The Ultimate MBA Application Guide (2024)

A step-by-step guide for every part of the MBA application, with tips and tricks from experts, additional free resources, essay and resume examples, and more.

Posted May 9, 2024

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Table of Contents

Starting Your Application

School Selection

  • Research top MBA programs
    • Read our guide to the top US business schools here: Top MBA Programs in the US
    • Talk to current students and alumni, attend webinars, and visit campuses
  • Read our guide: Which MBA Program is Right for Me? and Why Should You Get an MBA? An Expert Coach's Perspective
  • Assess your MBA candidacy. Think about factors like professional experience, academics, extracurricular activities, awards/honors, strengths, and weaknesses, etc.
  • Select the list of schools you will be applying to
    • Take note of the application fee and either budget for it ahead of time or turn in a fee waiver if you’re eligible

Here are some questions to think about as you choose the schools best suited to you:

  • Which learning style do I feel is best for me? For example, HBS uses the case method for the entire curriculum. Is this classroom style actually an environment in which I would thrive?
  • Do I want to have a major/emphasis and lean into a specific category within business? If so, look at programs that offer tracks in your areas of interest.
  • Are there specific classes at a particular university that excite me? For example, GSB is known for the hands-on, project-based course called “Startup Garage.” If I am looking to go into entrepreneurship, I may focus on applying to business schools that have a strong commitment to startup resources and coursework.
  • Do I value autonomy in deciding what my course load consists of? How much flexibility do I want in my curriculum?
  • Am I interested in taking non-business classes during my MBA years? If yes, I should find a program that allows for this.
  • How important is it to me that the MBA program is high-ranking? What are my safety, target, and reach schools?
  • How important to me are the class profile statistics? For example, do I want a really high percentage of international students or women, or is this not a relevant factor to consider?

Application Strategy

Examples:

  • All-American tennis player, renewable energy rockstar, seven promotions in four years
  • Venture capital climber, LGBT advocate, passionate about social impact in the Bay Area

Find a coach to help you with your MBA application strategy. You can browse our world-class, vetted coaches here.

Standardized Tests

GMAT/GRE

Average GMAT SCores of M7 Business Schools (Class of 2023)

*Only report the median GMAT score.

TOEFL (International Students)

  • Prepare for the exam
  • Take the exam
  • Submit your scores in the application portal(s)

Tips

  1. Establish a study routine: To keep yourself consistent, have a structure for when and how you will study.
  2. Make sure you take timed practice tests (simulating the real experience): Taking several practice tests ahead of time will help you understand your cadence, get a feel for the required speed, and test question types in real time.
  3. Give yourself time to rest: Like workouts, it’s important to give your mind a break to soak up the information, relax, and recharge.

GMAT/GRE Coach Recommendations


MBA Resume

Tips

Here are a few tips as you build and polish your resume for b-school.

  • Strategize your Bullets: Each position or section should typically have enough content for at least 2 bullets. Try to start each point with a strong, descriptive verb, and remove or replace fluff from your writing. Try to keep each bullet to one line.
  • Format Intentionally: Keep your resume to one page. No exceptions. This does not mean, however, that you should just write to fill up the page. Every bullet point and every word you include should be intentional. Keep your resume layout clean, straightforward, and easy to digest. Too much fancy design can distract from the content.
  • Review and Revise—Many Times: Read through your resume several times from the perspective of the adcoms. Remove the details that they will not care about, and draw out points that best relate to your career path and to the specific school. Ask multiple trusted colleagues and mentors to look over your resume for advice; we also recommend hiring a coach on our platform. Finally, proofread your resume, and correct any inconsistencies.

MBA Resume Examples

Download free example MBA resumes from admits to top business schools


Letters of Recommendation

  • Read our recommendation guide: How to Get the Perfect MBA Recommendation Letter–With Examples
  • Brainstorm Recommenders
    • Think about: school requirements, the strength of relationships, level of support, communication, angle, and seniority
  • Reach out to recommenders (at least 2-3 months before the application deadline)
  • Prepare a document for each of your recommenders
  • Touch base with your recommenders 4-6 weeks before submission
  • Ask your recommenders to upload your letters of recommendation 1-2 weeks before the application deadline

MBA Recommender Prep Doc & Example

Download our free recommender prep doc used by thousands of applicants to get the strongest possible letters of rec


MBA Essays

M7 Essay Prompts

GSB

  1. What matters most to you and why? (650 words)
  2. Why Stanford? (400 words)

HBS

  1. As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA program? (900 words)

Wharton

  1. How do you plan to use the Wharton MBA program to help you achieve your future professional goals? You might consider your past experience, short and long-term goals, and resources available at Wharton. (500 words)
  2. Taking into consideration your background – personal, professional, and/or academic – how do you plan to make specific, meaningful contributions to the Wharton community? (400 words)

