10 Tips for Getting Into a Top MBA Program

By Betsy Massar, founder, Master Admissions

The business school application scares most people. Sure, it looks simple enough – fill out a few forms, take a standardized test, send transcripts, answer some essay questions, get recommendations, and voilà, you’re in.

If only.

As the founder of Master Admissions, a veteran of the investment banking and investment management worlds, a graduate of Harvard Business School and resume coach at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, I’ve seen a lot of people reach their goals successfully, so for MBA Podcaster, I’ve put together a list of 10 Tips for an outstanding MBA application.

Start Early!

1. Start Early.

To really research MBA schools beyond the rankings, give yourself time to explore on school websites, blogs, and in person. Also, give yourself twice as long to study for the GMAT, if you haven’t taken it already.

2. Take Inventory.

Look at your resume and think about your career progression – how did you get from A to B?  Look at your gaps at work or outside – do you need to take extra class to prove your quantitative ability? Figure out what you’ve got and what you need.

3. Connect with Your Inner Rock Star.

Connect with Your Inner Rock Star

It’s your rock-star qualities that make you a real leader. Leadership is about inspiring others, enabling them to do great things. Or influencing a group to make something happen.  It’s not about title, but about effectiveness.

4. Articulate Your Career Vision. 

Even if the essays don’t specifically ask, it’s helpful for you to envision your post-MBA future.  If you can articulate the possible steps to get there, you boost your credibility as an applicant.

5. Perform Service.

You can do this by being an active part of your community, whether it’s at your workplace, in your town, or in the wider world. Use this service to find out more about yourself.

6. Stay Sane. 

The business school application is like a marathon or a political campaign. You’ll be project-managing your recommenders, getting transcripts, keeping your day job, and figuring out how to write the MBA essays.  Get exercise, eat right, and keep your head on straight.

7. Daydream. 

Business schools want people who can reach for the stars. The open-ended application questions will require a lot of self-reflection so you can be in a better position to realize your dreams.  Don’t forget to take notes on your musings.

8. Talk Around. 

Find sounding boards – family, friends, colleagues. You might as well start networking now, to learn from others who have been through the process, or to make connections and have fun.

9. Work Only on the Part You Can Control.

There is some luck involved in the application system. Do your homework, keep your eyes on the deadlines, and stay upbeat and optimistic.

The final one is the most obvious, but the most important:

Relax & Be Yourself

10. Be Yourself. 

Sounds corny, but it’s true. MBA admissions committee members world-over proclaim that they want to learn about you, not an idealized version of an MBA student.  I guarantee this one fact: YOU are more interesting than that mythical person.

If you’ve got the right attitude, the application process can be fun and a learning experience.  And the potential outcome? Priceless.




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