Background Verification: The Final Hurdle in the MBA Admissions Process

mba background verification

When it comes to getting into a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program, you should know that even after you receive an official offer of admission, the screening process continues and enrollment is not guaranteed. You’ve got one last hurdle to clear before you can start your MBA studies. (What is an MBA program? Learn more about MBA programs here).

After officially accepting your application, many business schools conduct pre-matriculation verification and background checks to confirm the personal and professional profiles of admitted applicants, making sure that you’re everything you’ve claimed. If your background doesn’t add up, schools may rescind your offer.

What is a background check for MBA applicants like? Well, gaps or inconsistencies are definitely going to flag a candidate for further probing. Even applicants who have been completely open and accurate in their apps but have unusual work experience without complete documentation may be asked some probing questions.

Formal processes for reviewing the professional, academic, and personal backgrounds of admitted applicants have been a thing at top business schools for over a decade. In 2011, The MBA Exchange introduced a groundbreaking service to help individuals facing this stressful process, the first of its kind.

Since then, one of the most frequent questions we’re asked is: “Are offers of MBA admission actually rescinded during the background verification process for applicants who have not intentionally misrepresented themselves?”

Sadly, the answer to that one’s a “yes.” Each year, some admitted candidates are informed by their dream business school that they’ve failed to pass the pre-enrollment screening process. If only these individuals had only approached MBA background verification more proactively, thoroughly, and strategically, many could have avoided this fate. You’ll be smarter right?

What is background verification?

Background verification processes check over your submitted application materials with a fine-toothed comb to look for potential inconsistencies, exaggerations, or falsehoods. Background checks are used in a variety of professional and educational situations to ensure that personal details are truthful and accurate.

What is a background check good for? There are lots of reasons why a prospective employer or graduate program might want to verify the details of the experiences and credentials you claim.

Even completely innocently, it’s easy to lose track of the exact details in your background. 

  • How do you add up your starting salary with Company A do the stock options count, and for how much? 
  • What’s the most accurate and honest way to describe your early months with your startup, and are you consistent in always giving the same beginning dates for your work there? 
  • What’s the right way to convert the GPA you received in that unusual summer program a few years back? 
  • When should you disclose that you’ve worked with family members?

The best background checks find out the real deal about the person behind the profile and ensure that MBA programs are getting for-real excellent candidates, not just good bluffers who can exaggerate a resume into an approximation of impressiveness. Background checks can also catch sloppiness and bad record-keeping, causing need for revision and more accurate re-reporting.

What is an MBA background check?

Even after you’ve found the right MBA program for your skills and career goals, applied, and been officially accepted, there’s one more hurdle you may have to get through – MBA background verification. Background verification checks are used in some top full-time, part-time, and executive MBA (EMBA) programs as the last step in the admissions process.

MBA background checks look for mismatches between your application materials and your personal background. Business school admissions are competitive, and top programs want to make sure that admitted students haven’t exaggerated claims related to skills or experiences.
Top programs use MBA background verification to ensure that seats go to the high-achieving superstar candidates who most deserve them, and make it difficult for candidates to sneak through with falsified credentials or claims. Programs like NYU Stern work with companies like ReVera to complete background checks on accepted b-school candidates.

Background verification in MBA admissions

MBA background verification processes take another look at the application materials of accepted students before they go on to matriculation.

MBA admissions success demands a lot of documentation of your past achievements and experiences. For MBA admission, candidates typically have to submit an MBA resume with lots of exact information, standardized test scores like the Graduate Management Admission Test or Graduate Record Examination ( GMAT or GRE ), graduate and undergraduate transcripts, letters of recommendation, and detailed personal essay responses.

All of the information in your application package goes into the decision on whether or not you’re getting admitted. You might make strategic choices to better position your candidacy, such as opting to take the GRE rather than the GMAT for a more impressive score, retesting after taking advantage of more effective GMAT test prep resources, or using your essays to layout circumstances that offset a low GPA.

MBA background checks follow up on your professional background, educational credentials, and even anecdotes you’ve included in essays. You should have provided accurate documentation of your background in your submitted application materials.

Should you be scared about background verification checks?

Unless you recklessly lied in your application, you really don’t need to be scared about MBA background verification, but like every part of the application process, the background check can easily become nerve-wracking for prospective students.

And, you should know that it is definitely possible to lose your seat based on information discovered during the background verification process. For example, not disclosing past criminal convictions is for sure going to get your admission offer rescinded. Students have even been forced to leave after beginning classes due to issues discovered during background verification checks. So the stakes are very real.

Understanding more about the best background check preparation strategies can help you get through this stressful time without completely eating down your fingernails. And, it never hurts to have expert professional assistance – like that offered by The MBA Exchange –  in your corner when it comes to getting through the background verification process.

You can also make the whole background check deal a lot easier on yourself by carefully documenting everything you present as part of your application materials and disclosing any past lapses, firings, or other issues upfront to show that you’ve changed and improved since that time.

What are they looking for in background checks?

So what is a background check looking for, exactly? Basically, anywhere the story and the reality don’t mesh. If your background check reveals discrepancies, you’ll be expected to reconcile them or face termination of your admissions offer.

Background verification processes examine official documentation from your past employers and institutions to see if the information you’ve provided in your MBA application checks out. Some issues that might turn up in the best background checks include:

  • Discrepancies between official employment dates and when you claim you started working understandable if your background includes startup experience or similar
  • Compensation and salary claims that can vary based on whether your employer’s HR officially “counts” things like stock options and discretionary budgets as part of your salary
  • GPA variances depending on calculation with weighted or unweighted grades
  • Disclosure of family-owned businesses and family relationships with recommenders
  • Disclosures of firings or past ethical lapses

Background checks sometimes get hung up on genuine but unusual circumstances. If you have a unique personal story, it’s worth taking the time to make sure you’ve added up all the details accurately and consistently throughout your candidacy.

When are background verification checks done?

If you’re going to have to deal with a background check as part of your application, acceptance, and matriculation process, the actual background verification will typically be done in the spring, after you’ve applied and received your acceptance. Background verification occurs after all application rounds are over when admitted candidates are starting to submit deposits.

Not all MBA programs use background verification checks. Top programs like Harvard definitely will, though! And, if your dream program asks for background verification, you want to be positioned to pull off the best background check possible and lock in your seat.

The best background check support around

Having an expert advisor with a proven process and track record can make all the difference. And the expertise and experience you will find at CounterCheck™ from The MBA Exchange is the right service to help you prepare and navigate the background verification process.

Developed exclusively by The MBA Exchange, our CounterCheck service can help you navigate the confusing and often intimidating process of providing any required documentation and winning approval from verification agencies. 

Don’t wait until you’re contacted by an agency with questions! Your readiness to work through the verification process will not only safeguard your enrollment but can help you avoid sleepless nights when your credentials and credibility are reviewed.

Contact us in confidence today and begin to put our background verification knowledge and experience to work for you.