Even though you may never have to look them in the eye, the thought of laying yourself bare before the critical eyes of an MBA admissions committee can be terrifying unless you understand what they are looking for. Here are a few key things to understand about the process and how to improve your odds when applying.
1. Just because it's an online MBA doesn't mean admission is easy
Don't make the mistake of thinking the admission process for online MBA programs will be a walk in the park simply because it's online. Besides, you shouldn't want your MBA admission process to be easy. Since employers respect MBA degrees from schools that are accredited by The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International), you should only consider this type of MBA program. AACSB International requires schools offering online MBAs to provide an education that precisely mirrors the rigor and expectations of their traditional programs. This means that admissions committees at AACSB accredited schools seek the same qualities in online applicants as they do in candidates for traditional programs.
2. Performance and professional experience are frequently valued above GMAT scores
There is a raging debate among business schools about what the GMAT does and does not measure or predict, with convincing arguments on both sides of the debate. However, if you have been in the workforce for a while, the GMAT may seem like an expensive, exhaustive and unnecessary hoop for a seasoned business professional to jump through. MBA admissions committees for online programs typically understand that online students are overwhelmingly experienced professionals who want to fast-track their careers while continuing in their current jobs. For this reason, a number of highly respected MBA programs will accept students without requiring GMAT scores. Others may waive GMAT requirements for students with a high undergraduate GPA or a certain amount of work experience.
3. MBA admissions committees want a clear picture of who you are and what you can do
Each school has a specific set of objective admission requirements like test scores, transcripts, years of professional experience and GPA. Applicants who do not meet these minimum entry requirements are ruled out. If you do meet them, then the more subjective application materials (your statement of purpose essay and letters of recommendation) provide you an opportunity to showcase your experience, talents, accomplishments and potential in your own words and in the words of the professionals who recommend you.
4. The difference between a good application and a great one is authenticity
MBA admissions committee members overwhelmingly agree that your own words are the key ingredient that can tip the scale in your favor. Think of your statement of purpose essay as your opportunity to present the entire package of who you are and why you belong in the school to which you are applying. In a voice and words that are uniquely yours, tell the story of your experiences, your goals, what and who have shaped your values along the way and, most importantly, your passions. Do not forget, however, to address your weaknesses. We all have them. The admissions committee will want to understand how you address yours, how you have learned to play to your strengths and what lessons you have gleaned from your insight.
While you should not be tempted to believe that applying to an online MBA program is a dog and pony show, you need not dread the process either. Rather, you should view it as an opportunity to tell the story of who you are, where you are in your professional journey, what you've learned along the way and why this MBA program will help you achieve some important goals about which you are passionate and willing to work hard to accomplish.
Blackman, Stacy. “What matters most in MBA admissions?" usnews.com, January 4, 2013.
Symonds, Matt. “Getting the M.B.A. admissions edge”, Forbes.com, August 3, 2011.
Yeaple, Ronald. “What the GMAT doesn't predict”, Forbes.com, August 6, 2012.
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