MBA Applications: How to Be the Complete Package

Applying to the MBA program of your choice may seem overwhelming at first. Where do you start? What is the most important part of your application? How can you make yourself stand out from the crowd of qualified applicants? What if your first-choice school just doesn't like you?

All of these questions and concerns can cause you plenty of stress and anxiety. Here are some tips on how to craft an application that demonstrates not only do you excel in one area or another, but ultimately, you are the "complete package" for whom the admissions committee is searching.

  1. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

    MBA Admissions professionals will tell you that one of the most common questions applicants ask is, "Which part of my application is the most important?" While a strong GPA and a substantial GMAT score will certainly help you appear qualified for top MBA programs, there is not just one most important piece of your application. Review committees will consider the whole applicant. In other words, who are you?

    As a candidate, you will want to answer that question with all the pieces of your application, including a strong essay, excellent interviews and recommendations that reveal your best qualities, and show that the whole you is greater than just one or two of your single achievements.

  2. Experience matters.

    In addition to your impressive test scores, your experience in the world of business matters as well, but perhaps not in the way you might think. Maybe you did not work in top-notch companies, but rather in a smaller non-profit agency. Perhaps in your role at this smaller organization you were able to accomplish things you would not have had the opportunity to accomplish in a larger corporation. This experience matters to admissions committees as part of who you are as a whole. Did you take initiative? Were you a key player in managing a team and several projects? What did you accomplish that made a big difference to that little organization?

    These achievements show the MBA admissions committee that you are not afraid to dive in, take charge and make things happen. These are the qualities of a leader – a manager in the business world. Show the committee that you have what it takes to be that type of leader through your previous experience.

  3. Write a stellar essay.

    The essay is another way to show business schools who you are in addition to your test scores and experience. It is your first chance to speak to the admissions committee members. It is a medium that allows you to talk about your accomplishments, goals, attitudes and passions that can help your application stand out from the crowd. On the other hand, a weak, disorganized essay will work against you, even if your test scores and GPA are nearly perfect.

    Make the essay portion of your application work in your favor by showing the committee your strengths, acknowledging any weaknesses, and convincing them why you belong in their program.

  4. Strong recommendations and solid interviews.

    Your whole package for a business school program also depends on positive recommendations and the success of your interviews. For recommendations, choose qualified business professionals with whom you have a good relationship so they can write on your behalf in a way that supports and reflects what you have said about yourself. Make sure the people you ask to recommend you also understand the MBA admissions process so they know what to write.

    Interviews are another piece of the puzzle, and whether on the phone or in person, should show committee members that you have done your research, appear confident, and can clearly demonstrate all the wonderful qualities you wrote about in your essay.

Applying to business school can be overwhelming, especially if you are attempting to focus on just one aspect of the application. Instead of taking the "most important part" approach, remember to consider how the sum of your parts – test scores, GPA, experience, essays, interviews, recommendations – is really what matters most.