4 Ways to Maximize Your Chances of Getting Into a Top MBA Program

Whether you are still in college or you have already started your career, you may be dreaming about someday attending a leading business school for your MBA.  If so, the actions you take now may have a direct impact on your chances of getting in.

Recently, I talked to Dan Bauer, founder of The MBA Exchange, a leader in MBA admissions consulting.  Dan provided a great deal of insight into the fierce admissions process–acceptance rates at the top schools can be as low as 7%.  Even if you are 2-3 years away from applying, here are four suggestions from Dan for improving your chances starting now.

Make every job count. 

In this difficult job market, you might be tempted to take any job right after graduation, just to get a paycheck–not the best move when it comes to your MBA candidacy.  Will the position provide significant learning opportunities and/or the chance to network?

Don’t take the GMAT until you’re ready. 

This infamous standardized test has constrained many otherwise strong MBA applicants.  It has also helped many who “underachieved” in college to show the b-school admissions committees that they have the potential to excel in the classroom.   In other words, the GMAT matters!  The worst thing you can do is to take this test before you are fully prepared to earn a score that is at least equal to the median at the desired business school.  Why?  Because the admissions committees will see your prior scores even if you do better the next time.  And the more tests you take, the less convincing your improvement will be.  So start by finding the best possible prep resources, which could mean self-study or securing a reputable tutor.

Don’t ignore your non-work profile. 

You probably had a lot of extracurricular activities in high school and college. But now that you are focused on your career, you may have a very demanding have a tangible impact?   Does the company have a respected reputation that will add value to your resume?  Does the job put you in direct contact with accomplished senior professionals who will be your future recommenders and mentors?  And is the company one that recruits at or is managed by graduates of business schools that you’re targeting?  If in doubt, contact the MBA career services offices, tell them you are a future applicant, and ask for their advice.  You can even contact The MBA Exchange for a free evaluation of your professional profile.


This can leave little time for joining organizations and taking on leadership roles.  But, to disregard this aspect of your future MBA candidacy is a huge mistake.  B-schools expect their best applicants to demonstrate leadership, teamwork, ethics and cultural awareness.  You should pick two noteworthy non-profits right after college and make your mark in some tangible way.  And make sure that some senior officers know you since you’ll need their endorsement later when you apply to schools.

So what is the bottom line?  Dan Bauer says that “waiting until a few months before you actually apply to start building your candidacy is not an option.” Follow this advice and you will find yourself well positioned to pursue your place in a top business school.


Lesley is president and founder of Priority Candidates, which prepares college students and recent graduates nationwide to get hired for their first jobs.   Previously, Lesley spent more than 25 years in executive search, working with candidates from entry level to C-Suite executives in organizations ranging in size from small, family owned businesses to large international organizations.  Her fundamental knowledge of what hiring manager’s look for is the core of what Priority Candidates does to prepare college students/recent grads to get hired now.  An alumnus of Duke University who is based in New York City, Lesley has been featured in USA Today, ABC’s New York Viewpoint with Ken Rosato, ABC News with Art McFarland, The New York Times, NY Nightly News with NBC4’s Chuck Scarborough, eCampus News and John Tucker’s Small Business Report on Bloomberg Radio.   Lesley always welcomes connections via LinkedIn, on Twitter or by email or phone, available on her website.

Related posts:

  1. Two Unexpected Ways to Get a Graduate Education
  2. Internships and Part-time Jobs: 3 Ways They Can Help Your Career
  3. College Seniors, Start Now

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