ACCESS MBA Guide has selected some of the most frequently asked questions about the process of admission to business schools. Once you have made up your mind to take the big step of following the MBA route, you need to know more about how to get enrolled in the schools of your choice.

1. Where should I start?

Candidates need to take control of the process and go through the necessary stages in order to be successful in the application process. First of all check the deadlines set by the business schools you will apply to. You should also make sure you are familiar with the vital parts of the preparation process: the GMAT test, the essay, the recommendations, submission of the application and the interview. Then outline a thorough timetable, specifying the steps to take. 

2. How can I get reliable information about the schools?

The most important source of information is the website of the business school. You can also contact the admissions department and talk to them. Business schools participate in MBA tours where you can sit with consultants and discuss your plans and options.  A less formal, more difficult, but very reliable research method is to establish contacts with someone who is already a student or has recently been one. You may search social networks. If you are not intrusive and adopt a pleasant approach, people will reply. Ask them what they like and what they do not like about the school. Internet may also help by giving you access to feedback from alumni and current students posted on different websites.

3. When should I start preparing for the examinations?

A year before the deadline for accepting applications is a reasonable period, but the answer varies according to candidates’ abilities, whether they have already taken the GMAT, their motivation and other factors. The application process takes time and concentration and should not be taken lightly. Working people may need more time than those who have more spare time and could finish everything within 3 months.

4. What weighs most in the admission assessment?

The GMAT test, the essay, the preparation for the interview, the recommendations or the educational and professional experience? All of them are very important. Overlooking any of them would diminish your overall performance. Apart form doing the necessary preparation for the GMAT and the language tests, the essay, and the interview, do not underestimate the significance of recommendations. The people who write them should preferably know you very well. If you work, a suitable referee would be your immediate supervisor. Your background will also be taken into account. It must be presented in the right way. Emphasise your strengths and leadership potential, but do not exaggerate out of proportion.

5. What GMAT result should I have in order to be considered for my target school?

Again, this depends on the particular school. Stanford Graduate School of Business, one of the best places in the world to get an MBA, does not set a required minimum score for the GMAT test. „Admitted candidates typically have performed well”, says its website. But this can be misleading, as you are unlikely to go to a top school if you have mediocre results unless you possess a unique talent or have extraordinary experience. Another one of the best schools, INSEAD, applies the same rule for results, recommending that candidates aim for a score at or above 70-75% for both the quantitative and verbal sections of the test.

Although in 2011 most business schools reported a decline in the volume of applications for full-time MBA programmes, the applicant qualifications remain about the same or higher than in 2010 as shown by the GMAC 2011 Application Trends Survey.  GMAT test score averages are also increasing. So make sure that your preparations for the test are adequate, as it is still one of the most important factors in evaluating prospective students.

6. Do the selection committees prefer a particular type of background?

What the selection committees look for are quality candidates whose application makes sense. Someone with a first degree in advertising who has valuable experience in an agency, leadership potential and plans to continue in this sphere will have a fairly good chance of being seen as a consistent candidate for an MBA degree. Of course schools specialising in certain areas would look for people with expertise in these areas.

7. How many schools should I apply to?

Choose one, two or three schools that are particularly hard to get into: top schools. Then choose a couple that you would be able to get into with less effort. Then identify a school or schools for your back-up plan: institution(s) that can make you feel sure that you will start your MBA degree (of course this should not involve compromising the quality of the programme). Keep the number of schools reasonable, not only because of the application costs involved, but also because if you send documents to 20 places, you will probably be less fit and focused and this would affect your overall motivation.