Applying for an MBA Program

Depending on where you choose to apply, the application process for online MBA programs can take anywhere from 3 to 8 months.


Below is a list of the application materials that are most commonly asked for by MBA programs. It is important to note that each school sets its own application and admission requirements. You should check with the schools you are interested in to see exactly what you must submit.


In order for you to apply to and enroll in an MBA program, you must have a bachelors degree from an accredited school. However, your undergraduate degree does not have to be in business. Many MBA programs accept students with a variety of educational backgrounds.

You will also be asked to submit transcripts from your undergraduate and any graduate schools that you have attended. Transcripts are not only records of the classes that you have taken and the grades you received in them, but are also the proof that you finished your bachelors degree program.

Business schools will ask you to submit your transcripts in 1 of several ways. Some schools require official versions of your transcripts to be sent by the registrars’ offices at your former schools when you first apply. This is to ensure that no 1 tampers with your academic records. Other schools might ask you to scan and upload an unofficial copy of your transcript to your online application. If the school accepts you, then they will ask for official transcripts to authenticate your unofficial transcripts.


In an MBA program, you will frequently work with numerical data and use mathematical equations. Therefore admissions committees usually want to see evidence of your math proficiency to make sure that you will be able to handle this kind of quantitative analysis. They usually determine this by examining your advanced math and science courses on your transcripts as well as the math score on your GMAT or GRE. If neither 1 of these is satisfactory, you might be asked to enroll in an additional remedial math class before you begin the MBA program. You should contact the schools that you are applying to if you have questions about their quantitative proficiency requirements.


Many students who apply to MBA programs speak English as a second language. These students usually have to demonstrate their ability to speak and write English before they begin their academic programs. If English is your first language, you do not need to worry about proving your language proficiency. And if English is your second language but you earned your undergraduate degree from an American or other English-speaking school, you will most likely not need to demonstrate your ability to use the English language.

If you do not fall into any of the above categories, you must take an English proficiency test. The most commonly accepted exam is the Test of English as a Foreign Language TOEFL. The TOEFL now offers an Internet-based test that is designed to test your ability to understand and communicate in English at the college level. Schools have different minimum TOEFL scores, so you should be sure to check with each of the schools that you are applying to.


Although most MBA programs are designed for students who have a wide range of professional experience, admissions committees still like to see each student’s resume. These committees look at volunteer and extracurricular activities as well as business experience. Applicant resumes help them to assess how well students can convey their thoughts and ideas as well as what kind of contributions they can make to the program and to their fellow classmates.



Most MBA programs ask you for 2 or 3 letters of recommendation from previous instructors or employers. These references give admissions committees the opportunity to see you from the perspective of those who know you from a professional or academic settings. Your letters of recommendation do not have to be from professors. They can also come from supervisors, coworkers, employers or volunteer coordinators.


Asking for letters of recommendation is not a difficult process, but it can be stressful if you have never done it before. Below are some tips to help you with your reference requests:

  • Choose references who know you well rather than references who have well recognized names or important positions.
  • Ask your references to write their letters as early as possible. This is especially true if your references are professors because they often receive many requests for letters of recommendation each semester.
  • Give your references copies of your transcripts, personal statements and information about the programs to which you are applying. This will help them discuss your skills and qualities in relation to the academic programs.
  • If the schools that you are applying to ask for physical rather than electronic copies of these letters, be sure to prepare envelopes for your recommenders with the addresses and postage already affixed.
  • Be sure to say thank you. Remember that your references are not required to write letters of recommendation for you.

Letters from Undergraduate Professors

Although you can ask anyone for a letter of recommendation, undergraduate professors are a good place to start because they can discuss your academic abilities. Before you decide to ask 1 of your undergraduate professors to write you a letter of recommendation, remember that it is best to ask a professor who has had you in a small discussion course such as an upper-level seminar. And remember that undergraduate professors have many responsibilities and are often extremely busy. The more prepared you are and the earlier you ask, the more likely it is that your former professors will agree to write you a letter of recommendation.


Most MBA programs require applicants to take an entrance exam when they apply for school. The 2 primary entrance exams that business schools accept are the Graduate Management Admission Test, or the GMAT and the Graduate Record Exam, or the GRE. Some schools prefer 1 exam over the other while other schools accept both. Be sure that you take the entrance exams that are requested by the schools that you are applying to.


General Information

The GMAT is 1 of the standardized exams that is accepted by most MBA programs. This test has a Verbal, Quantitative, Analytical Writing and Integrated Reasoning sections.

