Applying to MBA programs is tough at any time, but add an international pandemic into the mix, it changes the process a bit! Below I’m sharing tips for a successful MBA application process, decisions to make, and ways to prepared specifically during COVID-19. Throughout this post, I’m also sharing my choices, thought process, and decisions. I hope this helps any of you thinking about the same path!
Top Tips for a Successful MBA Application Process
Choose Your MBA Program Wisely
Program Type: Full-Time, Part-Time, Online
What type program are you looking into? Many schools offer full-time, part-time, and online programs. Full-time programs allow you to attend school full-time, carry a heavier courseload, and be fully-immersed in the grad-school experience. There is typically more breaks in the year and an internship component, and you are eligible for many more scholarships than other programs. Part-time programs are for those who still want to continue working full-time. I chose this program because I did not want to place my career on hold to attend school for two years. Depending on your school, part-time programs offer different time-frames. My program goes year-round for two years straight. Online programs are typically the most flexible, they can be completed from anywhere and have more of an asynchronous environment.
When to Start your MBA?
When do you want to start? Many people are finding that you can apply and attend school in a shorter time frame than usual during this pandemic. I was planning to apply for the spring semester in 2021, however, I was able to fast-track my plans due to changed application processes and policies.
Where to Apply for your MBA?
Where do you want to go to school? At this point, you’ll need to decide what is truly important to you in a graduate school. Whether it’s location, reputation, diversity, specific programs, faculty, or alumni, figure out what is most important and aim for those schools. Geography is also an important factor. If you are attending school full or part-time you will need to be available in-person given the assumption that classes will eventually begin in-person even if they start online due to COVID-19. I am lucky to live in a metroplex with a few great MBA program options. I chose SMU in part due to location, alumni network, and the fact that they are ranked #7 for part-time MBA programs by Bloomberg Businessweek.
Know the Answer: Why Do You Want to Get Your MBA?
Why do you want to get your MBA? This question comes up a lot in application and scholarship essays and interviews. Before you apply it’s important to know why you even want to go. This was already in my plan to go, and I had started the process all the way back to December 2019, but if this is a newer consideration for you, it’s important to understand your ‘why’ for yourself so you can eloquently explain it in writing and interviews.
Update Your Resumé
This probably seems like a no-brainer, but your resume is one of the most important aspects of your MBA application, especially if your test-scores are lower or waived. Your resume should not just list your jobs and dates, but results of your duties, projects, and responsibilities. Quantify wherever possible, and show growth or improvement both in the business and in your career.
I was lucky to have my friend Amanda review my resume and offer suggestions. Definitely have someone else review your resume before sending for errors or improvements. One tip she gave me was if you have room at the bottom, add a unique ‘fun-fact’ about yourself.
GMAT/GRE: To Test or Not to Test for a Successful MBA Application, That is the Question
Normally you don’t get a choice and a standardized exam is required for entry. I had planned on studying for the GMAT March-May and then coronavirus hit.
Some schools now waive the entrance exam. Others ask that you meet certain requirements such as undergrad GPA, or in the case of SMU, getting a minimum of a B in at least two qualitative courses (calculus, statistics, etc.) in undergrad. These requirements are different for every school, I was lucky to qualify for the one at my top school so I could apply without it.
Prepare Your MBA Application
When you go to apply make sure you have enough time to get what you need before the deadline. Each school has different requirements. Below are some items you may need in order to apply:
- Letter(s) of Recommendation
- GMAT/GRE scores
- Application Fee
The application fee is waived in some cases. During coronavirus, many schools began waiving their application fees. Waiving fees allowed me to apply to more schools than I originally intended for more options!
Prepare for the MBA Admissions Interview
Many interviews are now taking place virtually for coronavirus reasons, but many of the same tips apply for in-person as well.
Test your equipment. I can’t stress this enough, make sure the program they want to use is downloaded and you know how to use it. Clean out your background. If you’ve been working from home this whole time, you may have let some things start to slide. I know I’m not as careful about having dishes in my sink, or my boyfriend walk by in the background of my daily calls, but for an interview, you’ll want to be more aware of what is going on behind you.
Dress the part. Not only does dressing up make you look better, it also makes you feel better. I love a classic black blazer for interviews.
Research your program, the school, and your interviewer. Make sure you know about unique aspects of the program you are applying for, and have talking points to them. Before my interview, I looked up my interviewer on LinkedIn and learned that we both have similar career paths, was also a former ballerina, and even worked for the same company a few years ago. This knowledge ensured that we never ran out of things to talk about.
Have questions ready. In any interview you go to, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Have questions and make sure to customize them to the school or program specifically. Make sure the interviewer leaves knowing that you are interested and insightful.
Applying for grad school is a unique process in itself, throw an international pandemic into the mix and things get interesting.
I hope this post helps you along your journey to a successful MBA application! Did I miss anything? Tell me below! I’d also love to know where you are in the process or any additional questions I can answer in the comments!