Tips for applying to MBA Programs

Aproveitando que agosto será um mês recheado de eventos e feiras sobre MBA, convidamos Melissa Fogerty, da Yale School of Management (veja o Evans Hall, na foto acima), para dar dicas para os candidatos a esse tipo de programa.

Greetings from the Yale School of Management Admissions Office! My name is Melissa Fogerty, and I’m the Deputy Director of Admissions for Yale SOM’s full-time, 2-year MBA program.

I’m very excited to be visiting São Paulo on August 27, and I hope you will join us to learn more about the MBA application process and meet representatives from top-ranked business schoolsclick here to register.

In the meantime, I would like to share a few tips that will be helpful in applying to business school in the US. In this article, we’ll discuss each section of the application and I’ll share a few pointers.

Each university’s application requirements will vary slightly, so I encourage you to carefully review the requirements of the schools to which you are applying.

Application Rounds

Most US business schools have three rounds of admission for their full-time MBA programs. A typical schedule is:

Application Due Admissions Decision Date 
Round 1 September December
Round 2 January March
Round 3 April May

You should carefully check the application deadlines for the schools to which you are applying, as you will need ample time to complete all of the application components before each deadline. When choosing which round to apply, it’s critical to submit your application when it is ready. You don’t want to rush to complete any section, or provide your recommenders inadequate time to complete a thorough letter. Generally speaking, we recommend that you apply in Round 1 or Round 2.

Resume

As part of your application, you will submit your professional resume. This should highlight your work experience since university, and the most effective summaries will include a description of each role, and your impact on each organization.

Quantify your achievements; for example, an effective resume description will explain: “I accomplished x, as measured by y, by doing z.” If you work for a small company, please include a description of the company on your resume – this will help the Admissions Committee understand your work experience.

Unless you have many years of work experience, your resume should be one page. You can save space by deleting any “objectives” or “references available upon request” sections – we know your objective is to get an MBA, and we have your letters of recommendation. Don’t worry at this point about formatting your resume in any particular way; the most important consideration is whether it conveys information clearly.

Transcripts and Test Scores

You will submit a transcript for each institution where you took courses for credit, whether or not it led to a degree. The Admissions Committee will review not only your grades, but also the difficulty of the courses you selected and the institution you attended. In addition, we will be looking for quantitative competence in your application, and one way to demonstrate this is via courses like calculus, microeconomics, or statistics.

Most MBA programs accept either the GMAT or the GRE, and we do not prefer one exam over the other. Although Yale SOM no longer requires an English exam, this requirement still exists at many business schools, so you should investigate whether your schools will request a TOEFL or other English exam.

You should study and prepare before taking any standardized tests through classes or independent study; you should never take a test “cold,” because the Admissions Committee will see this score. If the score you achieve is substantially lower than your practice exams, you can retake the test; however, we recommend that you don’t take the test more than 3 times. When reviewing the score, Yale SOM will give you credit for the highest score achieved, and we also look at the individual components of the exam.

Essays

The essay is your opportunity to tell the Admissions Committee more about yourself, and what makes you a unique and interesting applicant. You should speak from your head, and also from your heart, and tailor your essay to each school.

The most important piece of advice I can give for the essay is to answer the question asked, not the question you wish we had asked! We recommend that you share your essay with a friend, without giving them the question, and then ask them what they think the question was. If they get it right, you’ll know that you addressed the question fully. It’s important to respect word count limits and proofread. Finally, your essay must be your own work – you should not allow anyone to write it for you.

Many schools will include an “optional information” section. This is your opportunity to inform the Admissions Committee of anything in your application that may be unclear. You should not feel obligated to fill the space, as it is truly optional. Examples of good uses of this section are to explain gaps in your work experience, a semester with particularly poor grades, or if you lack a letter of recommendation from your current supervisor.

Admissions officers are very creative, so if you don’t explain such anomalies, we may imagine something that is much outrageous than the reality! Please don’t use this section to provide us with an essay that you wrote for another school.

