Deciding which MBA program is for you is the most important step. Take your time over it and get it right. You might be applying to more than one program, but don't be tempted to rush it.

Procedures for applying to an MBA program vary and so does the terminology. However these are the common aspects. You may not require all of them in all situations. These are our tips.

The Application Form

Your form should be clear, complete and neat. When read quickly by someone who does not know you, it should give a clear picture of you

  • Spend sufficient time and do the job properly. This is the first hurdle. Most people fall here.
  • Photocopy the blank form several times and fill out several drafts before you fill out the copy to submit. Get someone to look at your drafts, preferably someone who doesn't know you too well and who can therefore see the document as an admissions person in the school might see it.
  • If you are applying to a school in another country, remember that you might not get an interview, so the application documents are particularly important.
  • If the application form refers to interviews and you are in another country, offer to be interviewed by telephone and/or by a local alumnus of the school.

The Resume, or CV

If a separate personal resume or CV is required, it should:

  • Be concise and neat (not handwritten).
  • Present you clearly to someone who does not know yo.
  • Be specific, saying what you have done, learned and accomplished.
  • Show evidence of your managerial and leadership skills.
  • Show evidence that you are a good 'group worker' as most programs will need you to work in this way.
  • Highlight specific skills and abilities that will differentiate you from others and make you stand out from the crowd.
  • Include some things which might become topics in an interview.
  • Remember to spend time on your resume, and make it show. The school will want to see that you are taking them seriously.

The Essay

If it is about you, it should do all the things which are listed above for the resume, but it is also a test of your writing ability, it should also:

  • Be well structured and logical (check spelling and syntax. Get someone to read it before you use it).
  • Present your strengths, but recognize your weaknesses, and say how doing the program is intended to address them.
  • Indicate what you would bring to the program - i.e. how you would be an asset to it, and subsequently to the school as an alumnus.
  • Express your views and opinions.
  • Address all the specific topics requested or suggested by the school. Make a check-list and make sure you cover all items, preferably in the order the school presented them.
  • Follow the school's requirements as regards to line spacing, margins, etc., and especially any word limit.
  • Don't use mass produced essays.

Letters of Recommendation/References

Take care to pick the right people to comment about you:

  • Choose people who know you and who like you.
  • Choose people in business or education, with job titles which will be recognized by the school.
  • Ask them before and thank them afterwards (preferably when you have the result of the application).
  • Brief them, but don't tell them what to write. Speak to or meet with them, give them a copy of your completed application form, resume, and essays.
  • Tell them their input is important and not just a formality.
  • Choose people who have, and will give, the time to do a good job and not just tick the boxes and write no comments.

The Tests

You will probably be required to take tests like GMAT and TOEFL. Be sure to:

  • Practice beforehand. Note that there are organizations which offer coaching and tuition.
  • If you are required to do personality tests, it will usually be at the time of the interview. You cannot prepare for them in the sense of getting the right answers. In fact you probably will not know what test will be used, but you can try to do some tests before just to get the feel of them. University Careers officers, and careers guidance organizations normally have tests that you might be able to take, or you might get a book of personality and aptitude tests to try out.
  • Remember the normal test/exam guidance, which is pacing yourself, and trying to complete the full test.
  • Schools which use tests attach a lot of importance to them and so should you. Tests (especially GMAT) are a convenient filter for them to reduce a very large number of applicants to a smaller group for closer scrutiny.
  • You may get some group tests at the time of the interview. You will be given a task and observed. The school will want to see balanced behavior, such as your ability to lead, take decisions and form opinion, as well as to listen to, support and encourage others.

The Interview

If you get this far, you are shortlisted. It is the critical stage. Think about it before. Get prepared.

  • Think about some of the questions you might be asked and consider how you would answer them, but don't try to memorize answers. They won't seem natural, and you may forget the words.
  • The interviewer wants to see what you are like. They do not want an act. They will be trying to decide whether you would 'fit' the program and what you would contribute.
  • Dress smartly
  • Aim to get there a bit earlier. You might then be able to look around if it is at the school.
  • Show that you have done your homework, meaning you have gathered information on the school and the program. You need to know quite a lot about the school and the program. You might get asked questions just to see how seriously you have gone about the application. Have a file of newspaper cuttings, prospectus, etc., but don't spread it out on the table!
  • When at the end you are asked if you have any questions, don't pull out a long list! Have one or two (at most) good questions on things which are not in the prospectus.
  • Don't behave/question/discuss as if you expected to be accepted. Don't talk about 'we' when you refer to the program.
  • Know about the cost/fees/funding issues. The interview is not the time to get into details. The interviewer is not there to help you solve your financial problems. Make it clear that you understand all the costs.
  • Remember the key questions: Why do you want to do this MBA? Why do you want to do it now?

Funding and Scholarships

MBA programs are expensive. You will want to be sure that you can afford it, and the School to which you apply will want to be sure also:

  • Make sure you know all the cost implications. The fees are just a part of what it will cost you. If you need a grant or scholarship, start looking early.
  • Notice that there are sources of scholarship info in reference books and other resources.
  • Some schools will have scholarship or financial assistance schemes. Get all the details before you get too far into the application process.
  • If you are dependent on financial assistance, it may well influence what places you can apply to. Schemes in your own country may only apply to certain other countries, and schemes from the schools may be restricted to particular types of candidate. Sorting all this out can take a lot of time, so start early.

Republished with permission from The MBA Program Information Site (, a comprehensive source of information on MBA programs.