How do MBA programs determine if I’m qualified?

  • March 30, 2023
  • By WashU Olin Business School
  • 4 minute read

As a prospective student, you probably know that entry into an MBA program is a competitive endeavor. How many ways can you set yourself apart from the crowd? What do you need to apply for an MBA? What education, experience and skills can determine success in the MBA program?

What are Olin’s MBA application requirements?

A defining quality of Olin’s admissions process is its balance of objectivity and subjectivity. While there are checkboxes and must-haves, the committee also looks at applicants as human beings, and each one will require unique consideration; there is no surefire formula that committee members use to make their decisions.

Another point to remember is that class sizes at Olin are small. They are purposely designed that way to create an intimate cohort in which every student is important and can shape the experience of the course. To recruit this cohort, the admissions team thinks carefully about creating a diverse group with different backgrounds, skills and goals.

Aside from these more holistic measures, what key items are admissions officers looking for in your application? In no particular order:

  • A resume: On the online application, you will need to upload your resume for review; this gives the committee some insight into your foundation in business knowledge and work experiences, as well as a sense of your career trajectory.
  • An essay: Two essay prompts are presented in the online application, giving you an opportunity to expansively share your thoughts on your values, strengths and weaknesses. The essay is the time to give the committee a narrative, not to mention show your creativity and the impact you hope to have on those around you. Use this opportunity to tell your story so the committee can see the person you are—and hope to be.
  • Standardized test scores: Depending on who you are and how you’re applying, test scores may be required. For instance, international applicants will need to show a TOEFL or IELTS score if English is not their first language or complete a waiver upon meeting the criteria. For Olin’s full-time MBA program, we recommend that applicants submit scores from a GMAT or GRE test, but test scores are not required. There are also some scenarios (depending on academic and/or professional background) in which an applicant may choose not to submit a score. Please connect with an MBA recruiter if you have any questions about whether or not you should submit a test score for consideration.
  • An interview video: The admissions committee will invite you to submit a video as one of the MBA admission requirements. This video is one answer to the question of how to stand out in an MBA application and gives you the opportunity to present your own voice and personality. The interview video is a great space to articulate and expand upon your interest in Olin and how you imagine being successful here.
  • Academic transcripts: Unofficial transcripts show the committee that you have completed enough foundational coursework to have earned a degree from a recognized US institution or a non-US institution that can be similarly verified.
  • A professional recommendation: This recommender should be someone who knows you from a professional setting (whether a supervisor, manager, etc.)—someone who has been prepped on your decision to apply to Olin and can describe a little of why you would be a good fit for the MBA program.

How can Olin applicants make the most of their admission materials?

Meeting the MBA degree requirements is one thing; being able to stand out at admissions time is another. So how should you, a prospective student, prepare your application? You might also be wondering if there is anything extra you can do?

Perhaps the most important way to elevate your materials during the MBA application timeline is to focus on why an MBA program can help you achieve your goals and how Olin specifically can help you make the impact you’re aiming to make on the world. As an applicant, look to build your qualifications, use this time to deeply reflect on what you hope to get out of an MBA degree, and determine what factors are most important to the program you intend to pursue.

Another key way you can prepare is to do your research. Admissions officers can tell when you’ve done your homework about what the Olin MBA program involves. They also know when you have been proactive about engaging and doing your research with the Olin community to learn more.

One way to proactively prepare is to connect with the people at Olin. Our recruiters, current students, alumni and faculty are an approachable bunch and can provide valuable insight into the application process. What’s more, they know the MBA program better than anyone, and they can see whether an applicant has a good program fit and whether Olin would be a good home for the next stage of your life.

If you have questions about the application process or about our MBA programs, reach out to the admissions team at or 314-935-7301.

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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