While putting together this article, I tried to apply both my personal experience of submitting a successful MBA application to Warwick Business School a few years back and also the experience of clients who I have worked with to submit their own applications to top-ranking MBA programmes.
What business schools want to see from their candidates are the unique life, work and educational experiences they can bring to the programme. So you should highlight any international projects you have run or been part of, any secondments abroad you may have had. Another area of great interest to these schools is your leadership experience. This doesn’t necessarily need to be direct management experience – it can range from project management to leading a sports team or club during your university years. Mentioning voluntary or charity work and not forgetting your hobbies can score some additional ‘brownie’ points for you.
B-schools also look at what a candidate can gain from the programme. Here it is worth to concentrate on particular courses that are of interest to you for a specific reason. So for instance, if post-MBA you are hoping to set up your own company, then taking financial and management accounting courses will benefit your overall knowledge and exposure to the fundamentals of finance. A lot of applicants like to mention diverse networking opportunities that MBA presents and there is a reason for that. You will meet some high flyers, high achievers and generally interesting folk and it will expand your career and business opportunities further. So it is important to list this in your application as this is one of the main benefits MBA provides (and charges a lot of money for…).
In almost all instances, you will be asked to write a statement of motivation. The structure of this should be very similar to a cover letter for a job, including the reasons you would like to apply to this particular programme, people and graduates you may have spoken to in order to gain an insider perspective and of course, the reasons why you should be accepted and the ways you can contribute.
And certainly, don’t forget to update and optimise your CV. If you have had a portfolio career, you may be asked to submit several copies of your CV, each outlining a particular track. And it goes without saying that you should ensure your CV is well-designed and thoroughly proofread.
Once your whole application pack is ready, don’t submit it too hastily (unless you’re up against the deadline). Leave it for a couple of days, then re-read it with fresh eyes and if possible, ask somebody else take a look for an even fresher perspective. And then you are good to go. In terms of timing, you should in any case aim to submit your application well before the deadline as applications received are reviewed on an ongoing basis – not all at once at the end.
If you are applying for an MBA programme and need guidance and advice on finalising and optimising your application pack, don’t hesitate to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org