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The Most Important Part of The MBA Application

A common question asked of admissions consultants is, “What is the most important part of an MBA application?”

Stacy Blackman, of Stacy Blackman Consulting, recently discussed why she thinks there is no “most important” part to the application and why each aspect is critical to getting an acceptance.

“Everyone wants to know what to focus on in their application, and how their personal circumstances rate,” Blackman writes. “Top business schools don’t admit you based purely on your statistics, though they do count quite a bit.”

The Numbers

Your numbers are, of course, a critical component to your application.

“While a 550 GMAT or a 2.5 GPA will raise a red flag at an MBA program like the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, a 700 GMAT and a 3.6 GPA make you a solid candidate,” Blackman explains. “But even an 800 GMAT score and a perfect GPA can be rejected at an elite MBA program.”

Of course, there are averages you can compare yourself to in order to get a picture of what numbers top b-schools seek.

According to P&Q data, Stanford Graduate School of Business holds the highest average undergraduate GPA at 3.74. At schools like Harvard Business School and UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business, the average GPA is 3.71.

But on top of numbers, Blackman says, top schools want to know who you are as an applicant. Your numbers and your resume can only say so much about you.

“Compelling essays, recommendations, and interviews can provide context for a low GMAT score or GPA,” Blackman says. “But the reverse is not true. Strong numbers will never make up for weak essays or a disorganized, negative recommendation.”

Explaining Weak Points

Another critical aspect of the MBA application is explaining your shortcomings.

“Everyone has weaknesses,” Blackman says. “You’re better off acknowledging and incorporating them into your application than hoping the person reading your application will miss them.”

If anything, Blackman stresses the importance of the MBA essay in explaining shortcomings.

“While we doubt that many business school admissions committee would formally support this statement, we would cast our vote for essays as the most important part of your application,” she says.

The essay offers applicants an opportunity to illustrate who you are past the numbers and statistics.

“It’s where you write why an MBA makes sense as the next step of your career path,” Blackman says. “Also, it’s how you differentiate yourself from everyone else who scored in the 700s on their GMAT.”

Your Story

To be admitted to a top b-school, you need to demonstrate how and why you are more than qualified to be accepted compared to other applicants.

And Blackman says there’s no better way to do that than telling your story. That’s because, in essence, the most important part of an MBA application, she says, is you.

“It’s the story that you put together about your goals, passions, and prior experience—and how business school fits into the mix—that will make the difference for you,” Blackman says. “Once that story is assembled, we can better answer the question: ‘What are my chances?’”

Sources: Stacy Blackman Consulting, Poets & Quants

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