Every year, scores of international students apply for MBA (Master of Business Administration) programs in the US. It’s not surprising, since the US has some of the best business schools in the world. Plus, there are a wide range of programs and specialisations available for those intending to pursue an MBA.
So how do you go about applying for one? Here’s a guide on the application process:
Do your research
There are so many MBA programs, and you need to find out which particular one would be best for you and your career. Keep in mind that your chances of getting accepted is higher if you apply for a program that best suits your background and aspirations.
It’s also important to be absolutely sure that the program is the right fit for you as during the interview stage, you should give a clear and focused answer to why you chose a particular MBA program at a particular university. This will make it easier to persuade the admissions committee.
GMAT and GRE
Most US universities accept either the GMAT or GRE diagnostic tests. Although many experts suggest taking both tests to give you a better chance of being accepted, a good tip is to take one first and then evaluate your score. If you didn’t do as well as you’d hoped, you can try the other test.
Make sure you allow yourself enough time to prepare. The recommended time for preparation is 100 hours, but you might need more than that if you’re weak in certain areas. You might also need to join a prep class or sign up for an online course to help you get the score you need.
Ideally, you should register for the test at least three months before the application deadline so the university can receive your scores in a timely manner. But you should do it even earlier if you’re worried you might need to re-take the test.
Do you need to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)? It depends. If you’ve studied at an American university before, it may not be required. Check with the university on their exact requirements. If you aren’t sure yet which university you want to attend, it may be a good idea to take it anyway so you won’t need to worry about doing it later.
It’s generally advised to take the TOEFL before the GMAT or GRE. This is because it’s easier and requires less preparation so you can get it out of the way and focus on the other test. Also, it will allow you to get used to the testing centre (you will most likely take both tests at the same centre) and test procedures.
Letters of recommendation
Most universities require MBA applicants to submit at least two or three recommendation letters. The letters should be about your strengths and qualities that make you suitable for an MBA. Click here to see a sample recommendation letter.
Before you choose someone to write a recommendation or you, think carefully about who you want to ask. It should be someone who knows you well, and can write about your work ethic and skills. Most applicants choose a supervisor or employer, but you can also choose a professor you were particularly close to, or someone who supervised you during volunteer work.
SOP (Statement of Purpose)
Another important aspect of the test is the SOP. The word limit is usually 500 words and should reflect your reasons for joining the institution and program, along with the goals you hope to achieve with an MBA.
Put careful thought into writing your SOP as it can make or break your application. Before you start your first draft, make a list of the experiences, qualities, and characteristics that make you suitable for the program. Then, determine which ones you want to include in your SOP, taking into consideration the program you’re applying for and what it entails.
Don’t forget to edit and proof read your SOP before you send it in – a few times at least. Ask a friend or colleague to help proof read as it’s always better to have a second set of eyes.
Click here to read a sample statement of purpose.
Most universities require applicants to have completed at least 16 years of education to be eligible for acceptance in an MBA program. Therefore you must have a Bachelor’s degree (a Diploma may be sufficient in certain universities) before you can apply.
While there are universities who accept students for MBA without work experience, it’s generally recommended that you have at least two years’ work experience.
According to Jatin Bhandari, CEO and co-founder of PythaGurus, who trains students on the admission process at top business schools, work experience is important because without it, applicants have an artificial understanding of the MBA.
By gaining real-world experience and dealing with the challenges that come in a professional environment (learning about conflict, working with difficult bosses and peers, working in a team), you will be more prepared for the MBA.