Best MBA Programs

Five quick tips for putting together a better MBA application

Canada‘s Best MBA Programs 2017
MBA written application in progress

(Illustration by Adam James Turnbull)

We asked the pros (that is, MBA admissions committees) for some quick and easy pointers to help you ace the application process. Follow these tips and increase your chances of getting into the school of your dreams:

1. Do your homework

It goes without saying, but do your research. Admissions committees are looking for applicants who show they’re driven and passionate about taking their career to the next stage, and who know exactly why they want to pursue an MBA at a particular school.

2. Make contact early

Applicants should take advantage of the various opportunities to connect with a business school, through campus visits or information sessions that are made available before and during the application process. Not all admissions officers say this will help an application get approved, but it shows your interest and engagement in the school’s MBA program, which is exactly what they want to see.

3. Follow up

If you attend an information session, make sure to follow up with the MBA program’s representative afterward. One school administrator says she meets a lot of students at different sessions and doesn’t remember all of them, so sending a quick e-mail within a day or two allows you to reintroduce yourself. But she cautions that it shouldn’t be a simple “nice to meet you” note; it should include some substance. “We encourage candidates to introduce themselves via e-mail, but what is most important is the questions that they’ll be asking,” she says. “I think at every point of contact there has to be some key take-away and meaning.”

4. Go the extra mile

If you don’t have a traditional business background, such as an undergraduate degree in business, that won’t necessarily hinder your MBA application. Teresa Pires, assistant director of recruitment and admissions at the Queen’s University’s Smith School of Business, says candidates who show extra effort tend to stand out. “We like to see candidates who are able to identify why they’re applying to our business school and who are able to showcase that they’ve researched really well, perhaps by speaking to current students or alumni. If we see they’ve done that legwork, it shows us that they’re really committed,” she says.

A bit of bonus material doesn’t hurt, either: Chris Lynch, the director of recruitment and admissions at Alberta Business School, says he welcomes applications with additional material appended, such as a video that highlights the applicant’s background in a fun and creative way.

5. Concentrate on the GMAT

Prospective students with a business background can stand out in the admissions process by showing why they want to take their career to the next level, studying the school and making sure their quantitative skills are sharp. Scoring highly on the Graduate Management Admission Test is one way to show that you’ve got what it takes. “We’d like somebody with a business background to have a strong GMAT score coming in, because they should already have the basic business skill set and the quantitative abilities to do well on the GMAT,” says Pires.

Finally, remember that no single factor—even a stellar GMAT score—will be your “in.” When evaluating a potential MBA student, admissions officers are looking at the candidate holistically. They consider all parts of the application equally.