How to Fill Out MBA Application Forms

At many business schools, the MBA application forms are the first thing that an admissions officer reads. For that reason, an application form that is incomplete, rushed, or error-ridden will bias the reader against your candidacy right out of the starting gate.

Don’t sink your chances of being admitted to a top MBA program by not dedicating sufficient time, energy, and creativity to the MBA application forms. Too many candidates, spend countless hours perfecting their application essays and resume but neglect the MBA admission forms.

Because so many applicants don’t do a great job with these forms, they can be a prime opportunity to bolster your MBA candidacy. We will walk you through the sections most frequently found on most forms and share tips on how to fill out MBA application forms.

One important caveat: MBA Prep School is sharing general policies and guidelines in this article. Be sure to follow the exact “letter of the law” for each business school’s application form. Procedures and requirements change year to year. Read the instructions — very carefully.

MBA Application Form Best Practices

Most MBA applications ask for several different types of information. We’ll offers a few best practices for the seven most common sections of the MBA application forms:

  1. Biographical Information
  2. Education
  3. Work Experience
  4. Activities and Involvement
  5. International/Cross-Cultural Experience
  6. Test Scores
  7. Optional Essay

It’s crucial to complete your data gathering before starting the forms, so read on to learn about the requisite information within those categories. You don’t want to be caught off-guard when a school asks how many hours you worked part-time in college or how many employees work at your company.

Biographical Information

The Biographical Information section asks for basic personal information (i.e., contact information, birth date, questions about family). Despite the intimate nature of some of the questions, completing this section should be pretty straightforward. However, you might find a couple of areas in this section that can differentiate you from other MBA candidates.


Application forms typically include a section asking you to report your ethnicity. This section is often optional, but given that business schools are highly motivated to diversify their classes, reporting minority status, if applicable, can benefit your MBA candidacy.

Legacy Status

Another question b-schools sometimes ask in this section is whether someone in your immediate family or extended family are alumni of their school. So-called “legacy” status with a business school might give you an edge; therefore, if your siblings, parents, or close relatives graduated from the MBA program, then be sure to notify the school where indicated.


In the Education section of an MBA application form, you will be required to provide information about your educational background. You will input your degree or degrees, where you studied, your major, and grades. There are a few pitfalls to watch out for when you fill in this information on the MBA application forms.

GPA Translation

If your university did not have a four-point grading system, certain business schools might ask you to convert your grades to the 4.0 scale using a grade translation service. Those business schools typically will provide a list of approved service providers. If your transcripts aren’t in English, you may be required to translate the name of course titles as well.

On the other hand, some business schools, such as Harvard Business School at the time of this writing, tell applicants not to convert their grades. Check each school’s policy when it comes to GPA translation. You might want to add some brief comments about the translation of your transcript or conversion of your grades in the application form’s optional essay section.

GPA Reporting

Most schools will ask you to upload digital copies of your transcripts. Alternatively, they might offer you the option of “self-reporting” your transcript scores via an online template. Many MBA programs don’t require you to send “official transcripts” from your university until you are admitted. Regardless, you need to be 100% accurate when reporting grades because a significant discrepancy in GPA reporting could result in the revocation of your acceptance letter.

Awards and Honors

Finally, some schools will have a section for reporting academic honors and prizes, such as graduating Cum Laude or winning a merit scholarship. It may have been a few years since you finished college, so be sure to research your files to refresh your memory about any honors or academic accolades you received.

Work Experience

The Work Experience section of the MBA application forms will ask various questions about your career history and employers.

The employment section of the MBA application form is a helpful place to provide additional contextual information that will make your resume easier to read and understand. Take the time to write concise company descriptions, summarize your roles and responsibilities, and highlight your most significant accomplishments on challenges.

Remember that admissions officers might review this information before they read your resume, so ensure that you have provided persuasive evidence about your general management potential, career readiness, and leadership capabilities. A good test is to read the section and ask yourself if what you have written will effectively differentiate your work experience from other MBA applicants who might have a similar job.

Job Descriptions

Almost all MBA application forms require you to summarize your job responsibilities. Don’t miss this valuable opportunity to distinguish your experience from others in the applicant pool. Use strong action verbs, quantify results, and demonstrate the scope of your role and the degree of responsibility you hold. This section of the form is all the more important if your employer is not a household name.

Direct Reports

Many application forms will ask you for the number of people you supervised in each role. Even if you don’t have formal direct reports, you may be able to input a number above zero. For example, a management consultant who leads teams of two or three analysts when out in the field could include the average number of people she directs on her projects. The figure you enter must withstand scrutiny, however.

Significant Challenges and Achievements

Some business schools will ask about your most significant challenges or your proudest accomplishments in each position. This section is a great place to feature the strengths and attributes you identified when designing your MBA admissions strategy.

Is your MBA application ready to submit?

MBA Prep School has veteran MBA admissions officers from top business schools on call to analyze your application package. Take some of the guesswork out of applying and avoid mistakes that might jeopardize your chances of getting in!

