If you are considering how to make a great MBA application then it is likely that you have been out of education for at least a couple of years and are now looking for your next challenge.
Putting together a great application can be daunting, even after you have read all of the application instructions on our website. You may be considering attending one of our upcoming information sessions or admissions days, so I’ve put together some top tips to help you ensure that you get the most out of the process.
Create an MBA timeline
- What are the deadlines and differing requirements of your target schools?
- What does each school require in terms of GMAT, English?
- Do your target schools require those upfront, or will they make conditional offers?
- GMAT study time – the average applicant is said to spend 100 hours on study time. How are you going to fit this in, and over what period?
- Are there any additional requirements you need to consider e.g. submitting an essay?
- Any other requirements, e.g. at Imperial, we also require a video pitch.
One size doesn’t fit all
At recruitment events I often get asked ‘What does the ideal candidate look like?’ and ‘How do you weight each of the admissions criteria?’ There is no ‘one size fits all’ answer to these questions. We do look for leadership potential, motivation, and a fit with our collaborative and innovation-focused culture, but this comes in many forms.
What do we mean by ‘diversity’?
It’s well known that MBA programmes value diversity, but this is often thought of in terms of nationality and perhaps gender. We do value this at Imperial, we are proud of our nationality spread and that our programme is 49% comprised of women, and it’s even more important when you seek to foster an innovation-led environment.
But it’s wider than that – aspects that some MBA applicants fear makes their application weaker; because they are not the ‘typical MBA profile’, are other dimensions of diversity. The younger student (provided they meet core entry requirements) – brings a slightly different outlook, as does a student with an Arts academic background, or someone with Not-for-Profit sector work experience. Provided you bring the motivation to make the most out of the MBA, and the confidence to interact and contribute to the experience, then you can be an asset to our cohort.
Engage with us
It surprises me that many people are prepared to invest so much in their education, with minimal interaction with the recruitment team.
We are there to help and advise. You can request a personal consultation for example. This can help you with fine-tuning your application, but also to assess whether our MBA (or indeed any MBA) is the right one for you. A good MBA Admissions Advisor should not be afraid to recommend another institution, or another qualification altogether. It is not in our long-term interest to convince you to enter into an ill-fitting programme.
A great way of getting to know more about the university is to attend an information sesssion or admissions day. At Imperial College Business School we run on campus and online events throughout the year to give you the chance to connect with us and our current students throughout your MBA journey.
Do we ‘fit’ you?
You should be assessing our ethos and values with as much consideration as we are assessing you. Try to visit the campus if you possibly can. Here you can experience a class*, speak to students and/or alumni, and get a feel for what it’s like to be a student of Imperial College Business School so you can make a fully informed decision.
If you can’t visit campus, I strongly recommend availing yourself of the opportunity to speak with an alumnus – we will do our best to match important aspects your profile – be that nationality, sector background or desired post-MBA outcome.
* This is subject to pre-screening of your CV.
Tell us your story
What really makes you stand out is your story, what you’ve achieved and plan achieve with your MBA experience under your belt.
Be engaging yet relevant. The entry requirements are the base line. Be yourself – don’t try and be what you think we want to see and hear. We have added the video pitch to our application process to tackle this in a new way.
Do your research. We’re not simply looking for you to tell us how good our reputation and rankings are, but why have you chosen Imperial out of the many MBA programmes out there, as (one of) the school(s) for you?
We know the features of our programme, but what really appeals to and excites you about the prospect of joining our next cohort?
This will demonstrate the depth of your research into your understanding of why an MBA really is the right next step in your career, and will also help us assess the really important ‘fit’ that has been previously mentioned.
Share your sources
How did you discover Imperial College Business School? Did someone recommend our programme to you? What drew you to our programme in particular?
Understanding what drew you to apply for our MBA programmes will always go down well with me – you are helping me to do my job well – to understand how best to reach candidates and meet their needs during the admissions journey.
Explaining what you’ve done to research the School also demonstrates the effort you have made and adds credibility to any statements you have made relating to passion for the programme and Business School.
But I don’t know exactly what I want to do … isn’t that what an MBA is for?
We know that most candidates haven’t firmly and finally decided on a single career path for them. However, we are experienced in assessing the difference between those who are undecided and exploring options with those who are totally lost. You probably have an idea of the two or three paths you may want to follow. A sensible explanation of such a path (or two) will demonstrate your approach and research – and separate you from those applicants who really don’t know at all.
Talk to your referees early and prepare them, where possible.
Whilst your current, direct supervisor should certainly be on your short list of possible references, do think carefully about the consequences of this if you are consulting direct line manager. We understand the potential pitfalls with asking direct line managers to provide references for academic study, and especially why you might not want to contact them early.
A senior referee of course carries some clout, but try to balance this with direct knowledge of your contribution to the organisation and choose your most enthusiastic advocates. Try also to identify a referee who is “pro-MBA” and believes in the value of an MBA.
We are not trying to catch you out or put you through an unpleasant grilling. We want to bring out the best in you, after all. But this friendly approach should not be mistaken for encouragement to lower your guard or be casual.
Treat it professionally. Although ‘one size doesn’t fit all’, and the interview will not be probing for a specific job description match as a job interview would, there is no reason to treat it in a less professional manner. Preparation, practice, good listening skills and finding the right tone are all essential.
Practice ‘out loud’. You may be a seasoned interviewee. But if not, or you are modest when talking about your strengths, it can be very helpful to practice this out loud with a friend or colleague.
And, don’t forget that the interview is a two-way process. This is your chance to find out more about us. It’s a great opportunity for you to get a senior academic’s ‘take’ on the Business School. Of course; an intelligent question or two can also add to the overall impression you make.
When discussing your achievements – be specific, not vague and general. If you raised revenue, mention by how much. Be explicit about time frames if you completed a project on time. I also find that it can be difficult to separate some candidates’ personal achievements from the wider organisational achievements. In the worst cases it can look like gross exaggeration, so do think carefully about how you express this.