So, you are looking to pursue an MBA. Chances are you have started your research on the MBA application process, but have you ever wondered about who will be reviewing your applications once you hit submit?
To help demystify the process, Personal MBA Coach would like to share an in-depth look behind the MBA admissions curtain and answer some of MBA applicants’ most pressing questions.
Who Is on the Admissions Committee?
The makeup of an MBA admissions committee varies by school size. Committees can include recruiting staff, career office staff, and outside readers. Large programs may also have second-year students reading applications, interviewing and making recommendations. A few schools include academic programs staff, faculty or deans on their committees as well.
What Is the Admissions Committee Looking For?
Regardless of who specifically is on the admissions committee, they look for four main characteristics when reviewing applicants.
- Academic ability
No school wants to admit someone who appears likely to fail or have significant difficulties with coursework. Thus, admissions committees evaluate academic ability as shown by undergraduate grades and courses. GMAT, GRE or EA scores hold serious weight as well.
While MIT Sloan decided to waive test scores for the 2020-2021 application cycle, most top business schools evaluate test scores to help ensure that applicants are prepared for the rigor of their programs. There is a definite correlation between test scores and success in the first year of the MBA program.
- Relevant work experience
MBA admissions committees want applicants with professional experience that can be applied to a future career. That said, there is no ideal pre-MBA career. Business schools look for well-rounded candidates with unique experiences that they can bring to the classroom.
- Focused career path
While no one will hold you to what you write on your MBA applications, you must articulate specific future goals. Admissions committee members want an understanding of a candidate’s future career path and a vision for how the candidate will drive impact within a particular industry.
- Strong reason for pursuing an MBA
Business schools want to know that candidates are genuinely interested in their programs. Demonstrating knowledge of program details and identifying program fit is a great way to show interest.
However, an admissions committee does not want to read vague, over-the-top praise of their MBA program. Instead, applicants should share specific aspects of a program that they hope to take advantage of and exhibit a clear understanding of how an MBA will help their future career path.
What Happens Once an Application Is Received?
Though processes can differ from one school to the next, admissions committees typically take the following steps when reviewing MBA applications.
- Quick review
The application first gets a quick review by the operations team to ensure all required documents are included. If items are missing, this will be communicated to the candidate.
- First evaluation
Next, a senior staff member does a first evaluation to determine if the candidate is qualified. In some cases, schools distribute applications to all staff, regardless of seniority, for a first review.
- Invitation to interview
The most competitive candidates who meet the criteria will receive an invitation to interview. Some schools send invites on a rolling basis, while others have specific release dates.
How Is the Interview Used?
If a candidate receives an invitation to interview, this means that the admissions committee wants to assess their personality and interpersonal skills.
Personal MBA Coach will of course provide you with school-specific interview prep if we work together, but interviewers generally want to:
- Assess MBA goals
Not only do interviewers want to ascertain if a candidate’s goals are feasible, but they also want to find out if a candidate is ready to take the steps needed to achieve these career goals. They also will assess fit and whether these goals are authentic for the candidate.
- Evaluate interest in the program
Though application essays provide an opportunity to show interest in an MBA program, interviews allow for a better assessment of how motivated a candidate truly is. Does the candidate really know about the program? Are they genuinely interested?
Yield is crucial to MBA programs, and admissions committees want to accept candidates who will actually attend. Therefore, demonstrated interest is a key factor that interviewers pay attention to.
- Predict future performance
Interviewers want to find out how a candidate may perform in front of a corporate interviewer or with high-ranking alumni. In other words, the interview allows admissions committees to determine if the candidate is “hirable.”
- Discuss information not in the application
Perhaps a candidate has a gap in work experience or a low GMAT score despite having a strong undergraduate GPA and an impressive track record at work. Even though applications often provide spaces to explain these circumstances, the interview is an opportunity to discuss these application gaps if the candidate has not already done so.
What Happens After a Negative Interview Experience?
A negative interview experience often leads to a candidate being waitlisted or rejected. In rare cases, however, the interview is considered an outlier and overlooked.
What Happens After a Positive Interview Experience?
After a positive interview experience, the application will go to another evaluator. Sometimes the additional reader works “blind,” meaning they have no access to the first evaluator’s notes.
The application then goes either to the admissions director or is presented to the entire admissions committee for a final review and decision.
Borderline or uncertain files are typically presented to the entire committee. Staff members will present to the team, and the entire team usually votes on decisions.
Sometimes, the admissions director will simply pass on the clear admits and clear denies for processing, and the team will only discuss the “maybe” candidates.
When Does the Admissions Committee Release Decisions?
Like interview invites, final decisions are released either on a rolling basis or on a specified date (shown on the school website for each round). If denied, the candidate must wait until the following year to reapply.
Some schools offer feedback at the end of the year but not during the application period. Others do not offer feedback and will refuse to discuss the decision.
What Happens If You Get Waitlisted?
It is possible to get off the waitlist! This is actually a good situation to be in because it means that the school likes something about you and your application.
If you are waitlisted, you should figure out what your weakness is and start working on it. Some schools provide feedback to help waitlisted applicants improve, and some do not. If you are waitlisted, be sure to check the school’s policy.
Certain schools also allow candidates to submit additional information while on the waitlist, such as job promotions or additional recommendation letters. Others allow updated GMAT, GRE or EA scores.
Personal MBA Coach provides waitlist support to guide you through what to do, and what not to do, if you are waitlisted. Our waitlist strategy is targeted to the particular school(s) and your individual situation.
About Personal MBA Coach:
Founded by a Wharton MBA and MIT Sloan graduate who sits on the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants Board of Directors, Personal MBA Coach is consistently ranked #1 or #2.
We help clients with all aspects of the MBA application process including early planning, GMAT/GRE/EA tutoring, application strategy, school selection, essay editing and mock interviews. Our team includes former M7 admissions directors and M7 admissions interviewers.
Last year, our clients earned more than $5.5M in scholarships!
Scott Edinburgh is a Wharton MBA and MIT Sloan BS graduate and founded Personal MBA Coach 13 years ago with the goal of providing customized one-on-one support. Scott also serves on the Board of Directors for AIGAC, the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants and is invited to speak at MBA Admissions events globally. Our clients have been accepted to all top schools globally with a 96% success rate. They received $5.5M in total scholarships last year.