Booth

  1. How will a Booth MBA help you achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA career goals? (Minimum 250 words, no maximum)
  2. An MBA is as much about personal growth as it is about professional development. In addition to sharing your experience and goals in terms of career, we’d like to learn more about you outside of the office. Use this opportunity to tell us something about who you are… (Minimum 250 words, no maximum)

Kellogg

  1. Kellogg’s purpose is to educate, equip and inspire leaders who create lasting value. Provide a recent example where you have demonstrated leadership and created value. What challenges did you face and what did you learn? (450 words)
  2. Values are what guide us in our life and work. What values are important to you and how have they influenced you? (450 words)

Sloan

  1. Cover Letter: Please submit a cover letter seeking a place in the MIT Sloan MBA program. Your letter should conform to standard business correspondence, include one or more professional examples that illustrate why you meet the desired criteria above, and be addressed to the Admissions Committee. (300 words or fewer, excluding address and salutation)
  2. Video Statement: Introduce yourself to your future classmates. Here’s your chance to put a face with a name, let your personality shine through, be conversational, be yourself. We can’t wait to meet you!
  3. Optional Short Answer Question: How has the world you come from shaped who you are today? For example, your family, culture, community, all help to shape aspects of your identity, please use this opportunity if you would like to share more about your background. (250 words)

Columbia

  1. What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (50 characters maximum)
  2. Through your resume and recommendation, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next three to five years and what is your long-term dream job? (500 words)

    We believe Columbia Business School is a special place. CBS proudly fosters a collaborative learning environment through curricular experiences like our clusters and learning teams, co-curricular initiatives like the Phillips Pathway for Inclusive Leadership, which aims to equip students with the skills and strategies necessary to lead in an inclusive and ethical manner, and career mentorship opportunities like our Executives-in-Residence program.

    Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you academically, culturally, and professionally? (300 words)
  3. Tell us about your favorite book, movie, or song and why it resonates with you. (250 words)

Essay Example

School: University of Chicago Booth

Prompt: How will the Booth MBA help you achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA career goals? (250-word minimum)

I want to start a geothermal company that will help lead the energy transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy—by targeting existing oil wells as sites for geothermal plants. Oil fields are close to electric grids and have high nearby subsurface temperatures, making them ideal sites for geothermal plants. By building geothermal infrastructure nearby, my company will produce cleaner, cheaper energy, making it more profitable for operators to switch from oil to geothermal. As oil companies decommission their wells, I’ll negotiate for their land rights, so I can use their existing wells for new geothermal vents. I want my company to prove the case for economically viable, carbon-neutral energy production.

After getting an MBA I want to start a geothermal company which will help me lead the energy transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. I plan to target developed oil fields in Texas, where, in many places, producing wells are flowing enough hot fluid to generate clean energy. Using this geothermal heat, the carbon footprint of oil and gas extraction will decrease as fewer fossil fuels are utilized to power the surrounding infrastructure. As the wells approach their economic life, I will negotiate the lease from various operators, saving them millions in plug and abandonment costs, and retrofit the wells for direct geothermal energy production via closed-loop binary fluid systems, bringing emissions to zero. To accomplish this goal, I need to shore up my knowledge of energy economics and entrepreneurial finance, develop a strong sense of leadership, and build a network of like-minded individuals that will help me lead the transition and I believe I can get those things at Chicago Booth.

My immediate career goal is to develop my first co-production site in Shelby County, Texas at the Blanton well site, which produces abnormally heated fluid from the flanks of an active salt dome. Before investing in capital expenditures, developing a strong sense of energy economics and broader markets is necessary to verify financial feasibility. The University of Chicago, through the Graduate-Student-At-Large: Business program, is already allowing me to accomplish this goal with my enrollment in “Microeconomics” with Professor Andrew McClellan. His instruction helped me understand the impact taxes and subsidies have on market equilibrium, an important aspect of renewable energy as green energy tax incentives continue to change on a yearly basis. As my company continues to grow, having a strong finance and accounting foundation is imperative to building and sustaining a healthy company. Electives such as “Accounting for Entrepreneurship: From Start-Up through IPO” will provide the skills I need to be successful by following the life-cycle of a business that originates as a start-up, and covers topics such as building an initial accounting infrastructure. I understand that execution of the business is as important as developing the idea and proof of concept, and Booth is the best place for me to develop financial fluency.

