Unformatted text preview: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE
TO BECOMING A
APPLICANT An Accepted Admissions Guide
© 2017 Accepted
Intro 3 Why Our Clients Love Us 5 Academic Performance in Your MBA Admissions Profile 6 The GMAT and Your MBA Admissions Profile 8 Work Experience in Your MBA Admissions Profile 10 Extracurricular Activities in Your MBA Admissions Profile 12 English Language Skills & Your MBA Admissions Profile 14 About the Author 16 Conclusion 17 © 2017 2 Intro
Today and for more than 50 years, the MBA has been the most popular and profitable graduate
degree in the world. That’s why year after year, thousands of candidates apply for the MBA.
However, today, there are increasingly more “flavors” of the MBA — from the traditional
full-time two-year program to the one-year program very popular in Europe, the part-time, the
evening, the weekend, the Executive MBA, online, blended and others.
With so many options, which MBA is the best one for you?
Once you have decided that you want an MBA, it’s important to think about what you need it
for. What’s your goal? Where would you like to work after your MBA? Do you plan to change
sectors or industries? Or stay where you are but move up in the organization? Do you plan to
start your own business, or work as a consultant? The clearer your goal is, the easier it will be to
choose the type of program that best fits you.
Along with the evaluation of the program, you need to evaluate your own profile; that is, the
set of qualifications and elements that form your application for the MBA:
1. Your undergraduate performance: Even if it has been some time since you
graduated, those years in college are very important for your application. Your grades
will be carefully evaluated, particularly from the most rigorous courses. Any anomaly or
fail should be explained in the application.
2. Your GMAT or GRE score: These tests are crucial for your application, both the
quantitative and the verbal sections. Research if the program you are looking for
requires them (and which one) and start preparing as soon as possible. If for whatever
reason you struggle with the GMAT, try the GRE, or vice versa. You may be surprised to
find that your test-taking abilities favor one format over the other.
3. Your work experience: Most programs require a minimum of two years of
post-college work experience. Nonetheless, there are programs that are not as strict,
and there are a few that welcome candidates straight from undergrad.
4. Your extracurricular activities: Besides your academic performance and work
experience, many programs prefer candidates that have been involved in interesting
© 2017 3 activities outside of their job, particularly if they benefit the community. These activities
can range from coaching a soccer team in your neighborhood to occupying a leadership
role in a volunteer organization. It’s not a requirement, but having non-professional
management roles will definitely give you an advantage.
5. Your knowledge of English: Finally, if you are an international candidate and your
undergraduate degree was not taught in English, it is important that you prepare very
well for the exams required by the school, be it the TOEFL, IELTS, PCE, or any other exam
of English as a second language.
No one is perfect, and the majority of the MBA candidates are strong in some aspects but
lacking in others. That’s why it’s important that you analyze each and every one of these
elements and develop a plan to work on your weak points and boost your strengths.
In this guide, I will explore what to do to improve or strengthen each one of these areas, even
the ones that appear unfixable (such as a low GPA), and you will realize that with the right
dedication, discipline, and commitment, you will be able to get admitted to the right MBA
program for you. © 2017 4 Why Our Clients Love Us
No matter where you live and no matter where you're applying, our expert admissions
consultants are ready to listen, mentor, and guide you as you prepare an outstanding b-school
application that will get you accepted. You'll love us because you'll see from the first phone call
or email that we care about you and support you as you strive to achieve your goals and
But don't take our word for it. See what some of our clients have to say about Accepted...
"I got 90% of the same interview questions that Esmeralda asked me, and her feedback
was really detailed such as time limit and what examples I should use to support my
answers. She also encouraged me during our Skype call that I felt was really helpful to
make me be positive to face the interview."
“I did find out just over a week ago that I was admitted to HBS! Super exciting news- I
definitely would not have been as successful without your help! Thank you for the
practice and support- it was a pleasure working with you!”
