How to Get Into Business School

Business school is a challenging but rewarding endeavor for business professionals seeking to advance their career and education and gain access to more job opportunities. So, there are a multitude of diverse MBA programs that attract hundreds of thousands of students each year.

The number of master's degrees conferred by U.S. postsecondary institutions increased by 31% from 2004-05 to 2014-15 according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Master’s degrees in business led this exponential growth: degrees conferred increased 24% in the decade ended in 2015.

Individuals who complete an MBA can be rewarded for their hard work. According to a survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council, the median annual base starting salary U.S. companies offered newly minted MBA hires in 2019 was the highest on record – $115,000.

Earning an MBA is a valuable enterprise, whether you enroll in an online MBA program or an on-campus version. Here is a guide to the various business school nuances, from application requirements to common business school questions.

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Syracuse University’s Online MBA

  • Top-ranked online MBA¹
  • No GMAT Required
  • As few as 24 months to complete

¹The Princeton Review – Top 50 Online MBA Programs 2021 (Retrieved January 5, 2021)

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UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School- Online MBA

  • #1-ranked online MBA²
  • GMAT waivers available for experienced professionals
  • As few as 18 months to complete

²UNC Kenan-Flagler's online MBA program was ranked #1 in 2021 by U.S. News & World Report

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American University’s Online MBA

  • No GMAT required
  • Six focus areas available
  • Complete in as few as 15 months
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University of Denver's Online MBA

  • GMAT waivers for experienced professionals
  • As few as 21 months to complete
  • Concentration options available in marketing and finance
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Rice Business- Online MBA

  • Ranked No. 1 in the nation for graduate entrepreneurship education by the Princeton Review³
  • Residential Intensive Learning Experiences (ILEs) hosted on campus
  • Faculty remain active in research and publish insights in Rice Business Wisdom, an online business periodical

³The Princeton Review & Entrepreneur Magazine

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The University of Dayton- Online MBA

  • As few as 12–15 months to complete
  • GMAT waivers available
  • AACSB accredited
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University of California, Davis- Online MBA

  • On-campus MBA ranked among the top 50 MBA programs by U.S. News & World Report since 1996
  • Students can complete the program in as few as 24 months
  • The Graduate School of Management at UC Davis is AACSB accredited
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Pepperdine Graziadio Business School- Online MBA

  • Top-ranked online MBA—ranked 21st by U.S. News & World Report
  • GMAT waivers are available to qualified applicants
  • Scholarships available
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The Ultimate Guide to Business School Admissions

General Admission Requirements

MBA programs are notoriously competitive, especially among top schools. Multiple factors affect your candidacy for enrollment. Review the following admission requirements to prepare your MBA application.

Application Materials

General admission applications

Here are some of the basic materials you will need when you apply to a business school. Be sure to check a specific school’s requirements, because they can differ.

  • Undergraduate transcripts.
  • GMAT score.
  • Two or three letters of recommendation.
  • Entrance essay.

Test Scores and Grades

It takes more than basic materials to get into B-school. You will need to showcase high test scores and grades. Here are the basic requirements of most admissions offices:

  • Grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0.
  • A GMAT score of 600 or higher. Mid-ranking schools generally require a score of 650 or higher, while more competitive business schools may require a score of 700-750.
  • Many schools require you to have at least two or three years of experience. Even if it’s not required, it’s usually recommended.

Skills

Admissions personnel at a quality business school will look for candidates who don’t just look good on paper. You also need to demonstrate exceptional skills necessary to succeed in business. In other words, you will need to demonstrate qualities that will help you not only in school, but in your future career.

Here are some of the traits a business school will look for:

  • Strong leadership skills.
  • Communication skills.
  • Collaborative team player.
  • Self-awareness.
  • Problem-solving.
  • Candidates who value personal growth.

5 Steps to Become a Competitive Business School Applicant

There are multiple business school prerequisites that affect your candidacy for enrollment. Nonetheless, there are several steps that you can take to get into business school. Review the following admission requirements to prepare your MBA application.

