MBA Life

How the MBA admissions committee actually looks at your application

Despite the countless hours you have spent poring over the minute details of your application essays, you can be sure the admissions committee will not be spending too much time on your application at the screening stage. Though admissions officers read every application, it is unrealistic to expect them to spend more than 15-20 minutes per application. But the reality is that seats are limited, and the competition is tough. So the initial impression matters a lot.

While each school may have its own specific set of criteria, in general, these are the basic parameters used to screen applications:

1. GMAT score:  Indicates your ability to handle the academic course work

2. Pre-MBA Work Experience: Your pre-MBA career and your progression and professional achievements during this period.

3. POST MBA: Short term and mid-long term goals and the roadmap to achieving them.

4. Personality and interests: extracurricular, interests, international exposure, volunteering


Business schools look to groom business leaders of the future. Providing proof of leadership potential is vital for the candidate to stand out. Managing a team of people is a big challenge, so having direct team management experience is ideal. Unfortunately, this may not always be possible in some professions, especially in flatter hierarchies. Don’t stress about it because business schools understand this.  

Leadership doesn’t necessarily have to involve people management. Being able to influence without direct hierarchical authority is an excellent example of leadership. Workplace initiatives that improve efficiency, reduce costs, or increase revenue are also excellent ways to show leadership. If you are a go-to person in your organization, who is a lynchpin of your project or organization, business schools want to hear about you.


As an applicant, you need to make a clear case for the following question.

1. Why you need an MBA at this point?

2. Why this particular MBA from their school?

3. What value an MBA provides to you in the short and long-run?

4. What value can you provide to your classmates and the school?

Beyond these basics, the admissions committee may also have additional considerations such as

  • Your academic scores, especially for younger candidates, will be under scrutiny. GPA and undergraduate academic performance and consistency over time.
  • Your GMAT score will be examined, especially if it skews heavily in either quantitative or Verbal.
  • If you have a typical ‘MBA’ profile, or if you belong to a career path or a demographic group that is ‘over-represented’ in your school, the bar for you will be set much higher than for other candidates since you will naturally compete with those with similar profiles. You would need to demonstrate that you are a truly outstanding candidate.
  • The quality of your work experience: especially if you come from a typical pre-MBA background in banking or consulting.
  • The strength of your recommendations and how it corresponds to your overall application
  • The ability of your CV to communicate your career highlights is critical. Avoiding too much overlap between the CV and essays is also of great importance.
  • Your international experience or international exposure.
  • Are your career goals realistic enough?
  • Are your career goals too conservative?
  • Are you being authentic? Or are you saying what you think the admissions committee would like to hear?
  • What long term career goal motivates you and why?
  • What concrete steps will you take in the mid-long term to make that dream become a reality?

You may not know who you are competing against. But you certainly can control the quality of your application. By addressing these questions effectively, you can differentiate yourself from your competition and progress to the next stages of the application process.

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