As an adaptive computer-based test, the GMAT adjusts the difficulty of each question based on how you answerer the previous question. If you answer a question correctly, the next question will be more difficult. However, if you answer a question incorrectly, the following question will be easier. Adaptive computer-based tests are meant to shorten the amount of time it takes you to finish a test as well as provide a more accurate assessment of your abilities.

You can register and sit for the GMAT any day of the year. However, testing schedules fill up quickly, so you should register for the test as early as you can. No matter where you live, the fee for the GMAT is $250. If you would like to change the date or location of the test, there is an additional fee of $50 if your request is made more than 7 calendar days before the scheduled test date. If you request to change the date or location of the your test within 7 calendar days of your scheduled exam, you must pay the full $250.

Verbal Section

There are 41 multiple-choice questions in the GMAT Verbal Section and you have 75 minutes to complete them. There are 3 different types of questions in this section:

  • Critical reasoning
  • Reading comprehension
  • Sentence corrections

The critical reasoning questions test you on your ability to:

  • Understand how an argument is constructed.
  • Evaluate an argument successfully.
  • Evaluate and formulate a plan of action.

The reading comprehension questions test you on your ability to:

  • Understand the meaning of words and statements.
  • Comprehend the logical relationships between points and concepts.
  • Draw inferences from the facts and statements given in the reading passages.
  • Follow and comprehend quantitative ideas that are given verbally.

The sentence completion questions test you on your ability to:

  • Produce correct expressions.
  • Effectively produce expressions

Quantitative Section

There are 37 multiple-choice questions in the GMAT’s Quantitative Section. These questions test your knowledge of arithmetic, elementary algebra and common geometric concepts. Like the Verbal Section, you have 75 minutes to complete all questions. There are 2 types of questions in the quantitative section:

  • Problem solving
  • Data sufficiency

The problem solving questions test your ability to:

  • Correctly use basic math and elementary math concepts.
  • Use quantitative reasoning to solve quantitative problems.

The data sufficiency questions test your ability to:

  • Determine what information, if any, is relevant to a specific problem.
  • Analyze quantitative problems.
  • Find the point at which you have enough information to solve the problem.

It is important to note that the data sufficiency questions on the GMAT are set up differently than most other standardized test questions. This type of problem includes several pieces of information and 2 statements. You are then asked if you can solve the problem with the information that you are given. The answer choices to these questions are the same for every question. They are:

  • Statement (1) alone is sufficient, but statement (2) is not sufficient.
  • Statement (2) alone is sufficient, but statement (1) is not sufficient.
  • Both statements together are sufficient, but neither statement alone is sufficient.
  • Each statement alone is sufficient.
  • Statements (1) and (2) together are not sufficient.

Analytical Writing Assessment

In the Analytical Writing Assessment section, you have 30 minutes to clearly and effectively respond to 1 essay prompt. Your prompt will ask you to either:

  • Analyze an issue.
  • Analyze an argument.

If you are given a prompt that asks you to analyze an issue, you should explore various aspects of the issue, including facts as well as your own opinion if you wish. When the prompt asks you to analyze an argument, you should not include your own opinion in your response. However, you should discuss the reasoning behind the argument and then objectively analyze it.

Integrated Reasoning

There are 12 questions in the GMAT’s Integrated Reasoning section. The questions in this section evaluate your ability to review, understand and critique information that is presented in multiple formats, from multiple sources. You have 30 minutes to complete all of the questions, and there are there are 4 different types of questions:

  • Graphic interpretation: you are asked to interpret graphs and then choose answers from a drop-down list in order to make a statement accurate.
  • Multi-source reasoning: you are given a question and different pieces of data, and you must determine which information is needed to correctly answer a question.
  • Table analysis: you are asked to organize data in a table and determine if certain questions can be answered based on this data. Answers are opposing statements (yes or no, true or false, inferable or not inferable) and you must select just 1.
  • Two-part analysis: you must choose 1 answer from 2 columns in order to solve a problem with a 2-part solution.


After you take the GMAT you will receive several different scores. One is a comprehensive score that is based on the scores of the individual sections and ranges from 200 to 800. About two-thirds of all test takers score between 400 and 600. Each section has its own score. The Verbal, Quantitative and Integrated Reasoning sections have scores that range between 0 and 60. The Analytical Writing Assessment section has scores ranging from 0 to 6 in half-point increments.

In addition to the section and comprehensive scores, you will also be given a percentile ranking for the individual sections and for the test as a whole. These assess your scores in comparison with the scores of other test takers. For example, if you rank in the 87th percentile that means that you have done better than 87% of the other test takers.


You have several options when it comes to preparing for the GMAT. If you prefer to study on your own, you can review the free test preparation software that is available on the GMAT website. You can also find a variety of GMAT preparation books at local bookstores and libraries.

