The road to submitting an online MBA application can be a long one. A graduate application is more than the application itself; it is a package. The completed admissions package needs to be able to tell a story about the Online MBA applicant. This story needs to catch the eye of an admissions counselor and let them know what the applicant is looking for and what they can bring to the school. Some general components include the Online MBA application itself, transcripts, a resume, exam scores, essays, letters of recommendation, and an interview. There are tips for strengthening each component and going in with a strategy that benefits the applicant. Let’s dive in!
Many Online MBA program application fees range from $0 to $200. The program’s total cost can be as low as $11,000, and it can exceed $100,000 at top-ranked programs. The application form for online Master of Business Administration programs is simple in structure. The process begins with creating an account and selecting which program the student wants to apply to. Schools ask for students’ contact information, and then students must add the following supplements. The remaining parts of a graduate application are the academic record, professional vitae, recommendation letters, test scores, and an interview. They will be explained further in additional sections of this guide. According to The Princeton Review, the interviews and letters of recommendation do not hold as much weight as the other elements. Still, admissions teams are interested in getting to know the applicants to make informed decisions.
Business school applications can be processed on a rolling basis or in rounds. They may also have early action rounds. Rolling admission means that schools are constantly accepting and reviewing Online MBA applications. Some programs have up to six start dates. There is a lot of flexibility. Schools that admit students in rounds tend to have three deadlines that they accept students: fall, winter, and spring. Mba.com suggests that students apply as early as possible, especially if they do not have highly competitive applications. In the first round, there are more available spots in the class or cohort. The second round is the last recommended round for students to apply. The most significant benefit of waiting for this deadline is the opportunity to raise test scores. By the third deadline, the admission council prioritizes solid students that add value as strong professional leaders and academic students. Finally, early action rounds are pretty rigid, as they are expecting accepted candidates to confirm their commitment early or withdraw their admittance.
The admission process can be decentralized, which means applications go through more than one office. The graduate school may establish the minimum requirements and be the first hand that an application filters through. They receive the transcripts and verify completion of the bachelor’s program. Afterward, the Online MBA application is sent to the business college, which establishes deadlines and decides what materials to assess the candidate. The business school also reviews the complete applications, makes admissions decisions, and notifies applicants about their decision.
Meet the Requirements
Before applying for graduate school, prospective students should research the admission requirements and the admission process for their school. Admission requirements can include specific test scores or grade point averages (GPAs). Many schools list the required grade point average acceptable for admission or the average GPA of admitted Online MBA applications. Princeton Review recommends knowing the requirement and contacting faculty to inquire about how your application would be evaluated.
While some schools do not specify average or minimum GPAs, others require grade point averages above a 3.0, and others expect at least a 2.75. In some cases, admissions teams consider the final 60 credits taken. If those grades compute to a higher average, students have a greater chance of being accepted.
Some schools will not consider applicants for admission that do not have overall qualifying grade point averages. However, a grade point average does not permanently disqualify a student from being accepted into an online MBA program. Schools may give leniency if students explain what led to lower academic performance through essays and interviews. Additionally, students can present as more fit candidates and show mastery in lacking academic areas by taking supplemental courses before submitting their Online MBA applications. Applicable courses could be the foundation classes for the online MBA program. This will acquaint students with business content if they have not taken business classes before and improve their academic record. Students may take online courses at non-degree seeking status, complete a graduate certificate, or enroll in another post-baccalaureate program.
Applicants for online MBA programs must hold an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution. Providing a transcript proves graduation of a bachelor’s level or higher program. Additionally, it confirms the classes students took and their performance in those classes. Some schools allow students to upload unofficial transcripts to push the application process along; however, official transcripts are still required. The authenticating school must seal an official transcript and mail it or send it electronically to the receiving college’s registrar’s office.
Candidates for online MBA programs are typically full-time business professionals. Because of this, they are likely to have a strong curriculum vitae (CV) or resume, which makes them an impressive applicant. Through a resume, the admissions team can see how the candidate has grown, how they have demonstrated discipline through longevity, and how they have exhibited leadership qualities. The quality of an applicant’s work experience is highlighted through the progression of increased responsibilities. Other things that stand out on MBA resumes are finance or technology jobs because Online MBA applicants have likely gained quantitative experience in those jobs. Additionally, applicants have worked at start-up businesses or completed management training rotations are attractive applicants because they have more well-rounded experiences.
