27 October 2016Last updated

Features | People

Ask the expert: steps to take to improve MBA application

You need to build on your profile with activities you are passionate about and excel in them

Sanjeev Verma
7 Oct 2016 | 12:00 am

I’ve completed my BBA degree, and since I require a minimum of two or three years’ work experience for pursuing an MBA, I’m looking for jobs. Could you list the important courses and actions that might help me stand out?

An MBA application is holistic in nature encompassing academics, leadership, community service, communication skills and 
your future plans. It reflects who you are, and while you can improve on who you are, you cannot create a new person. Use the next few years to improve your profile.

The majority of the top business schools will need a GMAT score. That means you need to study (consider joining a prep online centre) and get a score that matches the average of your target school – for the top 15 schools this would mean a score of 700+, for others it could mean 650+. Improve your diagnostic scores before you take the test. The test scores are valid for five years but get them out of the way, the sooner the better. Having a score below the university benchmark is a liability, though having a score well in excess of the benchmark may not necessarily be an asset.

If your GPA was not good enough then do a GRE to support your application, but bear in mind that many universities may not accept it.

You also need to check which of the following English language tests (IELTS/ TOEFL/ Pearson) are required by the university you are planning to apply to. These results are valid for two years.

Irrespective of your academic results it is advisable to do some additional online courses from an accredited university. These could be related to what you want to specialise in, or in the subject you were weak in. Take quantitative/business classes to enhance your academic profile – maybe calculus, microeconomics and statistics as they are needed in any MBA programme. 
Many applicants come from different areas like humanities, social sciences and art and while MBA schools welcome them, these applicants need to show the capacity and intellect to assimilate the information they will receive during the programme.

You need to build on your profile with activities you are passionate about and excel in them. These should ideally 
be in a non-academic arena like sports, politics, creative arts etc. In addition not only will you need to be actively engaged in community service, you should be able to quantify the results of your efforts. Similarly you will be required to show leadership and motivation skills at your job or at an activity outside the workplace.

While working on the above develop your communication skills – both verbal and written. These will yield dividends when writing out essays, applications, at interviews with the school and employers. A common grouse most admission officers have is the mediocre communication skills of MBA applicants. Good communication skills will always be an asset and hold you in good stead at every stage of your career. Start reading more and subscribe to a few international newspapers. This will not only help improve your language but also help you think like an international applicant.

Recommendation letters form a very important component of your application and it is critical that you choose your referees with care. The referees should know you well enough to write a detailed recommendation, citing specific examples at work illustrating your leadership and other character traits.

It would be prudent to discuss these recommendations to ensure not only is your referee really excited about your application but also believes in you. Else you may be lumped with a rather tepid recommendation, which could torpedo the entire application.

It is important to articulate your post-MBA plans in your essay or during the interview. This should be well-thought-out and also be realistic. Your MBA is a bridge from the present to your future career and you should be able to justify the need and benefit derived from it.

Now for the job! Whichever field you choose to work in, the job should show you shouldering responsibilities and leadership. This doesn’t necessarily mean climbing the corporate ladder but rather identifying opportunities that make an impact. This 
could manifest itself in various forms – solving a long-standing problem, opening new avenues for the team, improving productivity or even by mentoring newcomers.

Also, rather than have too many job changes that show you are not focused, it may be better to show progress in one job. Sticking to one or two jobs also means you are able to build on relationships with your superiors, who you need to write the recommendations.

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Sanjeev Verma

Sanjeev Verma

is a leading international education counsellor