If you prefer to have professional help when you prepare for the test, you can find test preparation courses from for-profit education companies like Kaplan and Princeton Review. They will review each section of the GMAT and teach you strategies to answer each kind of question. Community colleges and universities also sometimes offer similar test preparation courses at a lower price.


General Information

The GRE General Test was redesigned in 2011 and retitled the GRE Revised General Test. The GRE Revised General Test still has Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Analytic Writing sections. However some of the question formats in the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections have been redesigned to better reflect the kind of thinking and problem solving that you must do as a graduate student. In addition to a redesigned test format, the scoring rubric has also been revised.

Most schools accept GRE scores that are less than 5 years old. However, since the introduction of the GRE Revised General Test, these schools may require you to take the newer version even if you have taken the older version within the last 5 years.

You can take the GRE Revised General Test up to 5 times per calendar year or once every 60 days. If you take the GRE in the U.S. or its territories, the registration fee is $160. If you take the exam outside of the U.S., the registration fee is $190 U.S. Late registration costs an additional $25, and there is also a $50 fee to change the location or date of the test after you have already registered.

There are 2 ways that you can register for the GRE. If you would like to request disability accommodations for the exam, you must have the accommodations approved before you actually register for the test. If you do not need to request special accommodations, you can register for the GRE Revised General Test online.

Verbal Reasoning

The Verbal Reasoning Section of the GRE Revised General Test assesses your ability to analyze and extract information from various written materials. This section uses the new multiple-choice question format where you will be asked to choose ALL of the correct answers rather than 1 correct answer. The Verbal Reasoning Section includes 3 different types of questions:

  • Text completion
  • Sentence equivalence
  • Reading comprehension

Quantitative Reasoning

The Quantitative Reasoning Section of the GRE Revised General Test assesses your ability use basic mathematical skills and concepts, to reason quantitatively and to solve problems using quantitative methods. In the new version of the test, you must remember to read the questions carefully and choose ALL of the correct answers instead of only 1 correct answer. The Quantitative Reasoning Section covers 4 major mathematical topics:

  • Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Arithmetic
  • Data analysis

Analytical Writing

The Analytical Writing Section is the only section of the revised test that has not been changed from the original format. In this section, you will be tested on your ability to think critically, write analytically, discuss complex ideas and support these ideas with relevant information. For the Analytical Writing section, you will be given 2 general types of essay prompts:

  • Analyze an argument.
  • Analyze an issue.


Along with the changes made to the GRE Revised General Test, the scoring rubric for the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning sections was also changed. These 2 sections are now scored on a scale from 130 to 170 in 1-point increments. The Analytical Writing Section continues to be scored independently from the other 2 sections. Your essays will be scored on a scale of 0 to 6 in half-point increments.

If you took the older GRE General Test and wonder what your scores would be in the grading guidelines, the company that creates the GRE tests offers an online conversion chart that lets you translate your old scores into the new format.

Different schools tend to have different requirements for GRE scores, so it is hard to determine what makes a good score. If you want a better idea of how your section scores compare with the scores of other GRE test takers, here are the average scores from 2007 to 2010:

  • Verbal: 456 (GRE Revised General Test converted score: 151)
  • Quantitative: 590 (GRE Revised General Test converted score: 159)
  • Writing: 3.8


There are numerous ways for you to prepare for the GRE Revised General Test. If you prefer to study independently, you can use the preparation materials on the ETS website. You can also find test preparation books at your local bookstore or library. Just make sure that you choose books that are designed for the GRE Revised General Test.

If you prefer a more structured approach to test preparation, you can sign up for a test preparation classes that will teach you strategies for approaching each section and type of question. Companies like Kaplan and Princeton Review offer group classes and individual lessons. Many community colleges and universities also offer GRE preparation classes at a lower cost.


General Information

Most MBA programs will ask you to write an essay or a personal statement as part of your application. A personal essay is a way for you to introduce yourself to an admissions committee and discuss what you want to learn in the program as well as what you plan to do with your MBA. Admissions committees also use your essays to make sure that you can clearly communicate your thoughts and ideas in writing.

Admissions committees look for applicants who have thought through their decision to return to school and know what an MBA degree will mean for their careers and futures.


Keep in mind the following the tips when you sit down to write your personal essays for your MBA applications:

  • If you are given a specific question, be sure to answer it. Even if you are a good writer, the admissions committee may view your essay negatively if you fail directly answer their essay questions.
  • Be honest about yourself. You do not need to exaggerate or invent your accomplishments or experiences. Admissions committees look for people who have the potential to succeed and to contribute to class dynamic.
  • Avoid generalizations and vague statements. Be sure to give specific examples when you discuss your thoughts about the school, the MBA program and your future plans.


