Once you have chosen your business school you might be asking yourself what makes a good MBA candidate. In turn, admissions officers will be searching for proof that your candidacy is good for their MBA programme.

A Master in Business Administration (MBA) is unlike many other academic programmes. While most Masters programmes provide further specialisation within a particular school or discipline (such as law), an MBA is typically interdisciplinary, drawing from the fields of management, psychology, sociology, economics, accounting and finance. MBA programmes enable you to earn a high-level qualification and to acquire a skill set and expertise required in any business environment. With this qualification you can look forward to a rewarding career, a good salary, and a challenging managerial position with promotional prospects. The question is how to choose the right programme and how to apply to this programme in order to be admitted. First of all, you should take into account the type of the programme you are applying for. You can study for a wide range of MBA programmes these days, from the general MBA to programmes with a specialist focus, such as marketing, finance, accounting, technology, leadership, etc.

Programmes base admission on the GMAT test, significant work experience, academic transcripts, essays, references, and personal interviews. Schools are also interested in extracurricular activities and community service. All of these qualifications are important for admission. Some top-tier schools do not weigh GMAT scores as heavily as other criteria. The application is a crucial aspect determining whether you will be accepted. You might think the interview is the most difficult part, but you may never even get selected for an interview if your application does not stand out. First, you should apply early. The time when you choose to apply can affect your chances of being accepted. Earlier is generally better, although admissions directors warn that you should only apply when you are absolutely ready and when you feel you can submit a strong application. Applying early will not benefit you if you submit a premature application. Moreover, your application is likely to receive more time and consideration if it arrives before the majority of other applications.

Applying early will demonstrate a serious interest in a programme and highlight strong planning skills. Don't forget that problems may arise during the application process, such as transcripts or recommendations not arriving when expected. By submitting your application early, you allow time to address those issues before you miss a deadline. In addition, you may be able to increase your likelihood of receiving scholarship or financial aid money by applying early. You will also have more time to recover and plan if your request for scholarship funds is rejected or if you get less aid than you had hoped for. Next, make sure you have completed the entire application and make sure you followed the instructions. If not, the school may not consider the application to be complete. Be sincere in your essay. In most cases, admissions officers are searching for those applicants who are clear about what they want from the programme. You have a better chance to be admitted if you have prior knowledge about the programme to which you are applying. Your essay should be so compelling that an admissions officer finds it difficult to put down. Also make sure your application looks professional. All schools expect a serious applicant to submit materials that are typed, organised, and complete.

You need to take into account that each application is unique and what makes it unique is your personality. It won't benefit you if you search for a “ready-made” essay on the internet. Reveal what's exceptional about you. For example, perhaps you are a great musician with considerable achievements in this area. Thus, you have very diverse experience, and you have managed to gain great results in several domains and not only in business. All this means you need lots of time to prepare a good application. Organise your time well. Hubert de Prémont, a current student at HEC Paris says: "It takes time. I would say one year between the moment you made a decision to apply and an intake! To be a good applicant for an MBA, you have to be frustrated, hungry and in a professional dead-end. It is not that you are supposed to be a loser, it is that you have the real motivation to change your life! Entering an MBA is a contest; recruiters take the most willing people, those who are able to turn weaknesses into strengths. Get information from alumni to make sure you fit the MBA culture of the programme you are targeting.”

Look at the typical applicant pool at each school that interests you. Pay attention to grade point average, Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) scores, education, work experience, and accomplishments. You may need to address one or more of these areas in your application. When comparing yourself to the "average" MBA applicant, keep in mind that the term does not describe a specific person. Rather, it illustrates a collection of traits from a broad spectrum of people. You may find that there is a part of your background that is weaker than average. But you may be able to compensate if you are better than average in one or more other areas. If so, emphasise those areas in your applications.

Prepare for your GMAT test in advance in order to list a high score on your application form. Most schools are first concerned with whether or not the applicant can handle the quantity of course work. The GMAT (the quantitative score) and academic transcripts help determine this. Applicants with lower test scores or lighter academic experience may still gain admission based on other qualifications such as professional work experience or a foreign perspective. The common belief is that a class consisting solely of candidates with a 750 GMAT score and a perfect undergraduate record would not offer an educational experience as valuable and meaningful as would be offered by a more diverse class that includes students with a wide variety of backgrounds.

Obtain letters of recommendation that stand out from the others. In other words, make sure that you do the best possible job while preparing your application form so as to be sure it will end up in the “In” pile. The interview is another critical aspect of the MBA admissions process. Present yourself as a quality student and a valuable team member. The school evaluates the applicant's experience and demographic background to assess the contribution of the applicant with regard to classroom diversity and leadership abilities. It is important for the evaluators to admit a well-rounded class so that each student will experience a diverse range of views and ideas in the classroom. Be honest about your expectations for the MBA course and about why you have decided to pursue a particular programme or school.

You might be asking yourself what is the difference between top and non-top MBA programmes or schoools. By “top schools” we mean the top 100 ranked MBA institutions. Don't make a mistake by looking only at the top 15 programmes. They might be too expensive for you, which will make your return on investment slow. The higher a school is ranked, the higher the competition among applicants is. Carefully evaluate your chances by taking into account your GMAT score (generally, for the first top 10 ranked schools your GMAT score shouldn't be lower than 700), the quality and the quantity of your experience, your international exposure, etc. Find information concerning scholarships and loans and be reasonable while making your choice. If you have chosen a school that is on the list of the top 10, be sure you prepare an outstanding application as the competition is tough and only the best application forms will be considered by highly-ranked schools.

Full-time MBA programmes are the most common, usually lasting two years in the US and one year in Europe. Students enter with a reasonable amount of prior real-world work experience and take classes during weekdays as do other university students. Accelerated MBA programmes are a variation of full-time programmes, lasting 18 months or less, and involve a heavier course load.

Part-time MBA programmes usually hold classes on weekday evenings, after regular working hours. Part-time programmes normally last three years or more. The students in these programmes typically consist of working professionals, who take a light course load for a longer period of time until the graduation requirements are met. You can apply for both full-time and part-time programmes with three years of work experience. The difference between programmes is mostly in their structure.

Executive MBA (EMBA) programmes are developed to meet the educational needs of managers and executives, allowing students to earn an MBA or another business-related graduate degree in two years or less while working full-time. EMBA students typically have a higher level of work experience, often 8 to 10 years or more, compared to other MBA students.

Distance-learning MBA programmes hold classes off-campus. These programmes can be offered in various formats: correspondence courses by postal mail or email, non-interactive broadcast video, pre-recorded video, live teleconference or videoconference, offline or online computer courses. Many reputable schools offer these programmes. Potential students should check the school's accreditation before undertaking distance-learning coursework.