Applying to an M.B.A. Program

With hundreds of universities throughout the United States offering M.B.A. programs, not surprisingly there is a large variety of M.B.A. application and admission procedures. However, M.B.A. applications will generally require the following components:

  1. General Data Form. Usually this is the easiest part of your application. It asks for information such as name, date of birth, marital status, educational background, etc. Just the facts!
  2. Recommendation Letters. Confidential recommendations are generally preferred. Try to select people who know you well and can highlight your talents effectively. Many schools request a mix of academic and work-related references to give the admissions officer a better sense of your academic and work abilities.
  3. Work experience. Most applications will ask you to submit an employment history or curriculum vitae. Please note that many American M.B.A. programs, especially the highly competitive ones, strongly prefer candidates with at least two years of full-time work experience.

    If you wish to apply without significant work experience, choose M.B.A. programs that place less emphasis on the work component of your application.
  4. Essay questions. Be prepared to write at least one essay. Some schools require several essays, and topics vary from institution to institution. Usually schools will specify approximately how long the essay should be. Write on the topics assigned and produce an essay of the appropriate length. Avoid general statements in favor of specific examples that show your individual interests, abilities, and readiness for M.B.A. study.

    Here are a few examples of essay questions used in past years: "Describe an ethical dilemma you have experienced and discuss how you handled the situation" (University of California/Berkeley); "What positions of responsibility have you held...? What impact has this had on your preparation for a career in management?" (University of Southern California); or simply "[Provide] an autobiographical statement" (Duquesne University).
  5. Academic records. Records of academic coursework must be supplied from all postsecondary institutions you have attended. If your academic records are in a language other than English, you must provide certified English translations. Admissions officers need to see courses taken, grades received, and evidence of the conferral of your degree. Consult individual application instructions for further directions.
  6. Test scores. Almost all M.B.A. programs require the GMAT (General Management Admission Test), an aptitude test measuring analytical, quantitative, and verbal abilities. Some, but not all, may accept the GRE general test as substitute for the GMAT. The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is mandatory for most applicants from non-English speaking countries. Universities usually publish the minimum TOEFL score they will accept for admission. Acceptable GMAT or GRE scores, however, can vary widely from institution to institution and applicant to applicant. These scores are just one element of an application and are weighed with all the other parts of your application, so there is no specific cut-off score.

    Universities must receive test scores directly from the agency administering the test. Test registration materials provide directions for indicating where test scores should be sent.
  7. Certification of Finances. This form requires you to provide proof of sufficient funds for your education in the United States. M.B.A. applications will specify the estimated U.S. dollar amount required per year at that university. This amount varies widely depending on location and whether the university is publicly or privately funded. Be prepared to submit bank statements or other financial documents that demonstrate your ability to pay.

    Please note that almost all financial aid is generally reserved for U.S. citizens and permanent residents. When financial aid is available, it is highly competitive, and it generally involves only a partial scholarship. Consider these facts when applying to universities, because even if you are admitted, you cannot obtain a student visa without proof of sufficient finances.

  8. Application fees. Almost all schools require an application processing fee. Fees can range from $35 to $150 depending on where you apply.

Recommendations for the M.B.A. Applicant

Plan ahead. Most M.B.A. programs offer admission for the fall semester only, beginning in August or September. Depending on where you want to attend, M.B.A. application deadlines can fall as early as a year before the program starts. The majority of M.B.A. programs have deadlines from January to April. You will need to take the TOEFL and GMAT prior to the application deadline.

Double-check the application deadline. At some universities the deadline for international applicants is earlier than for U.S. applicants. Some M.B.A. programs also have multiple deadlines, which means they offer applicants two or three different deadlines. Often in these cases, the later you apply, the more competition you will have for admission. Apply early. It may improve your chance of admission.

Apply to more than one school. Remember that M.B.A. programs tend to receive many more qualified international applicants than they can admit, so you cannot be assured of getting admission to your first choice. Work with the AMIDEAST educational adviser to determine which schools are best suited to your credentials.

Pay attention to appearance as well as content. Type your applications whenever possible. Check the application for errors and have someone else read it over as well. Attention to detail and good communication skills are vital in the business world—show the M.B.A. admissions committee that you have already begun to prepare yourself.

Be sure to highlight entrepreneurial ventures and business-related extracurricular activities. These activities, while not full-time work experience, demonstrate your creativity, initiative, and leadership, traits that admissions committees like to see.

Apply online or send everything by courier or air mail. Surface mail is certainly cheaper but is also slower and less dependable. It is essential that your application reach its destination on time.

Once you have completed and send off your applications, the waiting begins. Some universities will acknowledge the receipt of your application and ask for any missing items. Finally, in the spring or early summer, you will be notified of the university's admission decision.