A full MBA Application will typically comprise
- An application form
- Application essays
- Supporting material
Most of these things are fairly straightforward. The MBA Application form asks you to provide run of the mill information – name, address, academic history, career history and so on. The forms I saw didn’t provide a lot of space to elaborate in your answers to these questions, so now is probably not the time to recount chapter and verse your achievements and virtues.
Your MBA Essays are a little different. Most schools will provide a couple of fairly open ended questions and ask for an essay on each. I’ve devoted a separate page to this – the MBA Essays page. Other schools (I’m looking at Manchester’s Application form as I write this) may ask a series of questions looking for extended answers. In any event these free form questions are the opportunity to showcase your talents and suitability.
Through all this the thing to remember is that you are writing to an admissions tutor who cares not so much about why you want to do an MBA or why you are a good student, but why you are the ideal student for his MBA. Do your research, find out what kind of students your school of choice is looking for, tailor your achievements and virtues to appeal to the institution you are targeting. If you’ve ever worked in sales or marketing now would be a good time to think about positioning, strengths, weaknesses and key messages.
It’s also worth remembering that whatever you write here is going to come back for your interview, so include things you’re happy to talk about, and avoid things you may not want to be grilled on.
Your references are a lot like job references, only you can be sure that they are going to be read and checked. MBA Schools expect these to be supplied direct by the referee or in sealed envelopes to make it clear that the applicant has not seen them. Of course plenty of the people you ask to write you a reference will respond ‘sure, just tell me what to put’. My only thought on this is that if you ask your referees to describe you as the most talented individual they’ve ever met you’ll have to live up to it in the interview.
Supporting material is all the stuff the business schools want to back up your application. Copies of original degree certificates, your GMAT scores, evidence that your language skills are up to scratch (if you’re studying in a non-native language) and of course a cheque. The application fees I saw ranged from about 1 to 10, so if you’re planning on a few applications its worth budgeting for it in advance.
This is the bit I tripped up on, getting a copy of my degree certificate took me a fortnight and put the date of my application back by ten days, so instead of arriving with time to spare my application arrived on the deadline, necessitating the first of many panicky phone calls to the admin office.