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Get accepted to top-10 MBA programmes (what schools want from candidates)

ARINGO - October 10, 2019

Accepted | what top-10 MBA programmes want in candidates

What are top-10 MBA programmes looking for?

Top-10 MBA programmes want candidates who:

  1. Stand out
  2. Have leadership potential
  3. Are motivated, need the degree and have done research
  4. Are a good fit for the school and the programme
  5. Are likely to succeed
  6. Have impressive and honest recommenders

The top-ranked MBA Schools such as Wharton, Harvard Business School, Kellogg School of Management and Stanford Graduate School of Business receive incredible numbers of applications, resulting in low acceptance rates.

If you want a chance at being accepted to a top-10 MBA programme, you must, therefore, know what they are looking for and adjust your profile and application accordingly.

Some of the qualities these schools are on the lookout for include:

1. Candidates who stand out

Even if you are an excellent candidate, you are unlikely to get accepted if you do not stand out from other candidates with similar backgrounds, professions, and academic accomplishments. 

Keep in mind that what makes you a unique and a diverse candidate does not only have to be about you, however. It may be related to your family, the place you grew up, your ambitions, extracurricular activities, your interests in general or anything else that other applicants will not be able to mention in their applications. Learning to market yourself, tell your unique story and make the best of what you have is vital.

And, once you think you are done, it may still be worth having a professional look over your selling points and polish them some more!

2. Candidates with leadership potential

Every business school is hoping to attract future leaders, so you should try to convince the admissions committees of your potential for making a difference in the future. 

Keep in mind that leadership experience on any level will demonstrate that you have a natural leader in you. Leadership does not have to be shown only at work, but it is critical that you can say that you have led in some capacity.

3. Candidates who are motivated, need the degree and have done research

The above means that you as a candidate must have passion and purpose for your future, as well as clear goals and be engaging and able to motivate others in a positive way (as this is the kind of person these schools want on their campus).

You should also be able to demonstrate how getting an MBA will get you closer to your goal, and ideally, why the school you have chosen is best suited for helping you achieve that goal. Drive is essential, as well as already having taken some steps towards your goal by the time you apply.

4. Candidates who are a good fit for the school and the programme

In order to convince the admissions committees you are the right fit, you will need to know what the school is known for, what their key values are, their areas of focus and strengths, as well as details about the programme itself and previously admitted students. 

Researching the school and the programme itself is, therefore, essential and also beneficial for you as a candidate. You may encounter information that causes you to reconsider some schools and programmes, or strengthen your decision to apply

5. Candidates who are likely to succeed

If you are a candidate with an impressive track record and consistently one of the best at any task you take on, the admissions committees will see that you are likely to succeed in the future with similar tasks or challenges. Using quantifiable metrics in order to prove how well you have done in the past is recommended.

While your background is not the only indicator of future success, any major triumphs (as well as describing why they indeed are accomplishments) is key. These schools see themselves as “premium brands,” so it is only normal that they look for candidates who are too! If you look at your personal brand and see it as something less than premium, it may be worth working on it a bit more to get it closer to a “premium level” before applying to business school.

6. Candidates with impressive and honest recommenders

The recommenders must know you well and be on your side to provide the strongest possible recommendations for you as recommendation forms can be quite tedious and time-consuming. If you do not have great recommenders yet or have not spoken to them about how to best support you, it is worth taking extra time; impressive recommendations can make a difference for applicants and their chances of admission.

Keep in mind that the title of the recommender is generally less important than the fact that they really know you, have worked with you closely, and can give specific examples of the issues mentioned in the recommendations.


Ready to apply to top-10 MBA programmes?

Once you're accepted, Prodigy Finance is ready to help you finance your education with an international student loan for top business schools.

Prodigy Finance Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Post updated for accuracy and freshness on October 10, 2019. Originally published on August 8, 2016.

Michelle is the CEO of ARINGO Americas. The company was a natural fit for Michelle, who possesses over ten years of experience in higher education. A PhD candidate in the field of Higher Education Administration, Michelle is passionate about widening access to education and sees her role at ARINGO as key to achieving this goal. Michelle holds a master’s degree in psychology and an undergraduate in business and management, and has enjoyed working in university admissions and recruiting departments as a passionate advisor, scholar, and leader. At ARINGO, Michelle inspires others to pursue their goals by pairing them with valuable resources including the best consultants in the industry. Michelle works hard to build long-term relationships with students, alumni, corporations, and admissions committees, to the benefit of both past and future candidates.


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