MBA Admissions Advice: The Criteria

So I promised I would start posting more, so here we go! Barring any major setbacks, I will be taking my GMAT on Saturday August 23rd, so in a little over a month (YIKES!) and applying to all 4 of my schools in Round 2 (I’ll elaborate more on this decision in a later post). Most R2 deadlines fall around the first one or two weeks in January, but my goal is to have everything submitted by the beginning of December so I can at least attempt to enjoy my Christmas and New Year holiday in peace. I’ll be posting a breakdown of my application preparation schedule in the next week or so.

Now that I’ve started doing marginal essay brainstorming, I put together this list of criteria that adcoms look for in a b school application and have made notes in a spreadsheet on my strengths and weaknesses (will provide in a later post), and how I plan to either leverage, strengthen or combat them in the next 4 months. A lot of the weaknesses my current application has, such as undergraduate university and years of work experience, I can’t do anything to change, but this exercise has given me the opportunity to start thinking of ways to turn them into somewhat positives if asked via the essay and/or interview.

For example: My undergrad is moreso known for its football team than for academics, but instead of looking at it as a negative or weaknesses, I would expand on the fact that this school also happened to be out of state where I knew absolutely no one. I was completely alone and forced out of my comfort zone, but it was an experience that taught me how to stand on my own two feet, build new friendships, and be open to different types of people and cultures.

Below is a subset of what my self analysis looks like.


Feel free to do this as well if you haven’t already and even share in the comments any criteria I may have missed. It definitely puts things into perspective. A little introspection does the b school application good.


  • Above average GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from a school with an excellent academic reputation
  • GMAT score in your program’s 80% range/above or at median
  • High Quant score


  • Employer is known for high hiring standards
  • Years of work experience
  • Quality of work experience
  • Evidence of career progression (in both responsibilities and promotions/titles)
  • Excellent letters of recommendation


  • Leadership at work
  • Leadership outside of work
  • Evidence of managerial potential
  • Desire to strengthen leadership skills and improve on weaknesses


  • Definitive career goals (short term and long term)
  • Explain desire, passion and significance for that career goal
  • Adcoms can connect the dots between previous skills/experiences and post-MBA career goals
  • Know why an MBA is essential for achieving these career goals
  • Can illustrate why you need an MBA from that specific program


  • Maturity
  • Life experience
  • Are you an under represented minority or international applicant
  • Demonstrate you are a well rounded individual
  • Extracurricular involvement
  • Volunteer experiences
  • International travel
  • A great fit with the school’s culture
  • Express desire for new experiences, relationships and opportunities
  • Can prove why an MBA is necessary RIGHT now

Posted on July 20, 2014, in MBA Admissions Advice and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. I really think the next step is to create a strong line that goes through your profile into the school and into your goals. What do all of these elements mean? Why do you need to go to that school? How does that play into your short term and eventually long term goals?

    Great post!

    • That’s definitely the next step!! Thanks for the tip.

      Also I have a question you might know the answer to. You’re applying to some schools through the Consortium as well correct? I understand they have 2 essays in addition to the school specific ones, but are the 3 professional recommendations separate as well? I understand the mission support rec will be, but the other 2 i wasn’t quite sure

      • I don’t think they are (common app… Only the additional questions are different) …. However I think I may not apply consortium due to my tuck experience….

      • Oh okay I see. What about for Yale and Berkeley?

        And okay, I thought so, but just wanted a second opinion. I will be reaching about to some Consortium Ambassors from my choice schools, just to be sure as well. Thanks!

      • I’m still going back and forth… Ultimately, it not 100% decided… With only two schools I am no longer really “saving” any work and creating a little bit of extra work for my recommenders (Yale will have the same questions as Harvard and Wharton I believe)… I am trying to remain sensitive to the timing as well… (I have to split up my applications I’m realizing)…

        And because everyone is getting rid of essays, I would have to write more essays I believe using the common app…. Hmmmmm idk

      • Ohhh I see. Yeah you make very valid points. It may not be worth it for just 2 schools.. Keep me updated though. You’re the only person thus far I know that may be applying through the Consortium as well.

  2. I would throw in EQ. While having the raw brain power to get through the course is important, I think more and more schools are looking at softer skills whether that be strong empathy or ability to resolve conflict for example.

  3. Great set of guidelines! This will make your essay writing and goals so much more lucid.

    As for R1 or R2, I absolutely agree with topdogmba. Hit submit only when you are certain that you are giving the admissions committee a fantastic application to read.

  4. Nice work!

    There’s always a lot of debate about whether R1 or R2 is better, but most consultants I spoke to agree that it’s best to delay an OK R1 application in order to turn it into a killer R2 one.

    I also think it’s funny how everyone submits on – or very close to – the deadline. But I guess it makes sense to keep it ready (even if it’s “finished”) but not submitted in case anything major changes. Good luck keeping your Christmas holidays free though 🙂

    • Yes we’ll see if that actually happens. Fingers crossed.

      And yes I just feel like since I haven’t taken the GMAT yet and plan to do so at least twice, I will be sacrificing the quality of my essays if I try to squeeze in all four by October.

  5. Great idea for the self analysis! I think that would definitely be helpful especially before getting down to actually writing the essays. I’m interested to know why R2 though!

    • Oh for sure! Prior to doing this, I had alot of great ideas and points I wanted to make just randomly jotted down or even still hanging out in my brain, but now I’ve organized all my thoughts in one place so it’s easier to see areas that are your strong suits and then your weaknesses that need a little more attention.

      Yeah I’ve decided on R2 for the majority of my apps, I might apply to 1 school in R1 but I’m gonna think about that some more. I will elaborate on my decision in a later post but long story short, since I haven’t take the GMAT yet (will probably take twice) and I want to visit schools while they are in session, I feel like the R1 deadline is just too close for comfort for in getting everything in on time and not feeling rushed. I still have ALOT of writing and planning to do and October is slowly but surely sneaking up on me.

      • Yeah, the GMAT is a major pain in the butt. There isn’t really much of a difference between R2 and R1 from what I’ve heard, although it would give me peace of mind to get them over with, there’s no point rushing them in R1. Good call though, just make sure nothing stretches over to R3!

      • Haha oh definitely no R3 for me!! And yes I agree that submitting everything in R1 would be ideal because not only do you get it over with, you also know if you’re accepted alot sooner.

        How long did you study for the GMAT? And how many times did you take it?

      • So honestly I took the GMAT super lightly and I only studied for about two weeks for like an hour a day because I took it bang in the middle of my third year at college. I had a bad test day and got like a 620 or something. I knew I had to take it again (I was applying to the ISB young leaders program at the time). But it was summer break and I went backpacking across Europe with exactly one GMAT prep book on me… Which I opened like once. Came back and took the test a day after I returned (had to meet the deadline) and got a 710. Let’s just say I got very, VERY lucky.

      • Hahaha that’s the most awesome story ever!! If you ever want to switch brains for a day or two just shoot me an email!!

        That should be like the title of a blog or book of something: “Backpacking Through Europe with Exactly One GMAT Book in my Hand”

      • It was seriously dumb luck! You don’t want my brains trust me, yours would serve you waaayy better. But it does make for a good story 😀

      • Oh wow! A 620 after 2 weeks and a 710, after a month of backpacking??! We have a prodigy among us! Seriously, I need your brains in September, okay? 😀

      • Haha, sheer luck I think! You can have some of my luck though if you’d like 😉

  1. Pingback: Let’s Answer the Why | texaswannabecali

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