How to stand out in an MBA application to ensure acceptance

  • November 23, 2022
  • By WashU Olin Business School
  • 5 minute read

How to stand out in an MBA application to ensure acceptance

When you feel the time is right to apply to an MBA program, you want the process to be as productive, rewarding and streamlined as possible. And the most effective way to achieve that goal is by being pragmatic and practical about the steps you take to get an MBA.

The first step—and arguably the most essential—involves choosing among all the available MBA programs. Every MBA program offers something unique, so take your time to study your choices. Be sure to ask yourself not just what the program can offer as you build your future but what you can bring to the program as well.

For instance, at WashU Olin, we focus on crafting MBA cohorts that are diverse in every sense of the word. There’s no specific “cookie-cutter” candidate. That’s why we holistically review all applications. If you want to look competitive to Olin’s team, you should be someone who can demonstrate that you value equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), have the passion to lead, want to make an impact and are seeking an MBA to expand on those values.

Once you’ve narrowed down your top MBA program picks based on your research, you can start mapping out the various MBA admission requirements you’ll need.

What do you need to apply for an MBA?

Though not every MBA program requires you to apply with the same documents, some items are fairly standard. Many programs require standardized tests like the GMAT and GRE—or if you’re an international student, TOEFL or IELTS.

With plenty of requirements to juggle among the different programs you might be applying to, consider getting advice from a recruiter at each preferred MBA program. At Olin, our recruiters strive to know every applicant and are well-equipped to provide suggestions regarding testing, documentation and life around campus.

Another common request from MBA programs is at least one letter of recommendation. Don’t delay when it comes to reaching out to mentors, managers or colleagues. They’ll need enough time to create a letter based on your desire for an MBA. Plus, they’ll need to know how each MBA program’s recommendation process works. Be sure to give your references a comfortable runway to create and submit a letter well in advance of any deadlines.

While your references are crafting letters, you can expect to be crafting essays. No matter how many MBA programs you want to apply to, you should write a new essay for each program. Therefore, give yourself the bandwidth to get them all done. The people who evaluate your MBA application can tell if you’ve submitted a generic essay because it won’t be pertinent to the prompt or the program.

Finally, gather all those transcripts and test scores. Olin only requires unofficial transcripts but another program might have different parameters. Regardless, you’ll want the needed documents on hand so that you can upload everything at once prior to the final MBA application timeline.

Tips regarding how to stand out in an MBA application

Aside from knowing all the MBA application requirements associated with your preferred programs, you have other ways to stand out. Below are some tips to help you apply with confidence.

Leave yourself enough time to retake tests.

If you decide to take the GMAT or GRE as part of your MBA application, allot enough time to retake it. Sometimes, the first test score you get isn’t the one you’d like to submit. By leaving enough time, you have a chance to study and try again. Though you can’t change any low undergraduate quantitative scores or grades, a strong recent test score (as well as a good essay) can showcase your abilities now.

Conduct some mock interviews.

Part of the application process at Olin requires completing a KIRA video screening interview. That video helps the team know more about you. You may want to practice beforehand by interviewing online with trusted friends, family members or mentors. Use any constructive feedback to ensure your video presentation accurately reflects who you are. Be sure to dress as you would for an in-person interview. And always prepare in a quiet, well-lit space so you can relax and have fun with the experience.

Devote quality time to writing your essays.

Your essays are essential to your MBA application. It’s easy to tell if you’ve contemplated your MBA application essay versus just dashing it off. If you’re unsure if your essay reads well or stands up against your prompt, ask someone in your life to read your essay. Then, ask them to tell you what they assume the prompt was. Their response will help you know if your essay is aligned with the prompt or if you need to make adjustments.

Attend in-person or virtual sessions and events.

MBA programs frequently offer online and on-campus information sessions, open office hours and other events. These forums provide you with a touchpoint to connect with recruiters and current members of the MBA program community. You also may have the chance to meet with other prospective students. Additionally, you’ll hear the questions they’re asking, which may help you determine if the MBA program is the right one for your goals.

I’m ready to apply! What does Olin require for admission?

We respect your time and attempt to make the application process as clear and straightforward as we can at Olin. In order to make the best decisions possible about the candidacy of every applicant, we request that you submit any and all relevant information in a completed, online application. The requirements include:

  • One-page resume
  • Two required essays (and a third optional one)
  • Standardized test scores (The GMAT or GRE are recommended for Olin; both domestic and international students would want to consider submitting one of them.)
  • Academic transcripts (unofficial)
  • Application video
  • One professional recommendation

Applying for MBA programs might seem overwhelming at first. Just take a moment and breathe. As long as you start early, you can get through all the steps to get into an MBA program. And once you’re accepted, you’ll be able to move your career to the next level.

If you have questions along the way, email or call 314-935-7301. Our admissions team is ready to help you continue your career goals.

About the Author

Washington University in Saint Louis

WashU Olin Business School

Firmly established at the Gateway to the West, Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis stands as the gateway to something far grander in scale. The education we deliver prepares our students to thoughtfully make difficult decisions—the kind that can change the world.

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