneurship, cultural fit, and your future plans matching the programme. Think about your expectations and the goals you plan to achieve until you graduate.
10. Check your deadlines and application fees
Depending on your chosen university, you will have to respect certain deadlines regarding your MBA application. Keep track of:
- Document submission deadlines
- Your English language proficiency exam dates
- Your GMAT/GRE test dates
Taking part in an intense MBA programme is a rewarding development opportunity. Most programmes employ a diverse set of mentors, that will guide and grow your business know-how together with your network.
Also, these study options connect directly with the job market via a large business partner network. All you have to do to get into these fantastic learning incubators is to start applying!
You can also check out the Studyportals Scholarship to get some help on financing your studies abroad.