There are several MBA requirements that are common to all full-time and part-time MBA programs in the US and Canada. While you should always check the specific requirements of each school you're interested in, the 6 MBA requirements we discuss in this article are going to be your tools for showing the schools your suitability for your chosen programs. We will also discuss how to utilize these requirements to choose the right MBA program for you and increase your admissions chances.
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GPA and GMAT
GPA and grades have a huge impact on MBA acceptance rates in the US and Canada. While these professional programs do put a lot of emphasis on work experience, results, skills, and other qualifications, your academic record is still considered an important indicator of your suitability for an MBA. You want to aim for a GPA of 3.6 or 3.7 to be a very competitive candidate for MBA programs, but there are many MBA programs that do accept a lower GPA.
Your GMAT score is also a tool used to assess your academic abilities and suitability for the MBA. While some schools accept GRE or other standardized tests, the GMAT is the most commonly used exam for admission. It is hard to assess what GMAT score you need on average, as MBA programs in Canada and the US accept a wide range of scores, but to be a really competitive MBA applicant, you want to aim for a GMAT score in the high 690s and low 700s. To reiterate, there are dozens of schools that accept candidates with much lower GMAT scores, but you do want to aim for the highest score possible to stand out as a candidate.
Why do we strongly recommend working on getting a high GPA and GMAT even though many schools will accept lower scores? There are a few reasons. Firstly, the higher your stats are, the more MBA program choices you have. You will have more options to select from if your GPA and GMAT meet and exceed the programs’ standards.
Second, and most importantly, you want to eliminate any chance of you getting cut out from the applicant pool in the early stages of the admissions review – GPA and GMAT are often used to weed out applicants in the early stages of the admissions process, so if you have high GPA and GMAT your application components like your personal statement, or MBA statement of purpose, resume, and other materials will be reviewed. Make sure to apply to MBA programs where you at least meet the required stats.
This is not to say that it’s impossible to get into an MBA program with a low GPA or low GMAT – it is possible. But you do not want to spend all your time and allotted space trying to explain a low GPA in your MBA application. Focus on outlining why you’re the perfect candidate for an MBA instead.
Prerequisites and Education
Most MBA programs in the US and Canada require the completion of an undergraduate degree. This usually means 4 years of coursework. However, there are programs that may allow you to compensate for a 3-year undergrad degree with extra work experience. Make sure to review the programs of your choice to determine any degree requirements or courseload requirements they may have.
Most MBA programs have no requirements when it comes to your major or what courses you take. If you hold an undergraduate degree in business administration or commerce, you may be exempt from taking some foundational courses during the MBA, so that will be helpful – but having a business admin degree or a commerce degree will not affect your admissions chances.
This means that you can pursue any major and any courses you like and excel in. This is especially great news if you are trying to improve your GPA – whether you are retaking some courses or are working on a new undergrad degree before you apply for MBA, remember to take classes you like and do well in.
Your MBA personal statement and other MBA admissions essay make up the bulk of your application. GPA and GMAT can signify your academic past and some academic aptitudes, but MBA admissions committees look to also assess your communication skills, self-awareness, analytical skills, and so on. To do this, they use admissions essays. Another reason why personal statements are so popular with admissions committees is to see your answer to why you are pursuing an MBA. They want to understand your motivations and what prepared you for this program.
Keep in mind that you will have the chance to list all of relevant your accomplishments in the MBA resume, so do not feel the need to outline all your achievements in the personal statement and essay. The personal statement should cover 1 to 3 major events or experiences that led you to pursue this program. And while you can certainly include work experience and other MBA-related events, you should feel free to cover other aspects of your life as well. In other words, think broadly. For example, most MBA programs look for signs of leadership in their prospective candidates; this can be leadership in the workplace, but it can also mean leadership in sports, the arts, community engagement, and so on.
The first step in writing your essays is researching the programs you’re interested in. Note what kind of qualities and accomplishments they value. Brainstorm what experiences and events in your life demonstrate these highly-valued qualities. Work on putting them into a narrative. It will not happen overnight, but draft after draft you will come to put the pieces together into a story of why you chose to pursue an MBA program and how it can help you achieve your career goals. It will be a bonus if your personal statement and essays can demonstrate what the program will gain by admitting you.
Some MBA programs will require additional essays, and these come in different types and forms. Some of the most common supplemental MBA essays are MBA diversity statements, prompts that ask you to explain gaps in your resume and setbacks, prompts that ask about your extracurriculars, and so on. MBA essay topics and prompts are very diverse, but you can generally expect to accomplish 2 main goals with any essay:
- Showcase how your chosen MBA program will help you in your goals.
- Showcase how you can help your chosen MBA programs with their goals and mission.
Even essays that ask to discuss setbacks and gaps should address these 2 goals. Experiencing obstacles and overcoming them is a great testament of character – your classmates can learn a lot from you. Demonstrate how you face obstacles and what you learn from them to address the 2 points we mention above.
