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5 Things I Wish I Knew When I Applied for an MBA

Learn valuable tips and tricks to help you maximize your candidacy, maneuver interviews, and negotiate scholarships for the MBA program you want.

1. Your FIT with the MBA program is truly the name of the game

When I started the admissions process, I chose to apply to all of the top schools because I thought that they all virtually had the same offerings. It was only when I began thoroughly researching the schools that I realized how each school has different specializations and unique criteria for the traits that it seeks in its prospective students. It is critical that you take the time to research each school and understand what its mission statement says about the type of students it is trying to attract.

Ideally, you will then find the schools that you match up best with and you can speak candidly about the many ways you demonstrate what it means to be a student of that school. If you do choose to still apply to all the schools in a particular tier, it will require you to do a bit more work to ensure that you can really demonstrate that you fit in with that particular school’s culture and mission.

2. Visiting the business school is not necessary (but significant research is)

Because I decided to apply to MBA programs at a time when it was not possible for me to visit schools, I thought I was going to have a serious disadvantage against other students who had already visited a year or more in advance and had built up a fund of knowledge about those schools. Luckily, with the internet, blogs and school-provided materials, it is just as easy to do a deep dive on the internet to find enough school-specific information to make your essays well-researched and evident of your interest in that school.

It is typically wise to supplement your research by reaching out to students at the respective schools you’re applying to with cordial emails asking if they have any time to quickly chat about your interest in the school over the phone or through email.

At the end, you should be able to have information about professors who share your interests, interesting course offerings or experiential learning opportunities, understanding of the school culture, exciting trips that happen, student clubs and other aspects that would help you reach your personal and professional goals.

3. Creating career goals that are informed by your experience

Business schools are looking to add students who are capable of handling the MBA curriculum (ascertained by your GPA, GMAT and work experiences) as well as who they can realistically help reach their goals. To show that you are someone they can help, it is wise to form goals that are both true of yourself that are also somehow related to your past successes.

Reasonably finding a way to connecting your goals with your past successes can show the school that you are already on the right track in terms of having relevant experiences and that you have accomplished a significant portion of the journey on your own.

You should make it clear why you now need the MBA to help fill in the gaps in your skills, knowledge base, and relevant work experiences as well as how you would do that specifically at the school of interest. Then the ad-com will be able to easily see you as a potential low-risk student in their program.

4. MBA Interviews are not all created equally and preparation is key

Once you have submitted your applications, it may feel like all the research you have done is sufficient to carry you through the rest of the process. However, getting the invitation to interview should be seen as the final opportunity to really state your case.

In order to make the best case possible, it would be in your best interest to study the format of the interview so you know what types of questions to expect and how you will respond. Managing your expectations for how the interview will flow will allow you to feel much more comfortable during the interview and allow your message to really shine through.

You will have to practice to be able to walk the fine line between having prepared answers, but not so much so that it seems canned. It is a delicate balancing act, but I was happy to have over-prepared for it in retrospect.

5. Merit scholarships are potentially negotiable

If you are lucky enough to have multiple offers or even a single admission offer at the end of the application period, your focus should turn to what would be the best opportunity for you in all facets, including financially. With the cost of attendance reaching record highs and potentially topping 100k per year in addition to the opportunity cost of not working, it is more important than ever to consider your finances.

Once you are admitted to the school, it is now their opportunity to persuade you to attend their school (also increasing their own yield). If you have criteria that make you especially desirable in their eyes, you may have already received a merit scholarship in addition to your offer. This is becoming more common and you should take the chance to research the school and how much they offer other students to see if there is any room to increase your offer.

Although I did not end up choosing this certain business school, I was able to increase my offer by 16k just by asking them to reconsider the offer and listing the reasons why I thought I was a great candidate for them.

Keep in mind that you will need to be very cordial and humble and not try and pit schools against one another to create a bidding war. Demonstrating your interest in that school and willingness to attend if the financial situation could improve is the best method to convince them to invest more scholarship dollars in you.

Overall, this is a very long process that is ultimately worth it when you get that acceptance letter. Good luck!

About Stratus

Stratus Admissions Counseling is a full service admissions counseling firm distinguished by its team based, multi-step process ensuring each application is crafted for optimum impact. Our MBA counseling team has a representative from virtually every top 20 MBA program, enabling us to provide school-specific guidance.


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