According to the University of Wisconsin, MBA application resumes should look different than career resumes. Of course, students’ resumes should have a clear layout with phrases that begin with action words to describe jobs and leadership. However, resumes that students submit for their Online MBA program should demonstrate why they are good candidates. This resume does not need to be as concise or fit on one page. Students’ categories for their resume are objective, education, academic experiences, course highlights, internships, employment, volunteer, certifications, professional development, foreign languages, etc. It can include work and non-work experiences. All experiences should be noted, including the frequency they took place (i.e., weekly). Lastly, education does not need to be detailed because that information is on the transcript.
The possible admission exams for online MBA programs are the Executive Assessment (EA), the GRE, and the GMAT. The Executive Assessment is typically for Executive MBA programs, but some general programs accept it. The GRE or graduate record examination is a more general exam used for admission to many graduate programs. The GMAT is the official business school admission exam. GMAT stands for graduate management admission test. While the exams have slight variations, they generally test the same content: the GMAT and GRE test writing, quantitative reasoning, and integrative reasoning. The executive assessment does not include geometry in the quantitative section, and it does not have a writing section.
It is essential to research the ideal scores for these programs. The average admitted score for the GRE is 150, but top schools look for 161. The standard accepted score for the GMAT is 565. The executive assessment tests readiness, so there is more of a threshold to beat rather than an average to meet. The minimum score for the executive assessment is typically between 150 and 155. According to mba.com, students spend 21-30 hours preparing for the executive assessment. Kaplan suggests that students study for the GRE for three months, about 10 hours a week. Princeton Review suggests 100 hours of study for the GMAT, which is the same as the GRE.
There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing which exam to take. Students can consider the cost, how many times the exams can be taken, and which test they will likely score higher. The GMAT can only be taken eight times in a lifetime. Students can take the GRE five times per year. The Executive Assessment can be taken four times total, twice online and twice at a testing center. The EA is $350, the GMAT is $275, and the GRE is $205. Lastly, students can consider their academic strengths when deciding which exam to study for and submit those scores for their program. Students want to look as good as possible on paper. According to U.S. News and World Report, the quantitative reasoning section is less challenging on the GRE than on the GMAT, though the GMAT is logic heavy and the GRE is geometry heavy. The verbal reasoning section on the GRE is slightly more intense because of the sophisticated vocabulary.
According to some, students should take the GMAT, GRE, or TOEFL exams at least six weeks before the application is due because it can take up to 20 days to receive scores. If students need to retake the exam, this will give them some time. For the GRE, students have to wait 21 days before they can retake it. Additionally, some schools provide some additional time beyond the application deadline to submit scores. Schools offer test waivers, which means applicants are not always required to submit scores. Generally, waivers have stipulations that include but may not be limited to students holding a 3.0-grade point average, three-plus years of professional experience, a master’s degree, or a CPA credential.
There are different types of essays that business schools can request. More commonly requested is the personal statement. Schools also ask for essays about students’ career goals, contributions to the student body, and leadership. The writing pieces may have a different title, but here is the breakdown of what is being asked.
In a personal statement, a school’s admissions team wants to understand the students’ character, values, and passions. Students can talk about a range of topics if it shows how they align with the school’s values and approach to education. Menlo Coaching suggests that students avoid four things on their application: creative writing styles, over-explaining their job, trying to impress the admission committee, and dishonesty. Flowery writing styles can be off-putting to the committee reading the application. Using the essay to write about one’s job in business can be a waste of words because those reading the papers are likely very familiar with the various positions in the business industry. When students try to come off as impressive, it can be received as egotism or arrogance. One of the ways students end up being dishonest is in avoiding failure, but that could be the critical element that distinguishes one applicant from many. The other way is the inability to talk about the sensitivity of difficult or traumatic experiences.
The preferred style to write a personal essay is the classic style. Students should use the first-person voice and write more like a journalist. Critical Thinker Academy describes the classic style as writing to describe and draw attention to something. They get the reader to see something through the eyes of the writer.
The second type of essay is an essay about career goals. These essays can vary in the word limit but ask about short- and long-term goals in some form. Committees are looking for students with realistic but inspirational goals, students who stand out by the impact they want to make in their careers. It is imperative that students drawback to how earning an Online MBA through that program is key to achieving those goals. Without plagiarizing their website, students should demonstrate that they have researched the school.