Salary and Bonus Statistics

Why do business schools ask for salary and bonus information for each employer? Some schools ask about starting and ending salary to gauge how far you’ve progressed at your firm. They might also compare your earnings to other MBA applicants in similar roles. Business schools do appreciate that different firms in different cities pay on different scales. Providing salary and bonus information is typically not optional and should be reported accurately.

Reasons for Leaving a Company

When inputting your reason for leaving a company, focus on the positives, providing a logical bridge to your next job. For example, suppose you left one internet start-up to work for another. In that case, you might explain that the new job offered you the opportunity to manage a team or work on an innovative product line that fascinated you. Avoid dwelling on the negatives of the old job. Instead, communicate the positive aspects that attracted you to the new role.

Part-Time Work and Internships

Certain business schools are interested in part-time work during college and how many hours per week you worked during those years. If you have a lower than average GPA or weren’t that active on campus, keep an eye out for this spot on an MBA application form. If you had to work to pay for college, it could help to explain why you weren’t part of many student clubs or volunteer organizations. In terms of listing your summer internships, we recommend that you include your most significant internship experiences, especially if they relate to a passion you put on hold and want to pursue post-business school.

Activities and Involvement

Most schools want to know how you spend your time outside of work. This section of the MBA application form is a chance to share any volunteer, personal, or professionally-oriented activities not related to your full-time job.

Undergraduate Extracurricular Activities

MBA programs are interested in the extracurricular activities you participated in during college because it is a way for them to predict if you’ll be an active contributor to the MBA community. You definitely should spotlight your leadership roles on campus. Resist the urge to list every single club you joined. Instead, focus the admissions committee’s attention on the activities that were truly meaningful to you.

Leadership Outside of Work

Summarizing your leadership outside of work is a critical aspect of convincing admissions officers of your leadership potential. Admissions officers are looking for individuals who have made an impact on their communities. This section of the MBA application form is a chance to show admissions officers that you led others and advanced an organization’s mission.

Hobbies and Interests

Top MBA programs want interesting people who are engaged in the world around them. This section on the MBA application forms is a chance to share some of the points of difference that will make you stand out from other candidates. You can’t share all of the exciting things you do in your application essays and resume, so take this opportunity to use the application forms to add dimension to your candidacy.

International/Cross-Cultural Experiences

A global perspective has gone from being a nice-to-have to a must-have for admission to the top business schools. If you have global experiences, be sure to tell the admissions committee about them. Your international experience might include studying abroad, significant travel experiences, or learning another language. Feature the experiences that taught you memorable lessons about other cultures or share times you learned how to live and work with people different from yourself.

Test Scores

There will be a section on the MBA application forms to report your test scores. As always, read the instructions carefully. Some schools want you to list all your scores, while others ask you to report the highest score you earned. Many business schools will accept either the GMAT or the GRE. Most admissions officers will tell you that they have no preference for which exam you take. The GMAT exam has long been the standard, but the GRE is growing in popularity. If you don’t have a solid quantitative background, the GRE might be a better choice.

If you didn’t attend college in an English-speaking country, you might be required to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) exam or one of its equivalents. You’ll want to check with each business school you are applying to about their TOEFL policies and waiver criteria.

Optional Essays

Many MBA programs will offer you an opportunity to provide additional information that you feel is relevant to your candidacy but have not been able to address elsewhere in the application. Most schools expect you to use an optional essay to address any significant weaknesses or extenuating circumstances.

Most candidates will use this space to address a low undergraduate GPA, choice of recommenders, a learning disability, or gaps in work history. If you feel there is information that the admissions committee needs to know, write an optional essay. Never try to sweep concerns about your candidacy under the carpet because MBA admissions officers are well-trained at spotting lumps in the carpet.

If you choose to include an optional essay, avoid making excuses or deflecting blame. Instead, offer reasonable explanations for poor performance, and provide evidence that your shortcomings are things of the past. Be sure to read MBA Prep School’s advice on how to spot your red flags early actively mitigate them: how to strengthen your MBA candidacy.

MBA Application Form Final Thoughts

Your MBA application forms just might be the first glimpse the admissions committee will have of you, so they represent an excellent opportunity to advance your candidacy to a top business school. We shared several ways to take advantage of each section of the application forms. We also explained why certain information is requested and how the admissions committee will use those data points to assess your candidacy. If you are unsure how to fill out the MBA application form or interpret any of the school’s instructions, don’t guess; place a brief call to the admissions office to clear up your confusion.

One final tip, be sure to have a couple of trustworthy people proof your forms before submitting them. Typos can easily slip through because most online forms don’t include a spell check feature.

Is your MBA application ready to submit?

MBA Prep School has veteran MBA admissions officers from top business schools on call to analyze your application package. Take some of the guesswork out of applying and avoid mistakes that might jeopardize your chances of getting in!