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Admissions consulting for top US MBA and undergraduate programs and the Indian School of Business

MBA Application  Strategy


Strategizing for your MBA application is a challenging task. It requires focused preparation and adequate information. You need to bring together a set of diverse facets of your personality and knit them into an effective application package. It is neither an exceptional GMAT score nor a job in a reputed firm that will ensure an admission to the school of your choice.


Most business schools look for  a combination of academic aptitude, varied interests, leadership potential, ability to work in teams, innovative spirit and ambition, to name a few.  Yet, there are different elements that distinguish one business school from another and you must try to emphasize these in your application.  For example MIT, Sloan values analytical ability, Fuqua prides itself on its team-oriented culture and Harvard Business School emphasizes leadership. Your application should, therefore, address both the common aspects expected by business schools as well as the specific qualities.


Before you launch this challenging, yet invigorating journey it is important to understand the key components of the application package and the value attached to each component.  Through careful weaving, a drawback in one area can be offset by strength in another.


Components of an application package:


The major components of an application package are:-




This is a mandatory test to qualify for business schools. It often becomes a determinant for the level of college in which you can hopefully get admission.  The GMAT is a standardized test for measuring the aptitude for business studies. Business schools, commonly, use this test as one of the many selection criteria for admission to an MBA program. The maximum score comprising the quantitative and verbal sections, exclusive of AWA is 800.


Most schools do not publish a minimum acceptable score but do publish the average score of their latest intake.  You must produce a GMAT score within the range of your target school’s average. This is available on the specific websites of the business schools; alternately your admission consultant is equipped to advise you.


It is possible to overcome a relatively lower test score with impressive professional accomplishments, co-curricular activities, good college performance, outstanding references and particularly effective essays.


Academic Scores:


A good academic profile helps to support your MBA application.  It is an indication of your ability to succeed in a rigorous academic program. Although the transcripts cannot be altered, the different aspects in the same can be explained and used prudently in support of the application.


If your transcript is not strong, certain things can be done to strengthen it.  A strong essay that explains what you will accomplish from the program can go a long way in offsetting a weak transcript. A weak transcript can also be explained by accomplishments in sports and other extra-curricular activities.  Additionally, the optional extra essay can be used to explain any extenuating circumstances that may have affected your academic performance.




Resume is like a window into your application. It helps the admissions committee to get an initial glimpse of your profile. Therefore, it is important to prepare a resume that is brief, crisp and effective. Use your resume to create that first positive impression which influences the light in which your application is evaluated.


Letters of Recommendation:


The recommendations play a very critical role in supporting and complementing the profile created by the applicant.  Choose your recommenders carefully and spend some time with them discussing your career progress, future aspirations and key aspects of your personality.  The recommender needs to know you well enough to comment closely and effectively on your key qualities.  The choice of recommenders should be such that they can give examples covering a wide variety of experiences and qualities.  Each recommender should emphasize a particular dimension of your personality and together they should present a well-rounded picture.  Ensure that your letters of recommendation merge and not conflict with the rest of your application.




Essays form an integral and important part of your application package.  You can use them effectively to embellish your profile.  A good strategy and adequate knowledge are important to project all aspects of your personality in a balanced manner.  The admissions committee will use your essays in large measure to assess your suitability for an MBA program in their institute. There are enough cases where aspirants with a moderate profile have got admission by writing excellent essays.  So plan, collect your thoughts and write essays which closely reflect your profile while suiting the environment and expectations of the school. It is advisable to seek professional help from an able admissions consultant.


The following guidelines may be helpful:

·         Create, communicate and convince the admissions committee of your suitability.  For communicating in an effective manner, ensure that your essays are logical, cohesive, organized and closely related to the question.  In order to be convincing, substantiate whatever you have written.

·         Ensure all your essays are relevant – Make no major omissions and include no irrelevant material.

·         Ensure a logical progression – build points keeping backward and forward linkage in mind.

·         Highlight achievements not failures.  Even if the question is on a setback you faced, focus on how you tackled it and the lessons you learnt.

·         Highlight your unique characteristics – the admissions committee is keen to know what distinguishes you from the other applicants.  Even if you do not have a high GMAT or excellent GPA, if your professional profile speaks of high level leadership ability, you have made a case for yourself.

·         It is important to avoid excessive use of vocabulary or repeat information across different essays.

·         The package of essays should not be in conflict with each other and certainly not be packed with grammatical errors or spelling errors.  This would reflect a casual approach to the application.

·         If you want your essays to be a unique selling proposition make them relevant, personal, specific and interesting.  If your essays create the right impact, they would go a long way in ensuring admission.


A winning MBA application would ideally have the following features:

·         Reveals your strengths and convinces admission officers that strengths out weight your limitations.

·         Clearly highlights the key quantities of leadership, innovation, teamwork and maturity which every business school is in search of.

·         Highlights your contribution to community service.  This is powerful in communicating empathy, maturity and leadership qualities.

·         Enriches your application with extra-curricular activities. Hobbies, varied interests and community service are a great way of differentiating yourself from the competition.

·         Includes international and multi-cultural exposure. Use your application as a platform to highlight your foreign language skills, multinational experiences and cultural awareness.

·         Utilizes your professional experience to strengthen your application.  Since all of you have had some years of professional experience, it should flow through your essays, resume and recommendations and be used to support your key qualities.


Finally, your MBA application strategy should be aimed at convincing the admissions committee that you are one of the appropriate candidates for their program and will in turn enrich their environment.