Getting a Master of Business Administration (MBA) can teach you invaluable skills and take your career to the next level. But getting into business school, especially a highly ranked one, is not an easy feat. How can you send off an impressive application that will get you noticed by the admissions committee?
By understanding exactly what business schools look for, you can make your candidacy the best it can be.
How to get into business school
Here are our seven tips on how to improve your chances of getting into business school, as well as some thoughts on why a solid application is so important.
1. Figure out your goals
2. Find the right MBA program
3. Get some professional experience first
4. Gather letters of recommendation
5. Study long and hard for the GMAT
6. Apply for first-round admissions
7. Start early
Why it’s important to apply to business school the right way
This first step may seem obvious, but it’s essential. Only by identifying your personal and professional goals will you be able to articulate them in an application.
Admissions committees want applicants who set clear goals for themselves. So in your application essay, get specific about why you’re applying and what your goals are. That way, admissions officers might set aside space for you in the next incoming class.
When considering how to get into business school, think about what makes you special. Before you start applying, ask yourself how the degree will advance your professional career. Then, consider what unique qualities you have that will make you stand out from the pack.
Dr. Don Martin, a higher education admissions expert, encourages you to learn about a school’s educational philosophy and class sizes before applying to business school.
Figure out whether the student community is more conservative or liberal, individualistic or collaborative, Martin told Student Loan Hero.
Before investing your time and money, find a program that offers the best cultural fit for you. Not only will you get more from your experience, but you could increase your chances of getting in. Admissions officers are looking for candidates who will do well on campus.
Harvard Business School, for instance, is looking for leaders who are vocal and involved in their communities. Once you find your right program, you can communicate what makes you the perfect fit in your application.
Most business schools aren’t interested in students straight out of college. Instead, they prefer people who have had a few years of professional experience under their belt.
Admissions company Magoosh suggests that you work for three to five years before applying to business school for an MBA. The average age of MBA students, in fact, is 27 to 29.
By working for a few years, you’ll gain professional skills that will help you in business school. Plus, you’ll get the chance to network with colleagues, learn about workplace cultures and clarify your own career goals.
When figuring out how to get into business school, focus on business school requirements. This often includes two to three letters of recommendation. Admissions officers want to learn about you holistically. They’re interested not just in your grades and test scores, but also in your relationships with managers and professors.
Letters of recommendation are a chance to offer insight into your personality and the contributions you’ve made at school or work. To get good letters of recommendation, seek out people who know you well and are happy to support you.
Ask a few months ahead of your deadlines so that your recommenders have time to produce an outstanding letter. Additionally, take the time to sit down with your recommenders and talk about your ideas. By sharing your thoughts, you can make sure the letter is more in-depth.
The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a major hurdle you’ll have to jump if you want to go to business school. Most schools require the GMAT for admission.
This fast-paced test will measure your analytical and quantitative skills. It’s especially tough for anyone who hasn’t taken a math class in a few years. The GMAT is scored out of 800, but the average score for all test-takers in 2019 was only 561.27, according to Magoosh.
Schools usually don’t set a score cutoff. However, you can learn about business school requirements by researching the average scores of accepted students. Harvard Business School, for instance, has an average GMAT score of 731.
Since the GMAT is so tough, leave yourself several months so you can take it more than once. There is one forgiving aspect of this otherwise brutal test: The GMAT shows you your scores right after you finish.
You can choose whether to cancel your scores or send them to schools. If you cancel, the schools will never see your unsatisfactory test performance.
Most business schools have several rounds of admissions. The first tends to be in the fall, the second sometime in January and the third in the spring.
Schools continue to let in applicants until all slots are full. That means they have the greatest number of spaces available in the first round.
If you can, aim to meet a first-round admissions deadline. That way, you can maximize your chances of acceptance for the following year.
As you can tell, there are a lot of moving parts to a business school application. You need to research MBA program requirements, gather letters of recommendation, take the GMAT and more.
All of this preparation takes months, if not years, of planning. Business school admissions are competitive, so don’t rush the process.
Start early so you can send off the strongest possible application. If you’re running out of time, it could make sense to wait until the following year to apply.
An MBA is a highly respected degree in the business world, and it has among the highest returns on investment. It can lead to a world of opportunities, whether you want to move up in a company or start your own enterprise.
Plus, you can develop a vast network of contacts over the two years of your program. Before applying, take the time to clarify your goals and find the right programs by researching MBA program requirements. Given how large a role your school could play in setting the tone for your career, it’s worth the effort now to nail your application to the best of your ability.
Once you’ve done some soul-searching and put together the strongest application you can, it’ll be time to focus on covering your cost of attendance. If your school’s financial aid package leaves you hanging, investigate your private student loan options to fill in any final gaps.
Andrew Pentis contributed to this report.
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1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount.
The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.
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2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $9 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
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KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of April 29, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
3 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of 5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.
As of 09/09/2022 student loan refinancing rates range from 4.13% APR – 7.39% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.99% APR – 9.93% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
4 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.
You can choose between fixed and variable rates. Fixed interest rates are 3.99% – 8.74% APR (3.74% – 8.49% APR with Auto Pay discount). Starting variable interest rates are 2.74% APR to 8.24% APR (2.49% – 7.99% APR with Auto Pay discount). Variable rates are based on an index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) plus a margin. Variable rates are reset monthly based on the fluctuation of the index. We do not currently offer variable rate loans in AK, CO, CT, HI, IL, KY, MA, MN, MS, NH, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, and VA.
5 Important Disclosures for Navient.
6 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
Fixed rates range from 3.99% APR to 8.24% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Variable rates from 3.24% APR to 8.24% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law, Variable Interest rates on 5-, 7-, and 10-year terms are capped at 8.95% APR; 15- and 20-year terms are capped at 9.95% APR. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on the term you select, evaluation of your creditworthiness, income, presence of a co-signer and a variety of other factors. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. For the SoFi variable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30-day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. This benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit lowers your interest rate but does not change the amount of your monthly payment. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance. Autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi.
7 Important Disclosures for Purefy.
Purefy Student Loan Refinancing Rate and Terms Disclosure: Annual Percentage Rates (APR) ranges and examples are based on information provided to Purefy by lenders participating in Purefy’s rate comparison platform. For student loan refinancing, the participating lenders offer fixed rates ranging from 2.73% – 7.99% APR, and variable rates ranging from 1.74% – 7.99% APR. The maximum variable rate is 25.00%. Your interest rate will be based on the lender’s requirements. In most cases, lenders determine the interest rates based on your credit score, degree type and other credit and financial criteria. Only borrowers with excellent credit and meeting other lender criteria will qualify for the lowest rate available. Rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice. Terms and conditions apply.
8 Important Disclosures for Citizens.
Education Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.69%-9.92% (3.69%-9.92% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.49%-10.11% (4.49%-10.11% APR).
Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 6.39%- 9.60% (6.39% – 9.60% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 6.58% – 9.79% (6.58% – 9.79% APR).
Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.69% – 9.16% (3.69% – 9.16% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.49% – 9.35% (4.49% – 9.35% APR).
Education Refinance Loan for Parents Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.69%- 9.09% (3.69%- 9.09% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.49% – 9.28% (4.49% – 9.28% APR).
Medical Residency Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.69% – 9.16% (3.69% – 9.16% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.49% – 9.35% (4.49% – 9.35% APR).