Some admissions committees might invite you to interview with them for a place in their MBA program. An interview is yet another opportunity for you to introduce yourself to the admissions committees. You should practice for the interview, but you should not be overly prepared. Your answers should be like a natural discussion rather than scripted.


Depending on how much time you plan to spend on school research and test preparation, the application process for MBA programs can take anywhere from 1 to 8 months. It is possible to apply in about 1 month, but the more time you give yourself, the better. The deadlines for most MBA programs are in December or January, but you should check with the schools you are applying to in order to verify the exact application deadline for each school.


With 6 to 8 months before an application is due, you should research the schools and programs you are interested in and then narrow the list down to a manageable number.

If you have not yet taken the GRE or the GMAT, start thinking about preparation and registration dates for the tests that you need to take. It is not necessary for you to take the exam this far in advance of the application deadlines, but you should remember that testing spots can fill up quickly.


If you think you need financial aid to pay for your MBA or you want to be considered for institutional scholarships, you should go ahead and fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). While it is important to complete the FAFSA as early as possible, you cannot fill it out until you have filed your tax returns for the previous year.

You should also start to research other funding opportunities such as scholarships and fellowships. The U.S. Department of Education provides a number of tips and search tools to help you find scholarships and grants that you are eligible for.

If you have not already done so, you should begin to fill out the actual MBA applications and start writing your personal statements. Decide who you would like to write your letters of recommendation and begin to gather the information and writing samples that your recommenders will need.


With about 4 months before your applications are due, you should go ahead and order your transcripts from your undergraduate institution and any other postsecondary school that you have attended. Be prepared to pay a fee for each transcript. Not all schools charge their alumni for this service, but many do. It usually does not take long for the transcripts to be sent out, but they can sometimes get lost in the mail. It is better to order them early enough so that you can order them again if you need to.

At this point, you should also ask your references to write your letters of recommendation. You can also start to ask friends, family and former professors to look over your personal statements or application essays.


About 3 months before your applications are due, you should revise your personal statements and application essays until you have a final version that you are satisfied with. You should also begin to apply for the funding opportunities that interest you. Be aware that some of these may require additional essays. You should confirm with the schools where you are applying that your transcripts have arrived. You should also confirm with your references that they are aware of the due dates for their letters of recommendation.


In the 2 months before the applications are due, you should review all of your applications packages to make sure that each school has received your letters of recommendation and transcripts. If you finish your applications and are comfortable with them, you can submit the applications along with the application fees.


If you have not already submitted your applications, you should spend the last month before the final application deadlines revising your applications, and then submit them with the accompanying fees.


Business school admissions committees look for students who demonstrate initiative and leadership and who have realistic ideas about their careers. The committees may find these qualities in application materials like your personal statement, your letters of recommendation and your resume. Additionally, admissions committees generally try to create a diverse group of students who have different strengths and can contribute different knowledge and experiences to classroom discussions.

What Happens After Application Submission


There are a number of things for you to think about once you have submitted your applications for MBA programs online.


One of the first thoughts that you might have after you submit your application for an MBA online program is how long will it take for you to hear back from the schools. The fact is that every school takes a different amount of time to get back to you. You should be prepared to wait anywhere from several weeks to several months.

If you apply to brick-and-mortar schools, it may take longer for you to hear back about your application than if you apply to an Internet-based school. Online schools often make admissions decisions more quickly than traditional schools.

Some schools have rolling admissions, which means that students are admitted as long as they are qualified and there are places open. If that is the case for 1 or more of the schools that you are interested in, you may want to apply as early as possible so that you can take advantage of the admissions policy.


Although it is possible to contact the faculty after you have submitted your MBA application, it is better to introduce yourself and explain your interest in the degree and a faculty member’s area of expertise before you apply. Building a rapport with a faculty member can sometimes increase your chances of admission into an MBA program.



If you gain admission to an MBA program, you will usually receive an information packet about your program and what, if any, financial aid options you are eligible for. In some cases, you will also receive a list of books or scholarly articles to read before the start of the program.


Although it is unlikely that you will be placed on a waitlist for a traditional or online MBA program, it is a possibility. If you are placed on a waitlist, it may be because your application was not complete and that you need to submit additional materials before you will be admitted. However, some schools place applicants on waitlists when they have many strong applicants but not enough positions. This way, if 1 student decides not to accept their offer of admission, the school can then offer that applicant’s place to the next student on the waitlist.


If you are rejected from an MBA program, you should contact the business school’s admissions committee and see if they can provide you with any insight about why you were not admitted. Most committees will offer you advice on how to improve your next round your application if you decide to apply again.

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