1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

To enroll in graduate school, you need an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution. Many students who plan to complete a Master of Business Administration earn a business-related bachelor’s degree. However, it is not required.

Individuals from different industries–like finance, health care, and entertainment—find value in a business degree.

But be sure to verify the GPA requirements with each business school you are applying to. If your GPA is unsatisfactory, there are several opportunities to impress the college admission board.

2. Take the GMAT or GRE

In some cases, business schools will waive GMAT/GRE requirements, based on work experience or other factors. 

The GMAT measures your understanding of basic math, multisource data analysis and grammar. It also evaluates your ability to think critically and solve complex problems. 

Some business schools also accept the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) test. The GRE tests verbal and quantitative reasoning and analytical writing.

Which test should you take? If the school you’re applying to will accept both, take practice tests for both and choose whichever earns a higher average score.

3. Explore MBA Specializations

Once you’ve completed your undergraduate degree, it is advisable to choose an MBA concentration related to what you want to do after you get the master’s degree. Potential MBA specializations include marketing, entrepreneurship, accounting, finance, business analytics and more. 

4. Attend Business School Information Sessions

Business school information sessions are not required but they present great opportunities to learn more about specific MBA programs. If you have an MBA concentration in mind, now is your chance to confirm it is offered by the school. You can also make contacts, build relationships, and learn application tips.

These sessions can provide helpful information about your B-school application essays and interviews. Ultimately, you’ll be immersed in the application process, which can help you increase your chances of getting into business school.

5. Gain Experience

Because business schools value leadership skills, they may require a certain amount of experience. Admissions personnel are looking for individuals who stand out. Typically, you will need one to two years of full-time work in a related field. Internships may also be helpful.

Identify gaps in your business school application. MBA admission committees will weigh several factors when considering your application. Qualitative factors like work experience help to differentiate you among other applicants with similar GPAs and test scores.

How to Secure a Compelling Letter of Recognition

Business schools are looking for people with exceptional skills. Letters of recommendation are the perfect way to showcase your work ethic, experience, and leadership roles.

Professional recommendations carry more weight than academic ones. Your recommendation letters should support the information in your essay. If you don’t know at least two or three people who can provide these personalized letters, start cultivating those professional relationships now.

Consider giving the person writing your letter information that might help them, such as your resume, details about how you are trying to present yourself in your application, a list of schools you are applying to, deadlines, and instructions how to submit the letters.

Always send thank-you notes to the people writing letters for you. If you do this a few weeks before the deadline, it can serve as a gentle reminder.

Preparing for the Interview

After reviewing applications and narrowing applicants to a select few, business schools will typically start the interview process. If you get an interview, chances are the business school is seriously considering you for admittance.

If you make a great in-person impression, your chances of getting in are greatly increased. Here are some common interview questions and tips to ace them:

Typical Business School Interview Questions

1. Tell me about yourself.

This is your chance to briefly explain your undergraduate education, work experience, business school plans, and career goals. The interviewer may ask about what you plan to study in business school. Learn more about MBA concentrations.

2. What kind of leadership experience do you have?

Be sure to prepare several leadership examples for the interview. Demonstrate how you succeeded what you learned.

3. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?

Pick strengths that will set you apart from the competition and weaknesses that you can create a positive spin on or that you have learned something from.

4. Why have you chosen this school?

Explain why you want to attend this school and how the program is essential to achieve your goals. Make sure to give this answer with conviction to show your interest in the school.

5. What kind of changes would you make in your current workplace if you had the freedom to do so?

Describe business-related changes that would create a positive impact on your workplace. This is an excellent question that will show your potential as a business associate.

Tips for Your B-School Interview

Prepare for the interview by reviewing common questions and practicing your answers. Be sure to write down questions you can ask at the end of the interview.

As in any interview, you will want to dress professionally and come across as a confident, professional person who is ready to take on the business world. At the same time, don’t be too rigid or formal. The admissions team will want to see who you are as a person.

Lastly, be ready to go even more in-depth than you did in your essay. Don’t assume the admissions committee read your essay. The key is to have in mind key points you want the admissions committee to remember about you.