“I got in! ;) I just talked to them [Duke Fuqua] like 20 minutes ago! This is great! I'm so
excited! They will send me everything in the next days! We did it, Esme! I couldn't have
done this without you! Not only for Duke, but also for NYU, because everything we did
for Duke and Wharton was very useful for NYU.”
“I wanted to thank you for all your help. I couldn't have done it without it!” - Accepted
to Columbia Business School
Read more feedback on why our clients love Accepted. © 2017 5 Academic Performance in Your MBA Admissions
In the introduction I laid out the five elements that you must pay attention to when planning
your MBA application. Here I will focus on the first of those five: academic performance.
Your academic performance as an undergrad, from beginning to end, is extremely important for
any graduate program, and the MBA is no exception. Traditionally, admissions committees
analyze three aspects of your academic record:
1. Your performance in each and every one of your classes, particularly in the most
rigorous courses and/or the most relevant to the MBA. It’s important that you provide
context for any dips in grades that deserve an explanation; many schools offer the
opportunity to discuss gaps or any discrepancies in the optional essay. This is the place
to clarify if your grades suffered because you were trying to balance a job with your
studies, a personal or family situation, or any unusual event that could have had an
effect on your grades.
2. The reputation and selectivity of the institution where you studied. If you have
reason to believe that your university is not well known by the business school that you
will be applying to, it’s important that you provide them with objective information
regarding the reputation, rankings, and selectivity of your undergraduate institution. For
example, there are universities that select their students through a very rigorous
admission exam. If you were one of the few selected, make sure to include that
information in your application.
3. The continuity of your performance. Adcoms look very carefully into the academic
workload you carried every semester, and they pay particular attention to periods in
which you might have lowered your workload. For example, that semester-long break
you took to work full-time, or the year when you decided to take two classes instead of
the usual five. Be prepared to justify and/or explain your decision in the appropriate
part of the application.
If your grades in math and in other quantitative classes are low, I recommend that you take
pre-MBA courses in subjects such as accounting, finance, calculus, and statistics. You can take
them at any accredited university or community college, but make sure you earn solid A’s in all
© 2017 6 of them. This will diminish the effect that low grades might have on your MBA application, as
you will be showing that you are fully capable of handling the academic rigor of the MBA.
Finally, make sure to demonstrate your academic capacity with a strong score in the GMAT or
GRE, which is the next topic I will cover. © 2017 7 The GMAT and Your MBA Admissions Profile
The GMAT, along with your undergraduate academic performance, is the most commonly used
predictor of how you will do in the MBA coursework and plays a key role in the MBA
Your GMAT score is sometimes also used by prospective employers (consulting firms and
investment banks mostly) in the pre-screening process for interviews, as well as by several
organizations that produce MBA rankings. You cannot take the GMAT lightly, and if your
intention is to apply to a top MBA program, you will need to obtain the highest possible score.
This is not the type of test you can prepare for in just a few days. In fact, most of my clients
spend several months preparing for it, and many of them take it more than once.
To avoid surprises later on, here are a few tips:
1. Start now. If you have already decided to apply to business school, now is the time to
start preparing for the GMAT. Your results will be valid for five years, so even if you are
only finishing college and don’t plan on applying for another couple of years, take it
now! You will be thankful you took it early and have it out of the way when the rush of
the application season starts.
2. Set aside a time each day to prepare. The GMAT is like a marathon. You don’t start
training the day before a marathon, but rather months before, particularly if you have
never run long distances before. Sustained practice over a longer period is much more
effective than cramming a few days before the test.
3. Always work with a timer. One of the complaints I hear a lot from those who don’t
do well on the GMAT is that they knew the answer but didn’t have enough time. If you
always practice with a timer you will get used to thinking and answering fast, and will
not have a problem the day of the test. Give yourself the same amount of time you’d
get for a given section during the actual test.
