Home Blog MBA Application 101: What Makes a Successful MBA Application

MBA Application 101: What Makes a Successful MBA Application

June 15, 2022
Man with pencil and paper looking at laptop.

This article was originally published in May of 2019. It has since been updated for relevance and accuracy.

Show Them What You’ll Bring to the Table

Completing an MBA application can seem like a daunting task. No matter how confident you are in your ability and drive to succeed, it can be tough to think through what distinguishes you from other qualified candidates.

One helpful strategy for overcoming this challenge is to imagine your MBA application not just as a list of your qualifications and achievements, but as a cohesive statement of purpose. Think of the application as an opportunity to reflect on what leadership means to you and how your experiences shape the contributions you can make to the MBA program itself.

Below, we’ve outlined some key tips to help you build the best possible MBA application by demonstrating the value that you’ll bring to the program.

1. Highlight Your Unique Background

You might be surprised to learn that MBA programs are not just looking for candidates with an undergraduate background in business or economics. Many MBA programs, like the one at Seattle University, pride themselves on building a diverse MBA cohort, and this includes diversity of experience.

Maybe you studied a humanities or liberal arts subject in college, and you want to talk about how your background in literary analysis can enhance your business communication courses. Or perhaps you’re a mechanical engineer by training, and you can see how your approach to design and problem-solving can bring a new depth to discussions about product innovation.

Have you lived abroad? Or do you have other life experiences that are unusual? If your life experiences contribute to your unique perspective on business, highlight them.
When crafting your MBA resume or personal statement, emphasize any part of your past that could add depth to the shared learning opportunities for your classmates.1

2. Make Your Experience Work for You

Work experience is a key factor in MBA applications, and most MBA programs expect candidates to write compellingly about their work experience. The good news is, your MBA application doesn’t need to demonstrate an early career in conventional business fields like finance or marketing. Likewise, not every successful applicant has a specific amount of business experience. Instead, admissions committees are looking for examples of leadership and personal growth in the narrative.2

MBA admissions committees seek well-rounded individuals with a variety of strengths and perspectives that they can bring to the class discussions that highlight your MBA coursework. For this reason, “experience” need not mean “work experience” in the conventional sense.

Volunteer work, military service, and any number of other experiences can be brought to the fore in your MBA application to demonstrate what you’ve learned by overcoming specific challenges that your classmates may have never even had to consider.

3. Emphasize Your Growth and Leadership

Focus discussion of your experience on how your work benefited the organization and your colleagues. The strongest MBA applications and resumes document a history of accomplishments that help others in your organization while advancing your career.

Because MBA programs strive to create successful leaders, they’re interested in your leadership experiences. These can include spearheading new initiatives at your company, successfully leading major projects, proposing needed organizational changes, or any other time you’ve had a positive impact at work.3

Examples that demonstrate your drive to improve outcomes for your colleagues and peers can show an MBA admissions committee that you will be equally committed to supporting your classmates during your shared time in the program.

When you’re updating your resume to send to your MBA admissions committee, single out your major wins among the bullet points you use to describe your work experience. And if your MBA application requires a personal essay, achievements like those described above can provide a strong narrative arc.

4. Don’t Shy Away From Failure

The reality is that no one’s professional journey is an uninterrupted string of successes, and MBA admissions committees don’t expect yours to be. What they do want to see is how you respond to any challenges or setbacks you may face along the way. A personal statement or essay is the perfect place to discuss how a challenge led to professional growth. If your MBA program requires an admission interview, you can reasonably bet you’ll be asked about such an experience.

Describing lessons you’ve learned from times in which you’ve fallen short of your goals demonstrates self-awareness and analytical intelligence, key qualities for business leaders. A well-crafted, concise discussion of a challenge that you faced and what it taught you also illustrates the growth mindset that is an essential quality for both successful MBA students and business leaders.4

5. Align Your Application With Your Goals

The MBA application may seem daunting at first. But if you look at it another way, you will find that the application process can help clarify whether a specific MBA program is right for you. When you apply your critical faculties to the application requirements, you learn a lot about the school’s priorities as well as your own. If your goals align and you focus on answering the application questions with conviction, candor, and clarity, your successful application can lead to career-long growth and success.

Craft Your Success in Our Online MBA Program

A higher salary and more autonomy are just some of the potential benefits of getting your MBA. With these MBA admissions tips in mind, you’re already well on your way to a successful application to the Online MBA program from the Albers School of Business and Economics at Seattle University. Faculty at Albers take pride in delivering a business education grounded in ethics, communication, and personal development, and they’re eager to welcome thoughtful, driven professionals who can help make the Online MBA program a success for everyone involved.

  1. Retrieved on June 6, 2022, from poetsandquants.com/2018/02/20/does-your-major-matter-mba-acceptance-rates-by-major/
  2. Retrieved on June 6, 2022, from usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/top-business-schools/articles/how-much-work-experience-do-i-need-for-mba-programs
  3. Retrieved on June 6, 2022, from poetsandquants.com/admissions/qualities-to-feature-in-your-mba-application-essays/
  4. Retrieved on June 6, 2022, from ellinlolis.com/blog/how-to-discuss-failures-weaknesses-in-your-mba-essay/