School Contribution Statement
In the contribution essay, business schools are looking for how future students might impact the student life culture. This essay is not as likely for 100% online programs due to its nature. While online MBA students utilize campus resources, like the career office, they rarely engage in on-campus initiatives. However, if asked, students can describe how they would add value to conferences or programming and how being in the student body would benefit their peers.
Finally, in the leadership essay, students are asked to write about accomplishments or situations when they led others and impacted a team or circumstance. With this type of essay, an anecdote is a good writing style because students should tell a truthful story, particularly one that demonstrates not just success but failure and resiliency. Students should share what they have learned from a setback or challenge.
Letters of Recommendation
One way to strengthen the overall Online MBA application is to have strong recommendation letters. The recommendations should help the reader understand the applicant with greater specificity related to characteristics and work experiences. Strong recommendations can be what tips the scale in an applicant’s favor. Recommendations should never include negative information or even fail to mention excellent skills and accolades about the candidate, as that would create doubt in the admission team.
Some schools ask for two recommendations. Applicants may consider academic and professional recommendations. Princeton Review suggests using two professional recommenders. The applicant’s immediate supervisor or former supervisor are strong sources. Additionally, a colleague or indirect boss is a worthwhile recommender. Finally, they suggest that an academic source could be used for a third recommendation.
Here are six pieces of information to give recommenders. The more information they have, the more equipped they are to write about the candidate. One should include the resume and statement of purpose they are submitting in their application. These would provide a general outline for their letter. Applicants can include key talking points for their recommender. An example of a talking point would be elaborating on a project or assignment the applicant completed and highlighting strengths. They can also add schools they are applying to and why they chose them, the application deadlines, and the specific instructions for submitting the recommendation. Some schools request recommendations through their online system, and some ask for mailed letters. In the case of the latter, it would be nice to include envelopes and postage. Finally, students should remember to thank their recommenders and update them on the admission decision.
Some programs require interviews, and others do not. If students are not required to interview but would like to add value to their Online MBA application, they can request an interview. Like any interview, preparing and practicing will make it a lot easier.
Bentley University provides some common questions that can be included in an interview for an Online MBA program. One key question that is often included in an interview is “tell me about yourself.” This can be a question that catches many people off guard. The suggestion is for applicants to answer it in two or three minutes and articulate what makes them a fit for the program. Students can communicate this by describing their career experience, accomplishments, and goals. They can also focus a portion of their time on their undergraduate career.
Other questions include why a student wants to receive an Online MBA, why now, and why they are interested in their particular school. Whether a student applied to the school out of convenience or not, they should convey that this is a top choice for them in the interview. They should do some research. Schools advertise themselves on their websites, and current and former students often articulate what has made their academic experience grand.
Other questions focus on how employers and colleagues describe them. Or they may ask a prospective student about their strengths, weaknesses, and goals, both short-term and long-term. As it relates to employers’ opinions of the candidate, it is vital to be truthful if the employer wrote a letter of recommendation. The information will be fact-checked. Answering honestly increases the chances of communicating in alignment with what has been said already. Strengths and weaknesses are key opportunities to talk about oneself. While coming up with strengths can be easy, it is important not to list too many and hone in on characteristics that set them apart. Examples drive the point home. Weaknesses can be more difficult to name, and students may not want to share them at all, but simply describing how they have handled situations and turning them into a positive is often helpful.
Interviewers may ask about challenging or rewarding academic experiences and foreseeable challenges in admission to the Online MBA program. Students should include the reasons why. They could also ask about leadership skills. While leading in the workplace can be more common, candidates look desirable when they have experience leading and managing outside of work. Students may be asked about business changes they would make at their job, highlighting innovation and the ability to show improvement and create impact in a workplace. The final question is, what does the student like most about their current work? This question is all about framing. Students can talk about what they find rewarding and satisfying even if the job is overall undesirable.
Like job interviews, interviews for online MBA programs close with a version of “what questions do you have for me?” This is the time for students to show their level of interest and commitment. Examples of questions to ask the program committee are distinguishing factors about their program, changes they foresee in their program, or how partnerships look between their program and the business world.
The Princeton Review suggests that students set aside eight months to plan and prepare for applying to Online MBA programs. Their plan begins with researching programs in May, taking a GRE practice test, and studying in June. Then students can take the GRE by July, request official transcripts in October, write personal statements and request letters of recommendation by November, and submit a complete graduate school application by December. Working professionals may be working on a different timeline regarding the specific months, but the order of events is applicable. So, now it is time to make your SMART goals and prepare to embark on your Online MBA journey.