4. Take practice tests as often as you can. This will help you get used to the format of
the questions, and it will also train you to answer questions correctly even when you’re
tired. Those word problems get harder after you’ve already answered 20 or 30 © 2017 8 questions! Also, taking practice tests will allow you to evaluate your progress, see what
areas you need to work on, and which sections are your strong ones.
5. Once you have identified your strengths and weaknesses, make sure to spend more
time on the areas where you struggle the most. It is a natural impulse to try to spend
more time on the sections that feel easier and abandon the ones where you seem to
struggle, as this provides a false feeling of security. Don’t make that mistake.
Preparing for the GMAT requires dedication, discipline, and lots of practice. Unless you are used
to standardized tests, most people can only achieve a high score after many hours of study and
dedication. A high score on the GMAT will mean a higher probability of acceptance, and a
higher chance of a scholarship. The time and effort you spend preparing for the GMAT is
definitely worth it. © 2017 9 Work Experience in Your MBA Admissions Profile
Although more schools are now open to considering candidates without post-college
experience, most top MBA programs still strongly prefer candidates who have worked a solid
two to five years. Schools believe that students with work experience are able to take
advantage more fully of the MBA experience, and can contribute more to the classroom and
What part of your work experience is the most important? Based on my experience as an
admissions consultant and previously as Admissions Director, I can point to the following
1. Leadership. More than the type of company you work for, or the type of work you do,
the most important element of your work experience is your leadership. This is one of
the elements that is given the most weight. Your resume should be packed with
concrete evidence of leadership: how many people you supervise, the teams you lead,
the size of the budget you manage, and the impact you have had. It’s not enough to say
that you are a leader; you must back it up with concrete numbers and achievements.
2. Professional development. In addition to leadership, it’s important to give evidence
of growth through promotions within the company or movements to another company
with higher responsibility. Besides describing the change in roles, it is important to give
evidence of growth and dynamism. Again, specifics matter.
3. Stability. Even though adcoms will want to see progress in and out of the
organization, they will also value your professional stability. This means that you should
change jobs only when it represents an advancement for your career. Changing jobs
every 12 months (or less), for example, shows instability and leads to suspicion about
your ability to hold a job—or appeal to on-campus recruiters. Although changes in
employment are often necessary and inevitable, try to keep them to a minimum, and if
possible, avoid long lapses between jobs, as you will find them difficult to explain in an
Your resume must display your professional accomplishments with numbers and details. The
resume should not be a never-ending list of duties and responsibilities, but rather a record of © 2017 10 tangible achievements. Spend time and attention in building your resume. It is an essential part
of the application and consequently one of the keys to your admission to business school. © 2017 11 Extracurricular Activities in Your MBA Admissions
While business schools deeply value your academic background, GMAT, and work experience,
they also ascribe significant weight to your extracurricular and community service activities.
Why? Because they want to see that you are an individual who is not just focused on work, that
you have other passions, and that you are well rounded.
Whether it be practicing sports, singing in your church’s choir, or helping at soup kitchens,
community service and extracurricular activities are extremely important for you as an
applicant beyond their feel-good value. Why do b-schools care about these activities? They:
1. Create a more holistic picture of you. You are not just the two-dimensional person
going to work every day and taking it easy on the weekends. It shows them that you
have other interests, and that you’re not afraid to take (mostly unpaid) responsibilities
outside of your job.
2. Reveal traits that would probably not come out in the rest of the application: Your
leadership, initiative, passion, and interpersonal skills. People that are used to acting to
the benefit of others make for better team players, whether in the community or the
corporate world. Those traits are indispensable in order to succeed at b-school and later
on in your career.
3. Indicate you’ll be an involved student and alum. Individuals who have a track record
of community service are likely to be involved in clubs while they are in b-school, school
initiatives, and later, the alumni association.
What if you haven’t volunteered or committed significant time to a non-professional activity
and are planning to apply to business school this fall? Start today. You may think that adcoms
will notice that this sudden increase in your ...
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