Letters of Recommendation

Your letters of recommendation should be from professional colleagues who supervised your work and can speak in detail to your work product. At least one recommendation should be from your current supervisor. Professor recommendations are generally not helpful, unless they supervised significant research.

To ensure the best possible letters of recommendation, there are a few things you can do. First, give your recommender a lot of time to write the letter. They are busy professionals, and you don’t want them writing something at the last minute. You might want to take your recommender out to coffee and have a conversation with them about your career goals and MBA plans, and review your resume, work accomplishments, and even application essays.

Please do not give your recommender anything in writing. If they write something that also appears elsewhere in your application, it will look like you wrote your recommendations, which brings me to the final recommendation tip – do not write your own recommendations. These letters must be the work of the recommender, and you should not compose it for them to sign, even if they ask. If your recommender doesn’t speak English, you should obtain an official translation of their recommendation to submit. Do not translate the recommendation yourself.

Interview

Interviews for MBA programs can take many forms, but a typical interview will be approximately 30 minutes long, conducted by a member of the school’s community (usually an admissions officer, current student, or alumnus).

Most schools will issue an invitation to interview and provide options for conducting the interview on-campus, via Skype, or at a nearby city. Interviews are used to gauge professional presence, your ability to tell your story, and English language skills.

Practice, practice, practice. The interview is your opportunity to present yourself professionally. Come prepared in business formal dress and with a copy of your resume and business card.

You should research typical MBA interview questions online, pull several to practice, and prepare 3 answers for each one. No matter how casual your interviewer may appear, you should remain professional in your demeanor at all times during, before, and after the interview.

Remember that you can be evaluated at any moment that you are on campus, so be polite to the receptionist! Review your resume and application essays before the interview – you should be deeply familiar with everything written on your resume and be prepared to discuss each bullet point in detail.

The best interviews are a conversation where each participant speaks. You don’t want to dominate the conversation or appear overly “scripted.” At the end of the interview, be prepared with intelligent questions, ones that go beyond the school’s webpage. Remember, this is your chance to evaluate the school, just as the school is evaluating you, so take advantage of the opportunity to learn more. Finally, be sure to follow up with a thank you note to your interviewer.

Video Questions

Several business schools, including Yale SOM, now require recorded video questions as part of the application. This new section is similar to an interview, as it measures professional presence and your ability to speak to interview-style questions. The format varies by school, but at Yale, we require 3 short recorded questions. All you need to complete this section is a computer with a web camera, similar to using Skype.

You will hear the question, have 20 seconds to think about your response, and 60 seconds to deliver your response. You should dress professionally and prepare a quiet space to record the questions (you don’t want your roommate walking in or your phone ringing during the questions!). Pay attention to the background of your video – is your closet door open or your bed unmade? The Admissions Committee will see everything in the screen, so take the time to adjust the lighting and remove distracting background props.

Video questions are a great way for schools to bring a mini-interview component to all applicants. If you have prepared for your interview, you are ready for video questions.

Application Fee

The final step in your application is to pay the application fee. Yale SOM now offers a tiered application fee structure to assist candidates with lower incomes. The standard application fee is $225; however, if your annual compensation is less than $20,000 your application fee will be $175, and if your annual compensation is less than $10,000 your application fee will be $125.

Conclusion

A successful application will demonstrate career progression, leadership potential, commitment, and a demonstrated interest in your area of focus. It’s important to be yourself, and communicate your story in a way that is authentic to who you are.

Your application should speak as a whole, so take each opportunity to tell the Admissions Committee something new about yourself. Finally, do your research by visiting campus if you can, speaking to current students and alumni, attending admissions presentations, and reviewing the website in detail – your demonstrated knowledge will ensure that the schools you choose will be a great fit for you.


About the Author:

MelissaFogertyMelissa Fogerty is the Deputy Director of Admissions for the Yale School of Management. She obtained her BA from Boston College and JD from Harvard Law School. Prior to joining the Yale SOM Admissions team, Melissa worked for several years as a corporate lawyer focusing on mergers & acquisitions, securities, and finance.

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