If you’re still with us after reading the last unit, then you have decided that an MBA degree is in your future. Congratulations on making this important decision. Let’s get to work!
On the journey we are about to begin, we will have many secrets to share with you about how to build an outstanding application; so let’s begin with a secret that few of your fellow travelers know about when it comes to applying for a Master in Business Administration degree:
An MBA application is a job application.
The truth is as simple and as complicated as that. To understand what we mean, a brief history of the MBA degree will help.
In 1900, some clever people in the wilds of New Hampshire perceptively observed that the need for professionally trained managers in the United States was exploding. The Amos Tuck School of Administration and Finance, the first graduate school of business in the United States, was founded by Dartmouth College and offered a Master of Science in Commerce degree. Eight years later, the Graduate School of Business Administration at Harvard University offered the world’s first Master in Business Administration (“MBA”) degree.
In hindsight, one can see that the founders of Tuck had hit upon a powerful concept. While every firm could certainly choose to train their managers in-house, general management training is expensive to deliver; moreover, there are economies of scale and scope to centralizing this training on a university campus. For one, schools can attract and retain the brightest, most knowledgeable professors. For another, many of the skills future managers need are similar whether they will be managing companies that sell potato chips or silicon chips. Even better, from the economic perspective of the firms that hire MBA graduates, the newly minted MBAs they hire have paid for their own training!
But the power of the MBA concept goes further—because seats in the best MBA programs were limited and highly sought after, applicants had to compete with other promising young professionals for a coveted spot in those programs. The lucky few that were accepted would then be tested by the school and “benchmarked” against other equally promising future managers. A few months before graduation, companies would scoop up the top performers that emerged from this academic crucible. A very appealing concept indeed!
Fast forward to today. According to the Graduate Management Admissions Council, 4,650 programs now exist that offer post-graduate degrees in business and management.
But what does this brief history and economics lesson have to do with applying for an MBA? A great deal as it turns out. Consider for a moment that MBA programs are in the business of supplying future managers and leaders for organizations around the world. Therefore, MBA students—a class of people you hope to soon join—are, in essence, the raw materials for this “future-leader production process” known as the MBA degree.
If MBA students are the raw materials in this process, then it would seem that admissions officers are in charge of quality control. Clearly, the higher the quality of the students entering the front door of the “factory,” the better the product will be coming out the back. So from this perspective, the application process can be seen as a highly sophisticated system of quality control with admissions officers as the quality control engineers.
Are we really saying that the MBA is truly just a big factory for churning out future management robots?
Rest assured, the story is much more interesting than that.
An admissions officer does not jump out of bed each morning relishing the chance to stamp “reject” on the 80 – 90% of the candidates who apply for a spot in his or her program. They don’t see themselves as quality control engineers; rather, they see themselves as “recruiters” who bestow opportunity on men and women who will one day make a positive difference in the world. In fact, admissions officers are passionate about finding and recruiting the future leaders of tomorrow.
So now we come full circle to the insight we shared with you at the beginning of the unit:
An MBA application is a job application.
If an admissions officer is a recruiter of future leaders, then an MBA application is a job application for the position of “future leader.” Actually, it is probably the most complicated job application that you may ever complete because you are actually applying for four jobs at once:
- The job of being an MBA student
- The job you will seek after graduation
- The senior management job you are targeting down the line
- The leadership job you will have in the future that will enable you to make a difference in the world
Your application must convince the admissions committee that you have the character, talent, focus, skills, drive, and passion to graduate from their program and excel at all four of those jobs.
If you are missing any of those essential elements – or your application does not adequately prove that you possess them – then admissions officers are going to “hire” someone else.
So let’s take a closer look at the “job application” you will soon be working on. Generally speaking, there are seven components to an MBA Application, shown in the chart below:
Figure 2: Seven Elements of an MBA Application
In this book, we will assume that you have completed your academic work and your grades are a known quantity. Furthermore, we will assume that you understand that excellent standardized test scores are the “price of admission” for a top-ranked program and that you will earn the best score you are capable of earning.
As we observed in the introduction to this book, the majority of MBA candidates invest countless hours preparing for the GMAT, but they are woefully underprepared for the rest of the MBA application. Therefore, we will teach you how to optimize the other five elements of your application package: resume, essays, reference letters, application form, and interviews.
In the MBA Prep Steps™ program described in this book, you will learn how to create the Content Building Blocks for an outstanding application. Those Content Building Blocks will be fashioned from your academic, personal, and professional history. You will learn how to assemble them into an application that reflects the best of what you have to offer to a top-tier business school.
An MBA application is indeed a job application. In this book, we will teach you how to create the kind of application that will appeal to some of the toughest recruiters on the planet—the kind of application that earns you the job!
Unit Review: Understanding the MBA Application Process
- Admissions Officers see themselves as “recruiters” who bestow opportunity on individuals who will one day make a positive impact on the world.
- An MBA application is a job application for the role of future general manager and organizational leader.
- In this book, you will learn to create the Content Building Blocks for your resume, essays, reference letters, application form, and interviews.