Leading the energy transition will require a strong sense of leadership. Not only will I need to lead those I get to work with over my career, but to lead the energy transition, and reverse the impact fossil fuels have had thus far, I must have the emotional intelligence to inspire others to join me in my journey. The “Interpersonal Dynamics” course at Booth will allow me to develop my communication skills and better understand the emotions and perceptions of my colleagues. These skills, synthesized with leadership development acquired in “Leadership Practicum” will prepare me to act as a relational leader, who understands the needs of others. As a relational leader I hope to foster an environment which promotes happiness, and maximizes efficiency, not only to make our efforts in changing the world more successful, but to excite other people to join our cause.

To find the greatest chance of success in leading the energy transition, I will need a network of like-minded individuals who can provide a diversity of thought. Chicago Booth provides the opportunity to develop that network through different community experiences. The Energy Club’s “Energy Forward” conference, which designates time to topics in oil and gas and renewable energy will allow me to hear from industry leaders, build meaningful relationships with peers and contribute my sector experience to the public forum as I learn from those around me. Opportunities through the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Group such as “SeedCon” will help me connect with successful entrepreneurs and early-stage investors whose ideas and funding might change the course of my venture’s trajectory. Even in the GSALB program, I have had the opportunity to connect with other students in various sectors, including the energy industry. I hope to continue to strengthen those connections and continue building new ones with matriculation into the full-time program.

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Other Information

Family and Personal Information

  • Reach out to parents for any missing family information
  • Fill in your personal employment information
    • Dates
    • Job functions/impact
  • Review extra-curricular activities
    • Community involvement and service
    • On-campus participation (undergraduate education)
  • Add any awards or honors - start with the most important/impactful, followed by others in reverse chronological order

Academic Transcripts

  • Submit unofficial academic transcripts from all higher education institutions
  • Order and send official transcripts

Secondary Review

  • Leverage our article: How to Up Your Odds With Secondary Review
  • Read through the application
  • Assess strengths and weaknesses
  • Fix any areas of concern
  • Have a peer/mentor/coach look over your application and make appropriate edits

Submit Your Application

  • Pay the online application fee or submit the fee waiver.

Application Fees:

  • $275: GSB, Wharton
  • $250: HBS, Booth, Kellogg, Columbia, Sloan

Celebrate! Congrats on Submitting Your Application!

We know it can be difficult to keep track of all the application deadlines so we've compiled all of them for the top 25 business schools here. Use it to stay on top of all the important dates and plan out your timeline.

Congratulations! You’ve submitted your application, the hardest part of the process. Make sure to reflect on your progress and celebrate what you’ve accomplished thus far. Now, it’s time to start preparing for the interview(s). We’ve got lots of coaches here at Leland that can share their expertise and help you ace your interview. Browse them here.


Interview

Interview Tips

  1. Make sure you have a really solid understanding of the schools’ specific qualities. Learn about their mission and values, accomplishments of alumni, class offerings, etc.
  2. Practice answering questions about your previous work experience and future goals so that you feel calmer and more confident in the interview.
  3. Arrive on time.
  4. Be yourself and be confident without being arrogant. It is essential to maintain a positive attitude while remaining grounded. Many students experience anxiety before the interview, but this is a positive signal because it demonstrates that you care about the outcome.
  5. Maintain eye contact and listen attentively. A lack of concentration or attention indicates a lack of attention in the school. I can’t stress this enough: listen and show that you’re listening. In other words, when the interviewer is speaking, show sincere interest in what they’re saying and refrain from interrupting. Try not to daydream or start formulating an answer in your head. It is totally acceptable to pause occasionally to gather your thoughts.
  6. Display a genuine interest in the program. MBA interviews typically last for 30 minutes and in some, you’ll be given the opportunity to ask a few questions at the end. Prepare ahead of time and make a list of important, thoughtful questions.
  7. Come prepared. Make a list of your top three strengths, weaknesses, and priorities so you can easily recall them when answering questions about yourself during the interview. Conduct mock interviews with friends. The only sure way to improve and gain confidence is through practice.

- Dalal A., Kellogg MBA/MS, Multiple M7 Admit on Full-Ride

Hiring an admissions coach can make all the difference between putting together an average application vs. a competitive application. We have a network of 150+ coaches on our platform and are here to help you find one to meet your budget, background, and goals. You can find all of them here, we have someone for everyone. Here are a few of our highest-rated expert admissions coaches.

For more free resources, guides, and coach-written articles, visit our MBA Library. We are constantly updating it with the most current information to help you as you research and apply for business school.

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