It is your time to steal the show. Or you thought it was. After sitting your GMAT exam, your score was below expectations. Your MBA application deadline is just around the corner, and you don’t have time to retake the GMAT. Getting into that business school now looks like a far-fetched dream, but it doesn’t have to be. Your MBA application is more than just your GMAT score.
Applying to your dream business school can be stressful to begin with, but the pressure is compounded when you labor under the false assumption that your GMAT score is the only deciding factor. You, and your MBA application, go beyond that one data point. In order to secure your place at a prestigious MBA program, consider brushing up on the other key elements that make for a fantastic application.
Your MBA admissions application is divided into these six key elements:
- Standardized test scores
- Undergraduate transcript
- Letters of recommendation
Standardized test scores
To get into an MBA program a GMAT score is likely required. Some schools also accept the GRE, or Executive Assessment, however the most common standardized test in the MBA world is the GMAT. Don’t be surprised if, during your studies, you begin feeling overwhelmed by the entire process. Studying for the GMAT may seem like an unnecessarily difficult and time-consuming venture, however your GMAT score is nevertheless vital to your application and provides the opportunity to develop new skills that will pay dividends in your MBA program.
Your score demonstrates to those business schools you hope to attend that you can handle the rigors, especially quantitative, of an MBA program. Admissions committees are well aware of how challenging the GMAT is, and your score can show them that you are able to meet challenges head-on and produce quality work while operating under pressure. It is for this reason that many applicants consider their standardized testing score the most important aspect of their application. While your GMAT score is often necessary when applying to a B-school, it is important that you don’t forgo other aspects of your application to focus purely on your standardized testing score. A 770 won’t get you accepted to Harvard all by itself. In fact, only 20% of 770 applicants were offered a position in a recent class. On the flip side, a low GMAT score could be offset by a strong and impactful essay or undergraduate transcript.
The types of classes you took and the grades you received during your undergraduate years will be considered during your MBA application. The admissions committee will be evaluating your college/university’s academic achievements, alongside the level of difficulty of your course choices. In particular, the committee will be looking out for program specific courses and how well you performed in them. Regardless of your undergraduate major, having quantitative courses like statistics, calculus, and microeconomics on your transcript - alongside a strong grade - can certainly beef up your application. The better your performance in such classes, the better the indicator that you will excel in business school, and the less relevant the GMAT becomes.
Remember, admissions committees are looking for future students who can enrich the experience of their cohort, and obtain an impactful job upon graduation where they can go on to make the school look good (and possibly donate back) for years to come. They don’t want to invest in students who may drop out halfway through the program or give up as soon as the ‘going gets tough.’ Your transcript can show them your grit. If you have a weak transcript, we suggest aiming for a high GMAT score. If you are an older, or returning student, with a weak GPA, you can show the admissions committee, through your GMAT score, that your ability to study has ripened with age and experience.
Your statement of purpose or personal essay (depending on what the MBA program calls it) is a unique part of your application. In this part, you, as an applicant, are given the chance to truly introduce yourself and explain in detail why you will fit in well with the potential program. Admissions committees are on the hunt for extraordinary professionals who have a lot to offer their program. While your transcript reflects your ability to stand out in the classroom, and your resume reflects your ability to stand out in the professional world, your personal essay gives you a chance to combine the two while including anecdotes from your personal life.
To have a well-written MBA essay, mention your ability to overcome hardships, your dedication to your professional and academic life, and - most importantly - how you will add value to the MBA program itself. Be sure to articulate clear goals and how an MBA will help you achieve them. Lastly, do not forget to explain why you want to pursue your MBA at that specific business school. At this stage, the admissions committee is looking for outstanding students who will thrive in their MBA program.
Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation are an incredibly important part of any admissions process. If you have a low GMAT score, a letter of recommendation can help offset that weak spot in your application. Make sure to double-check the program-specific requirements when it comes to finding your recommenders. Your recommenders should be able to talk about your character, leadership abilities, and overall fit into the MBA program. The admissions committee reads these letters to better understand how your superiors view your capabilities. Therefore, be selective when choosing a recommender.
A previous boss (or client/partner if you’re self-employed) can be a great choice if you have undertaken roles which showed off your leadership and problem-solving skills. Finding a previous professor who can describe your drive and determination as a student can help bolster your application and help admissions committees overlook a below-average score. Most often, admissions officers are looking for professional or academic references that would support and uphold your MBA application. However, be sure to check with the specific program you are applying to and their criteria. For a finer letter of recommendation, ask your writers to list some real-life cases that can prove their point. We suggest providing your recommenders with an overview of what personality traits you want them to elaborate on, such as leadership or teamwork skills.
Business school applicants are expected to have some professional experience under their belt before they apply. While building your application to your dream business school, remember that the admissions committee is looking for a team player, a committed student, and an individual who will fit well into the program.
It is perfectly okay, and even expected, to tailor your resume to the school or program you are applying to. We suggest researching the profiles of current MBA students to understand the class profile of the program you are applying to. Look for what types of collective experience the class has, whether they have previous volunteer experience, and where they worked before applying to the program. Asking yourself these questions can help you tailor your resume and present yourself as a perfect MBA aspirant. Your resume should showcase your many other accomplishments as well. Do not be afraid to include previous awards, scholarships, extra-curriculars, leadership experience, and other relevant information. Your resume gives you the chance to showcase your many accomplishments and make up for any weak spots in your GMAT score or transcript.
Some programs require an interview as part of the application process. The MBA interview aims to showcase you on a personal level beyond your previous academic performances. During the interview, you can show the interviewer that you possess the charisma and presence necessary for excelling in the program. The admissions committee is seeking a student who will add value to their program in various ways. If you are invited to an interview, this means that your application has already stood out to the admissions committee. It is during the interview that you reinforce their positive view of yourself.
It’s important to remember that showing vulnerability in the interview can also be beneficial. Do not forget that you are entering an MBA program as a student. Your ultimate goal is to learn and to grow during the program's duration, and you can show vulnerabilities in your interview that you have otherwise kept hidden in your application. Be willing to show your true personality during the interview. Your interviewer is on the lookout for future students who will fit well into the program. Do not pretend to be someone you’re not, as you might end up in a program that does not suit your needs as a student.
We at ApexGMAT work with many clients who come to us seeking an exceptional score on their GMAT or EA. We actively work with them to regularly achieve 700+ scores, but we also know that the application process comes down to more than just a number. We equip our clients with the skills needed to excel not only when taking a standardized exam but also when working on other elements of their graduate school applications.
Our instructors give valuable insights into all GMAT sections and into what is expected of MBA candidates as a whole. While preparing for the GMAT, our students learn how to deal with pressure, make decisions, think critically, and communicate their ideas successfully. Remember, your task as an applicant is to show the admissions committee why you are the perfect fit for the program you are applying to. This includes bolstering your strengths while acknowledging your vulnerabilities.
Your GMAT score is just one part of a larger puzzle which admissions committees consider when making their admissions decisions. Use your whole application to set yourself apart from other applications and show the admissions committee that you’ll be able to thrive as an MBAer while contributing to the program.