MBA Preparation

How to Impress MBA Admissions Committees

January 19 2024 By The MBA Exchange
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Your Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) application doesn’t sail off into the void after you complete it and hit submit. It goes straight to the members of an MBA admissions committee. These committee members hold your future in their hands while they consider your application materials. You want to make sure your application will impress and cause doors to open for you. Those admissions committee members are your audience, and you need their applause.

At The MBA Exchange, we understand all sides of this situation. We’ve helped thousands of successful applicants to refine, hone and polish top-notch application materials. Additionally, our team hosts a number of former admissions committee members from top schools like Harvard, Wharton, MIT Sloan, Columbia, Kellogg, and Booth who can report back from inside the room where it happens, offering you key insights to impress any MBA or college admission committee.

What is an Admissions Committee?

An MBA admissions committee is a group that considers your application materials to make a judgment on whether you’re a good match for their program. Members of an admissions committee may include admissions staff, educators, second-year students, or even alumni interviewers, although the latter aren’t typically involved in admissions decisions. These committee members are the intended audience for your application materials, the people you have to impress to gain admittance to your target MBA programs.

MBA admissions committees want to see every aspect of your personality, background, and achievements. That’s why a well-rounded MBA application is essential to admissions success. In order to impress an MBA admissions committee, you need genuinely impressive accomplishments, well-presented to maximize impact.

Components of an MBA Application

The different components of your MBA application create opportunities to impress admissions committees with your various strengths. A typical MBA application contains:

  • College transcripts and GPA
  • Score reports from standardized tests like the GMAT™ or GRE®
  • A resume prepared for MBA admissions (not job-hunting!)
  • Recommendations
  • Essays and short answer questions

Once the admissions committee has reviewed these materials – if you’re lucky! – you’ll receive your invitation to interview for admission, one of the most important parts of sealing the deal.

Work on Your Resume!

Don’t think that the resume you use to apply for jobs can just be repurposed for your MBA applications! The ideal resume to impress MBA admissions committees highlights your accomplishments, including lots of specific, concrete, and, ideally, quantified information on your leadership experience and potential.

Dos of Impressing the MBA Admissions Committee with Your Resume:

  • Add concrete information about your professional contributions, including metrics like revenue earned. Quantifiable achievements get attention from admissions committees.
  • Document a long-standing habit of leadership in your resume, pointing out all of the leadership opportunities you’ve taken over the course of your career. Include community service and leadership experience.

Don’ts of Impressing the MBA Admissions Committee with Your Resume:

  • Don’t leave out essential information crucial to understanding your background.
  • Don’t let your resume get too long or visually fussy. Aim for one page with a simple, easy-to-read layout.
  • Don’t skip optimizing your resume for your MBA applications. Craft a strong first impression with your resume.

Don’t Settle for a Low or Just Average GMAT Score

Your test scores, GMAT and GRE, are still one of the most essential components of your application package. Your target schools may accept a GRE score rather than requiring a GMAT score. Some applicants find that the GRE better shows off their strengths. If you’ve taken the GMAT and scored average-to-low, don’t settle for that unimpressive score. The MBA Exchange team provides expert GMAT and test preparation services, including unique GMAT preparation resources. To really impress MBA admissions committees, shoot to score a 730 or above on the GMAT.

Impressing at Events Conducted by MBA Admissions Committees

Your target business school hosts events where you can interact with the MBA admissions committee personnel and make a favorable impression. These events could be Q&As, forums, meet-and-greets, or even coffee chats, and you can find events both in-person and online.

Dos of Impressing Admissions Committee Members During Events:

  • Do your research before attending these events. Prepare a few good, solid questions that you can ask, getting information and bringing yourself to notice at the same time.
  • Keep your people skills on point, with plenty of active listening and lots of politeness.
  • Keep track of what you learn during the event. Use pertinent details to more perfectly tailor application materials like your essays to hit exactly the notes that your target program’s admissions committee is looking for.

Don’ts of Impressing Admissions Committee Members During Events:

  • Avoid dominating a session selfishly. Show a team spirit.
  • Don’t ask about your admissions chances directly. It’s socially inappropriate and may come off as rude.

Six Key Questions on the Minds of MBA Admissions Committees

As admissions officers from top business schools review the well-crafted applications of eager MBA candidates, here are six key questions that race through their minds:

Will this MBA applicant succeed and contribute in the classroom?

  • Admissions committees need to feel confident that the applicant can handle the curriculum and help classmates learn. They scrutinize undergrad GPA, major and alma mater, GMAT or GRE scores, and professional duties and accomplishments.

Will this applicant respect and enhance the core values of the MBA community?

  • Admissions officers look for evidence of ethical behavior and sensitivity to the school’s values, assessing resumes, recommendations, and essays for insights on the applicant’s integrity.

Will this applicant benefit from and add to the diversity of the incoming class?

  • Business schools strive for inclusivity and consider applicants’ industry, nationality, race, gender, sexual orientation, undergraduate credentials, and work experience. They look for candidates who celebrate and grow from diverse interactions.

Will this applicant achieve success in their post-MBA career?

  • Admissions committees seek applicants whose career goals are relevant to their past/present experience and attainable after completing an MBA. They want individuals who will make a visible difference in industry and society.

Will this applicant build lasting, reciprocal relationships with classmates?

  • Admissions committees prefer candidates who have shown effectiveness and passion for teamwork, as demonstrated through organizational involvement that fosters cooperation.

Will this applicant become an active alumnus who gives back?

  • Admissions committees look for candidates who appreciate the value of the alumni network and show evidence of service to past alma maters.

Interacting with the MBA Admissions Committee: What Not to Do

Any time you get to talk to an MBA admissions committee member, whether in an interview or over the phone, you need to be prepared and professional. Annoying an admissions committee member can significantly harm your chances of acceptance. These are the people you want to impress, not turn off! To avoid damaging your chances, here are three things you should never say to an MBA admissions committee:

Is my GPA high enough?

  • Asking for this kind of validation can come off as insecure. If you’re aiming for a top MBA program with a low GPA, you need to have a strategy to counterbalance that weakness with other strengths.

Do I need to retake the GMAT?

  • This is a decision you need to make on your own. Figure out the test scores required for your target programs and plan accordingly. Consulting with an expert can help you determine the best course of action.

What do you look for when doing a background check?

  • Background verification can be a stressful part of the application process, but showing anxiety about it to an admissions committee is not advisable. Instead, check in with an admissions consultant to address any concerns.

Additionally, here are a few more things to avoid during interviews, phone calls, or any interactions with admissions committee members:

  • Not answering the question: Admissions committees ask specific questions for a reason and expect direct answers. Avoid talking around awkward topics, as it only makes them more noticeable.
  • Asking about your chances of admission: Both you and the admissions committee know why you’re there – to get into a top MBA program. Discussing your chances directly can make you seem unpolished or needy. In the business world, it’s important to play the game without revealing your entire hand.
  • Contacting the admissions committee all the time: It’s important to show interest, but no one likes a nag. Only contact admissions committee members strategically to avoid becoming an annoyance.
  • Pushing for feedback: While it’s tempting to seek direct feedback or assessments of your profile, it’s better to work with an experienced MBA admissions consultant for this. If you need to figure out what went wrong with a failed application and approach upcoming deadlines, an admissions consultant is your best resource.

Final Thoughts

As an MBA applicant striving to succeed, you can either hope that your application answers these questions convincingly or verify this in advance by having an admissions expert provide a critical review. By following these tips and strategies, you can optimize your MBA candidacy and impress the admissions committee, increasing your chances of securing a spot in your desired program.