How Will You Start Your MBA Application: Pre-Application Strategies

MBA Preparation, Our Team

How Will You Start Your MBA Application: Pre-Application Strategies

January 25 2024 By The MBA Exchange
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Starting your MBA admissions campaign is a significant step towards achieving your professional goals. Many applicants begin by exploring school websites, perusing rankings, or taking the GMAT or GRE. However, based on our extensive experience advising over 5,000 MBA candidates, we know that the most effective first step is self-reflection. This foundational exercise sets the stage for a successful application process by helping you understand your strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations.

The Importance of Self-Reflection

Self-reflection is crucial for any serious MBA applicant. Spend an hour or two in a quiet place, free from distractions, and consider the following questions:

1. What would I really love to be doing 10 or 20 years from today?

Dream big and paint a detailed picture of your ideal future. This is your opportunity to envision your long-term career and personal goals without limitations.

2. What have I learned so far that makes achieving this vision possible?

Conduct a candid self-inventory of your personal, academic, and professional experiences. Identify the skills and knowledge you have gained that will help you reach your long-term goals.

3. What knowledge, perspective, and relationships do I need to achieve my vision?

Recognize the gaps and obstacles that stand between you and your goals. Determine what additional learning, perspectives, or connections are necessary to bridge these gaps.

4. What strengths do I have that could help others fulfill their highest potential?

Think about the value you can offer to those around you. Consider how you can contribute to the success of others and the impact you can make on your community or industry.

Answering these questions will provide a solid foundation for your MBA admissions campaign, giving actionable direction to your resume, application, essays, recommendations, and interviews.

Building a Strong Candidacy

Before you start writing your essays, it’s essential to analyze and optimize your candidacy so you can write essays that are clear and concise. To do this, reflect on the following:

1. Major Accomplishments and Strengths:

Identify the major accomplishments and strengths of your professional, academic, and personal history. Highlight what makes these achievements distinctive and impactful.

2. Mistakes, Limitations, and Vulnerabilities:

Acknowledge the mistakes, limitations, and vulnerabilities that might hinder your candidacy. Understand the circumstances behind these limitations and consider how you can address or mitigate them.

3. Post-MBA Career Goals:

Define clear and convincing post-MBA career goals. Explain how these goals align with your past experiences and how an MBA will help you achieve them.

4. School-Specific Values:

Research what your targeted schools value most in applicants. Identify how your candidacy aligns with these values and what you can do to bridge any gaps.

5. Action Plan:

Develop an action plan to leverage your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses before submitting your application. This might include gaining additional experience, improving test scores, or engaging in relevant activities.

Comprehensive Self-Awareness

Understanding your academic, professional, and personal facets is critical for presenting a compelling MBA application. Reflecting on your academic choices, evaluate why you selected your college and major and how your academic background supports your MBA aspirations. Consider your GPA and GMAT or GRE scores; if these are below average for your target schools, plan to retake tests or take additional coursework to demonstrate your academic abilities. Identify any academic areas you fear or feel unprepared for and develop a plan to address these concerns, such as taking preparatory courses or seeking tutoring.

Next, evaluate your professional experiences. Reflect on why you joined your current employer and your career progression. Identify what you like and dislike about your job and what you have learned. Highlight your contributions and initiatives at work, showcasing how you have added value to your organization and demonstrated leadership. Assess your needs for additional knowledge, perspective, or relationships and determine how an MBA can help fulfill these needs and advance your career.

Lastly, consider your personal attributes and values. Identify your core values and how you live them daily. Reflect on how these values align with the culture of your target business schools. Think about how your closest friends would describe you and use these insights to highlight your unique qualities and strengths in your application. Determine what unique experiences, skills, or perspectives you bring to a business school and show how you can contribute to the diversity and richness of the MBA program.

Five Key Attributes for MBA Admission

Achieving admission to leading MBA programs requires demonstrating specific attributes that admissions committees seek. Once you have a clear understanding of your academic, professional, and personal self-awareness, you can effectively showcase these five key attributes:

1. Self-Awareness:

Present a clear understanding of who you are, your values, and your aspirations through your essays and interviews. Demonstrating self-awareness shows that you have a strong grasp of your identity and direction.

2. Passion:

Show genuine enthusiasm and excitement about your goals and experiences. Highlight what drives you and makes you eager to learn and grow. Passionate candidates are often seen as more committed and motivated.

3. Competence:

Prove your academic and professional competence. Ensure your GPA, test scores, and achievements reflect your ability to succeed in an MBA program. Competence is essential for demonstrating that you can handle the rigorous coursework and contribute to class discussions.

4. Contribution:

Demonstrate your ability to contribute to your community and the MBA program. Highlight your collaborative experiences and how you have positively impacted others. Business schools seek candidates who will enrich the learning environment and add value to their peers.

5. Potential:

Show your potential to lead and make a significant impact in the future. Describe a positive trajectory in your career and personal growth that suggests future success. Admissions committees look for candidates who will become influential leaders and make meaningful contributions to society.


By focusing on self-reflection, candidacy building, and thorough preparation, you can create a compelling MBA application that maximizes your chances of admission. Addressing these critical areas before you start writing your application materials will help you present a strong, well-rounded candidacy that appeals to admissions committees. If you need further guidance, consider seeking help from a professional admissions consultant to navigate the process effectively.