Business School Admissions Tips and Advice

Learn the facts about getting into business school.

business student at school

Earning your degree from a top-ranking business school can greatly enhance not only the value of your degree, but also put you ahead of the pack with prospective employers by improving your chances of landing a high-paying job. Here are some guidelines on the business school admissions process and prerequisites used by most top-ranking business schools to help you prepare your business school acceptance plan.

Admission Application Materials

Graduate business school application materials generally include:

  • Complete undergraduate transcripts
  • GMAT score
  • Two or three letters of recommendation
  • Entrance essay
  • If you're a non-native English speaker, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOFEL) score

Typical Admission Prerequisites

  • Strong GPA: Many business schools have no formal minimum requirement, but a grade point average of 3.0 or better is often the informal standard for serious consideration.
     
  • Strong GMAT scores: Again, many business schools have no formal minimum requirement, but most admissions committees like to see scores of 600 or higher (out of a possible 800). Highly selective business schools may require scores of 700-750 or more.
     
  • Two or three years of work experience: Some business schools may not require this, but most recommend it.
     
  • Managerial Potential: This is demonstrated primarily though your essay and through the letters of recommendation from your current and/or previous supervisors. These letters should focus on your leadership skills, your ability to think critically and on your ability to work as part of a team. Your entrance essay should support the letters of recommendation and express how you expect your MBA degree to help you achieve your future goals.
     
  • Introductory coursework: You don't need to have an extensive background in business-related coursework, but some business schools require candidates to complete a few credits worth of basic courses in accounting, finance, economics and statistics, either before applying or before entering the program.

When to Apply to Business School

Most schools recommend at least two or three years of work experience after college, before admitting students into an MBA program. Some schools even require it. Others will overlook your lack of work experience if your academic credentials are strong enough. Some schools have 4+1 programs that are essentially joint BA/MBA programs where you can take some MBA courses as an undergraduate and complete both degrees in five years instead of six.

Most schools require work experience because many of the concepts that are taught in business schools take on a much greater practical meaning when understood in the context of the real business world. You'll be more likely to find your MBA experience more rewarding with real world work experience under your belt.

The GMAT

The GMAT is the standardized entrance exam required by many business schools. According to the GMAC (the organization that distributes the GMAT), "The GMAT is specifically designed to measure the verbal, quantitative, and writing skills of applicants for graduate study in business."

The GMAT consists of four separately timed sections. Each of the first two sections contains a 30-minute writing task; the other two sections are 75 minutes each and contain multiple-choice questions.

When to Take the GMAT

Because the GMAT may be taken year-round in hundreds of locations, because it only takes about two weeks for scores to be mailed, and because re-taking the GMAT is not encouraged (if you do repeat the test, both your most recent and your former GMAT scores will be sent to the schools you've applied to), you can actually plan to take the test fairly close to the date you plan to submit your applications. As soon as you're certain you want to apply to business school, you should examine the GMAT Bulletin, find the testing center nearest you, and call to inquire about available test dates. Equipped with that information, you should be able to determine when you need to schedule an appointment to take the test.

Business School Admission Interviews

Business schools typically schedule interviews only after reviewing applications and narrowing the applicant pool to those they are seriously considering. A good or bad interview can do much to sway an admissions committee. In general, a candidate who is mediocre on paper, but warm, confident, and highly focused in person stands a better chance of getting into business school than a candidate who is stellar on paper, but arrogant, scattered, or otherwise awkward in the interview.