The criteria for acceptance to a top business school are somewhat intuitive; however, to our knowledge, no one has bothered to create a comprehensive list of the primary things MBA admissions officers are looking for when they review an application.
Based on many years of MBA admissions consulting experience, my colleagues and I composed this list, summarizing the key success factors for getting into the best business schools. Don’t dismay if you can’t check all of these criteria off; who can really? Nevertheless, the more check marks you can claim, the higher your chances of earning an acceptance letter to one of the best business schools.
You can also think of this list of MBA admission criteria as prescriptive. In other words, if you are planning to apply for an MBA in the future use this list to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your profile. After identifying your weak spots, you can go to work addressing them.
And now for the list of criteria for MBA admissions:
- High cumulative GPA and GPA in major
- Above average performance in quantitative or business-oriented courses
- GMAT score above the school’s median
- TOEFL score above the school’s median (if applicable)
- Undergraduate degree from a school with an excellent academic reputation
- Extensive evidence of career progress
- Visible progress made in the direction of career goals
- Employer is known to have very high standards for hiring
- Excellent references/recommendation letters
- Plenty of evidence of managerial potential
- Evidence of leadership at work
- Evidence of leadership outside of work
- Self-awareness of leadership capabilities and development needs
- “Servant-Leader” leadership style as opposed to autocratic or self-serving
- Defined career goals
- Career goals reflect a sense of purpose: passion, meaning, and significance
- Admissions committee can connect the dots between prior skills/experiences and post-MBA career goals
- Convincing motivations for pursuing an MBA
- Rock solid case for pursuing an MBA from the school(s) you are applying to
- Career goals reflect a global perspective
- Evidence of self-awareness
- Evidence of maturity/life-experience
- Dimension (e.g., not too much of a “poet” nor too much of a “suit”)
- International/cross-cultural experience
- A great fit with the school’s culture
MBA Prep School’s book How to Apply for an MBA will show you how to create an application that features the elements MBA admissions officers at top schools are looking for. The book also offers a comprehensive list of specific prescriptions for addressing any red flags in your MBA candidacy.