The Successful Business School Applicant -
Search for Schools
MBA Programs » MBA Headlines » Who Makes it Into Business School?

Who Makes it Into Business School?

Ever wondered what kind of applicant makes it into business school? Admissions officers at many MBA programs -- including Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business and Purdue University's Krannert School of Management -- are talking about the characteristics of successful MBA applicants. Harvard Business School representatives have even listed admissions criteria on the business school's website.

"The ideal candidate is the "whole package," said Kelly Wilson, assistant dean and director of Full-Time MBA admissions at Georgetown's McDonough School of Business. "Just as much as -- if not more than -- what we see on paper within the application, the way a candidate carries himself and behaves in all aspects of the admissions process is very important."

When searching for applicants to admit into MBA programs, Wilson said, admissions officers look for talented individuals who know what they want to achieve in their careers. They're also searching for those who know how to conduct themselves appropriately in professional settings and are confident enough to learn from their experiences.

Ability to articulate ideas and tackle challenges, as well as kinship toward their business schools, are also important, according to Brian Precious, director of MBA admissions at Purdue's Krannert School of Management. Furthermore, a successful MBA applicant should demonstrate the potential to lead -- that is to make a positive difference -- in diverse professional and community settings, according to Harvard's website.

7 characteristics of successful business school applicants

Wilson and Precious look for a variety of characteristics in MBA applicants, and these could be applicable across the MBA program spectrum. Some of the top traits include:

1. Academic and Professional Talent

Listing a high undergraduate grade point average (GPA), a strong Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) score, and goals you have achieved at work on your application demonstrate aptitude.

2. Career Focus

Outlining skills you have acquired in past experiences or plan to acquire during your MBA program that will enable you to accomplish future career goals shows you're on the right track.

3. Executive Presence

Conducting yourself professionally is necessary to impress admissions officers as well as potential employers.

4. Intellectual Curiosity

Demonstrating an ongoing capacity to learn and improve yourself throughout your lifetime signals the makings of a leader.

5. Communication Skills

Communicating your ideas clearly and succinctly could gain you entry into business school as well as be a sign that you could rapidly climb the ladder in the business world.

6. Problem-Solving Abilities

Having the capacity to solve problems in a logical and structured manner should make you a top applicant, as an MBA graduate's main task is to tackle challenges.

7. Business School Affinity

Displaying your enthusiasm for joining a particular business school is smart because MBA programs are looking for students who will become alumni-advocates. For example, the Purdue MBA program welcomes students of all academic backgrounds, according to Precious.

"While those from a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) background may have an easier time with the coursework, we believe having students from different geographic and professional backgrounds working together leads to better problem solving," he said.

But wait, there's more…

MBA programs place special importance on leadership potential and a desire to effect positive change. Students must also thrive in a rigorous academic environment, where strong analytical, verbal, and quantitative skills are required. Furthermore, the student body should be representative of different backgrounds and cultures as well as have a variety of personal interests and career ambitions.

Originally from Karachi, Pakistan, Maliha Khan, Harvard MBA Class of 2012, is an example of the contemporary MBA student. According to her Harvard student profile, Khan was planning to pursue a Ph.D. in political science when she became the only female manager in her family's $90 million-a-year, 3,500-employee textile business.

"When I got to the factory floor, I found that the women there would never progress -- they would never advance in their jobs -- unless they got the necessary education," Khan said, adding that she convinced her peers to introduce a six-month pilot literacy program as a way to reduce attrition -- and it worked. "Attrition rates plummeted from around 20 percent to just six or seven percent."

A couple of years later, the literacy program experience probably enhanced Khan's chances of attending the renowned business school. Enrolling in business school has certainly increased her confidence level and entrepreneurial spirit. According to her profile, one of her many options after completing business school has been described as "starting something of my own."