Most MBA admissions committees try to build a diverse class. Their goal is to assemble a group of different people with opposing views and approaches so everyone in the class can learn from each other. In other words, the admissions committee does not want cookie-cutter MBA candidates. Nevertheless, there are some things that MBA applicants do have in common. If you share these traits, you might be the perfect MBA candidate.
Strong Academic Record
Many business schools, particularly top-tier business schools, look for MBA candidates with strong undergraduate transcripts. Applicants aren't expected to have a 4.0, but they should have a decent GPA. If you look at the class profile for top business schools, you will see that the average undergraduate GPA is somewhere around 3.6. Although top-ranked schools have admitted candidates with a GPA of 3.0 or lower, it is not a common occurrence.
Academic experience in business is also helpful. Although it is not a requirement at most business schools, the completion of previous business coursework can give applicants an edge. For example, a student with an undergraduate degree in business or finance may be considered a more viable Harvard Business School candidate than a student with a Bachelor of Arts in music.
Nevertheless, admissions committees do look for students with a diverse academic background. GPA is important (so is the undergraduate degree you earned and the undergraduate institution you attended), but it is only one aspect of a business school application. What's most important is that you have the ability to understand the information presented to you in class and the skills to work at the graduate level. If you do not have a business or finance background, you may want to consider taking a business math or statistics course before applying to an MBA program. This will show admissions committees that you are prepared for the quantitative aspect of coursework.
Actual Work Experience
To be a genuine MBA candidate, you must have some post-undergraduate work experience. Management or leadership experience is best, but it is not an absolute requirement. At least two to three solid years of pre-MBA work experience is usually required. This may include a stint at an accounting firm or the experience of starting and running your own business. Some schools want to see more than just three years of pre-MBA work and may set firm admissions requirements to ensure they get the most experienced MBA candidates. There are exceptions to this rule. A small number of programs accept applicants fresh out of undergraduate school, but these institutions are not very common. If you have a decade of work experience or more, you may want to consider an executive MBA program.
Real Career Goals
Graduate school is expensive and can be very challenging for even the best students. Before applying to any graduate program, you should have very specific career goals. This will help you to choose the best program and will also help ensure that you do not waste any money or time on an academic program that will not serve you after graduation. It doesn't matter which school you apply to; the admissions committee will expect you to articulate what you would like to do for a living and why. A good MBA candidate should also be able to explain why they are choosing to pursue an MBA over another type of degree.
Good Test Scores
MBA candidates need good test scores to increase their chances of admission. Nearly every MBA program requires the submission of standardized test scores during the admissions process. The average MBA candidate will need to take the GMAT or the GRE. Students whose first language is not English will also need to submit TOEFL scores or scores from another applicable test. Admissions committees will use these tests to determine an applicant's ability to work at the graduate level.
A good score does not guarantee acceptance at any business school, but it certainly doesn't hurt your chances. On the other hand, a not-so-good score does not preclude admission; it simply means that the other parts of your application need to be strong enough to offset the questionable score. If you have a bad score (a really bad score), you may want to consider retaking the GMAT. A better-than-average score will not make you stand out among other MBA candidates, but a bad score will.
What Makes a Perfect MBA Candidate?
Every MBA candidate wants to succeed. They make the decision to go to business school because they genuinely want to increase their knowledge and better their resume. They apply with the intention of doing well and seeing it through to the end. If you are serious about getting your MBA and have a whole-hearted desire to succeed, you have the most important traits of an MBA candidate.