Working on your MBA personal statement? Check this out:
While your personal statement cannot cover more than 3 events that led you to an MBA application, your resume is the right place to showcase the variety, number, and diversity of your accomplishments. But there are a couple of important caveats to this:
#1: Your MBA resume should not be longer than 1 page. If you’re a very experienced applicant who has a lot of work and academic experience, that’s wonderful! You will probably have some competitive edge due to the wealth of your experience, but you must still follow the rules and keep your resume 1 page in length. Which leads us to our next point…
#2 caveat: anything you list in your resume should be related to the MBA program and why you want to pursue it. This means that you have to be very selective with what you include in order to keep it 1 page. Rather than listing every one of your accomplishments, you need to assess which of your experiences would be most valued by the program you’re applying to.
The key to a successful MBA resume is to demonstrate results. Instead of simply outlining your duties and responsibilities in a job, your resume entries should show the consequences of your work. Use concrete numbers and facts. Consider these examples:
“Increased website traffic by 50% in 6 months”
“Decreased bugs and malfunctions by 30% in a quarter”
“Recruited and retained 90% of hires in a quarter”
These types of entries demonstrate your skill and qualifications much more than simple statements of your duties and responsibilities. Remember, this is not a job resume – you are competing for a spot in an MBA program with applicants from different paths in life. There is no set of qualifications or skills that you have to meet – you must impress rather than be an eligible candidate. Results and measurable outcomes are extremely impressive.
Working on your MBA resume? Keep these in mind:
MBA Recommendation Letters
Your MBA recommendation letters will require extensive research and preparation. Depending on your chosen programs and current circumstances, you might need to provide a variety of references.
For example, if you have extensive work and employment experience, you will need to provide letters from your managers and supervisors. If you have worked on a specific long-term project at work, they might require you to submit a reference of the supervisor of that specific project.
A different set of MBA recommendation letters will be required of self-employed applicants. While long-term clients can be your referees, some programs will have very specific requirements in regard to this. For example, you cannot use family and relatives as references, even if you take them on as clients.
Academic references are usually accepted, but you must be careful to assess whether your circumstances permit the submission of an academic reference. For some MBA programs, you can submit an academic reference only if you have graduated 2 or 3 years ago, or less. Most programs will not list academic references as requirements – but if you have limited work experience, then 1 of the 2 or 3 recommendation letters can come from a professor.
Lastly, make sure to check if your program would accept letters from a supervisor in your volunteer positions – this may be especially valuable to those who have limited work experience. Again, be careful to read the requirements carefully: some programs will allow for these kinds of recommendations only if you have dedicated a substantial amount of time to the position. Picking up a random volunteer position a couple of months before the MBA application deadline will not do.
Your interview will be full of tricky MBA questions so proper MBA interview prep is highly important. The truth is, you will have a higher acceptance chance for most MBA programs post interview – which is why getting that interview invite is so exciting!!! According to the latest statistics, even for the best MBA programs in the US, you will have a 50% or higher acceptance chance after the interview. For example, your chances of getting admitted to Kellogg Business School go up to 51%! Your chances to get into Stanford Business School go up to 60%!
This should inspire you to give it your all when preparing for your MBA interview. Start by figuring out what interview format your school uses. MBA programs often use panel interviews, but you may also run into programs with traditional one-on-one interviews or even MMIs. Based on your research, start practicing with sample MBA interview questions. Brainstorm your answers, reflect on what events and experiences you would use in your responses, and practice other interview skills. Keep in mind that it’s best to use mock MBA interviews to practice, since mocks tend to recreate a realistic environment of the interview, so you can get used to it. Additionally, get some personalized feedback from MBA admissions consulting professionals – they will help you identify areas of improvement and give strategies on how to overcome any setbacks.
Preparing for an MBA interview?
This is a bonus requirement that we want to emphasize here. Most programs will actually outline the minimum number of years of work experience you need to have before you can apply to their program. On average, MBA applicants have around 5 years of work experience. This can include co-ops and internships, but it’s best to have a few years of full-time professional work experience under your belt. So do not rush your application if you do not meet this MBA requirement – you will get rejected if you do not have enough years of work experience. If you’re currently unemployed but have solid work experience, you should not feel discouraged to apply – you can still apply for MBA while unemployed as long as you have enough experience.
1. What are the most common MBA requirements?
The most common MBA requirements are GPA, GMAT, personal statement and admissions essays, recommendation letters, resume, interview, and work experience.
2. What is the GPA requirement to get into an MBA?
Most schools have a minimum requirement of a 3.0 GPA. But you should aim for at least 3.5 to be a competitive candidate.
3. What is the GMAT requirement to get into an MBA?
Each school has its own standards, but scoring in the 1680s or 1690s is considered competitive.
4. Is a personal statement a requirement for MBA programs?
Yes, in most programs.
5. What other essays do I need to submit to MBA programs?
Some MBA programs ask for optional or supplemental essays, such as diversity statements or essays that address your academic or professional gaps.
6. What should I include in my MBA resume? How long can my MBA resume be?
Include the most relevant work experiences and results of your labor. Use numbers and facts to showcase what you achieved in your work. Keep your MBA resume to 1 page.
7. Do most MBA programs conduct interviews?
Yes, most do.
8. How many years of work experience do I need to apply for MBA?
You typically need at least 2 years of full-time work experience.
9. How many recommendation letters do I need for MBA?
Typically, you need two references.
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