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5 Tips on Cracking the MBA Application

Applying to business school is a complex and competitive process. We spoke to Personal MBA Coach to get their expert advice on how candidates can set themselves apart and crack the MBA application.


While every candidate is different, Personal MBA Coach has found that the following tips are key drivers of success for applicants. Whether you have just started thinking about getting an MBA or have already begun the application process, consider these five pieces of advice to set yourself up for MBA application success.

1. Articulate decisive and specific career goals

While no one will hold you to what you write in your MBA essays, and there is no “correct” career goal, most schools will want you to lay out clear goals before you arrive on campus. Take a look at career postings from companies in your target industry to get a better idea of what roles you may be qualified for immediately post-MBA.

Once you have established your attainable role as a launching point, set out an ambitious career path and long-term goal for yourself. Your long-term goal should flow logically from your short-term goal.

This is not to say your career path must be obvious, but the reader should be able to understand how you plan to leverage the skills you will build during your MBA throughout your post-MBA career.

Share your vision for how you will make a unique mark in your chosen company or field. Go beyond stating what position you hope to achieve and make it clear to the reader that this is a career path you are excited about.

2. Choose recommenders who know you well

Unless you work very closely with your company’s CEO, she is not a good choice to write a letter of recommendation for you. Instead, you want to select someone who knows you well and will take the time to craft a great letter. It is key that your recommender is familiar with your work, character, strengths and weaknesses, and career aspirations.

The best letters of recommendation highlight specific examples and skill sets that show your ability to succeed in the MBA program you are applying to and beyond. The better your recommender knows you, the more authentic this letter will be.

Though professional supervisors are typically the best choice to write your letters of recommendation, there are a few exceptions. If you have devoted a significant amount of time to an activity outside of work, such as a leadership position at a charitable organization, you may consider asking a supervisor or colleague in this organization to write on your behalf.

Similarly, if you cannot tell your supervisor you are applying for an MBA or you do not work closely with one particular person, you might consider seeking out a non-professional reference.

3. Demonstrate genuine interest in the program

Be sure that you engage properly with the schools you are applying to. Even though visiting campuses may not be feasible in the current climate, there are still many ways that you can connect with your target MBA programs. Attending online events and interacting with the schools you are applying to will provide valuable material to make your applications stand out.

Since admissions directors may be more difficult to get in touch with, students and alumni are often the most valuable resources. Networking with those from your target programs will equip you with the tools to convince the admissions committee that you are genuinely interested in their school.

Rather than using vague, over-the-top praise, thoughtfully share elements of a school’s program that you are hoping to avail yourself of. Make sure that these elements are specific to you and make sense in relation to your background and goals.

4. Answer the question directly

Although it is important to articulate your desire to attend a given MBA program, do not spend an entire essay professing your love for the school. Instead, focus on what the question asks.

Think about what is being asked and why they are asking it. The best answers will consider both.

Personal MBA Coach has read countless essays that delve too deeply into part of a question and do not fully answer the question asked. It is okay to include some details for context but do not spend a lot of time on your background if it is not required.

Similarly, if the question does not specifically ask about your MBA goals, do not spend 100 words detailing them in your essay introduction. A well-told story that clearly demonstrates an understanding of the question asked will be far more successful.

5. Be sure that all of your application pieces fit together

Your application should paint a picture of one person. This means that all of your application pieces should fit together, from your essays to your letters of recommendation, to your short answer responses. If you have a key theme, make sure it appears throughout the application.

While the short answer questions allow you to share additional aspects of your candidacy, they are also a test of consistency and cohesion. The voice used here should match the voice used in your essays, painting a clear image of who you are as a candidate. An application that is not consistent will not be genuine.

Remember, however, that consistency does not mean repetition. Avoid using valuable space to tell the admissions committee the same thing more than once. You have more than one accomplishment. Be sure to show this.


Founded by a Wharton MBA and MIT Sloan graduate who sits on the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants Board of Directors, Personal MBA Coach has been guiding clients for 14 years and is consistently ranked #1 or #2, currently holding the #2 ranking on Poets&Quants.

Personal MBA Coach help clients with all aspects of the MBA application process including early planning, GMAT/GRE/EA tutoring, application strategy, school selection, essay editing and mock interviews. Their team includes a former M7 admission director and former M7 admissions interviewers.

Last year, Personal MBA Coach clients earned more than $6M in scholarships!

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