What Admission Officers are Looking for in a Winning Application?

Prospective MBA applicants face a number of difficult challenges prior to gaining acceptance or denial to their program of choice. Some of the most important indicators of applicant admissions are often undiscovered by the applicants themselves, and they represent the weaknesses of many applicants in researching the admissions process.

Nonetheless, the admissions process is highly competitive, and perhaps the most important indicator of a successful outcome is the admissions committee. This committee is established to make all decisions regarding the admission or denial of applicants to highly competitive MBA programs.

An MBA admissions committee is comprised of a group of professionals that are selected by a college or university to make informed decisions regarding prospective applicants to MBA programs. These individuals are expected to understand the admissions requirements in great detail, to review each candidate’s credentials without reservation, and to make decisions regarding admission that will satisfy the college or university’s mission.

The Admissions committees are typically comprised of a diverse group of individuals, all of whom should possess the knowledge that is necessary to make the most informed selections of candidates.

As representatives of the university, admissions committees seek a specific set of characteristics in the applications that they review. For example, academic performance is critical, and there is a typical cutoff point for admission versus denial, with additional characteristics serving as the deciding factors in making the final decision. After the academic performance, GMAT scores are also important to the admissions process, accompanied by extracurricular activities, overall potential for success, the admissions essay, and the outcome of a personal interview, if applicable.

In general, admissions committees serve as the facilitators of success or failure in the application process, and although these individuals could be nameless, their significance to the MBA career cannot be undermined. Prospective applicants should consider admissions committees as one of the key facilitators in commencing a successful MBA career.

A winning application requires a strong combination of characteristics that favorably demonstrate an applicant’s strengths. For example, there are many opportunities for individuals to demonstrate that their backgrounds and experiences are more than suitable for the selected MBA program not only through the application itself but also through the accompanying essay.

Admissions committees review many, many applications during a given cycle, and therefore, those applications with the most interesting content and a “story” to tell are likely to be the most favorable in the eyes of committee members. Therefore, applicants that are creative yet truthful in their admissions essays may find themselves in an encouraging position.

These essays are perhaps the most successful indicator of a winning application, particularly if the applicant is creative and forthright in his or her response. Admissions committees will place a greater emphasis on the essay when they are unsure of a candidate’s full potential, with the essay potentially making a difference in the decision that is made regarding admission.

Finally, admissions committees view applicants with respect to their record of academic performance, particularly in their undergraduate coursework. These records are very important in establishing an admissions scale, whereby applicants are evaluated according to their academic credentials, and subsequent reviews are made as based upon other attributes, such as extracurricular activities, community service, and overall potential. In other words, applicants are viewed as related to their overall merit and their ability to satisfy the difficult requirements of the MBA program in a successful manner. These committees serve a valuable purpose in enabling prospective candidates to maximize their admissions potential by preparing a thoughtful and thorough record of their past accomplishments, as well as their future potential.

Admissions committees are challenged and encouraged to review all candidates’ credentials with enthusiasm and with an eye to the future, which reflects the importance of the longevity of MBA programs in the coming years and their effectiveness in preparing students for successful careers in the business field and beyond.

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