Applying To MBA Programs: A Comprehensive Guide

applying for an mba

The job market for business professionals is only getting more competitive by the day. To stand out, a Master of Business Administration degree is a must. However, due to the increasing demand for specialized business programs, applying for MBA programs has become more competitive. 

Applying to MBA programs at prestigious business schools is highly competitive and selective, with acceptance rates often below 10%. If you want to secure admission, you need a combination of academic excellence, professional accomplishments, leadership potential, and personal attributes.  

In this article, we will briefly but comprehensively outline the steps to getting an MBA, mainly in top business schools. 

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Crafting a Compelling Personal Statement

The first question when applying for mba programs is likely centered around the requirements. The first answer to the question, “What do I need to get an MBA?” is a compelling personal statement. Admissions officers want to read your notable achievements, aspirations, and reasons for pursuing graduate school. Here are a few tips that will help you stand out: 

Develop an argument structure.

Because you must persuade the admissions committee, your arguments and claims should be backed up by evidence and logic. Write with clarity and precision.

Be authentic.

Do not be a cliche. You should showcase your unique experiences, values, and aspirations, highlight professional and academic achievements, and address weaknesses or gaps.

Focus on the details.

Craft a concise and understandable personal statement by avoiding jargon, using short sentences, and adhering to word limits. Meticulously proofread and seek feedback to eliminate errors and enhance clarity and impact.

Securing Strong Letters of Recommendation

LORs provide valuable insights into your overall qualifications, character, and potential for success when applying for mba programs. Admissions committees will value your LORs if they come from renowned or respected professionals. 

Here’s how to obtain an MBA recommendation letter: 

Choose the right recommender.

Select a reputable individual, such as a former supervisor, professor, or mentor, who can provide specific examples and highlight your strengths. Most business schools prefer MBA professionals. 

Solicit early.

Conduct early conversations with your chosen referee about your application and goals to better prepare them for writing a strong letter, ideally two to three weeks before the deadline.

Do not write the letter.

Admissions committees in top schools can easily tell if the applicant wrote the letter. This is a red flag, which could quickly drop your admission. Share your resume and have a live conversation with your recommender to refresh your highlight reel and provide context for your MBA pursuit and post-MBA goals.

Mastering the GMAT/GRE:

GMAT/GRE are among the biggest factors considered when you are applying for MBA programs at top schools. The scores showcase your quantitative and analytical skills. Unprepared examinees often experience anxiety and have poor performance. 

What you can do: 

Study ahead.

The most recommended study hours are between 120 and 170 within 2 to 4 months.

Use quality study materials.

GMAC or ETS guides, reputable test prep books, and online resources like Kaplan, Magoosh, and Khan Academy are crucial for preparation. 

Evaluate your score.

Compare your GMAT or GRE scores against the school’s averages and consider other application competitiveness to determine whether to submit your score or retake the test. 

Navigating the Application Process

MBA applications are daunting, especially if you don’t have an application timeline. While everyone has a different approach to preparing for applications, the most used sequencing on how to get an MBA degree is:

4 Months Out:

  • Prepare for the GMAT.
  • Learn about the program.

3 Months Out:

  • Tap into your network.
  • Visit the campus or schedule a call with an advisor.
  • Identify recommenders.
  • Ready your resume.

2 Months Out:

  • Take the GMAT.
  • Clear application hurdles.
  • Submit application requirements.

1 Month Out: 

  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form (FAFSA).
  • Prepare for your interviews.

Last Weeks:

  • Wait patiently for admission decisions.

Colleges and universities will have their own online admissions portal that efficiently guides applicants through applying for mba programs. They’re typically easy to navigate. 

Exploring Scholarship and Financial Aid Options

Reducing tuition costs is a big part of how to prepare for an MBA program. These programs can be very expensive, with some costing up to $80,000 a year. Fortunately, top-performing MBA applicants have various financial aid and scholarship opportunities. 

Most MBA scholarships are awarded exclusively to individuals accepted into a particular school’s MBA program. However, some scholarships are offered by private organizations. Nevertheless, the first step is to complete your FAFSA application and talk with the school’s financial aid officer. 

In addition to exhausting all financial assistance resources, here are other tips to minimize/manage MBA costs: 

  • Opt for online learning or hybrid options and pay per credit hour only.
  • Pursue accelerated formats.
  • Choose regions with low cost of living.
  • Limit spending in your personal life.

Meeting Application Deadlines

Most MBA programs accept applicants on a rolling basis, which means they review and evaluate applications as they are received. Unlike regular decision deadlines, rolling deadlines provide faster decisions and less competition. The earlier you apply, the greater your chances of securing a spot in the program.

Adhering to application deadlines demonstrates your time management and seriousness in the application process, which can positively impact your candidacy. To avoid missing out on the deadline, you must: 

  • Create a timeline.
  • Gather and organize necessary materials early.
  • Prioritize applications.

Preparing for Interviews

The interview is the crucial next step in the application process after completing resumes, essays, and applications. Interviewers can interview various mediums, such as video calls, phone calls, or in-person meetings. The most common questions are related to the resume’s content, such as educational history and work experiences. 

Tips for preparing responses and conducting mock interviews: 

  • Study the MBA structure and prepare questions to show profound interest in the program.
  • Familiarize yourself with interview questions. Learn about behavioral, situational, background, and experience questions.
  • Seek feedback from peers, mentors, or career advisors after conducting mock interviews. 

What you wear will also leave an impression on the interviewer; informal attire may appear unprofessional. Male interviewees should wear formal shirts, trousers, shoes, and a tie, with a suit/blazer preferred but weather-appropriate. Ladies typically wear formal business attire as well as closed-toe shoes. Avoid flashy or distracting accessories and opt for neutral colors and conservative styles.


The MBA application process is fairly simple if you have a clear plan and confidence that you’ll get accepted. It involves preparing personal statements, strong letters of recommendation, and high GMAT/GRE scores. You must also establish a timeline, explore financial assistance, meet deadlines, and prepare for interviews beforehand.

After months of preparing for admissions, you’ll finally be able to reap your rewards. You’ll be equipped with skills that will make you in demand in the job market. Upon graduation, you can competitively apply for leadership roles with higher wages.