Most Important Factor in B-School Admissions?

Londinium23's picture
Rank: Baboon | 111

I am current studying International Relations at a high level university doing a masters degree. I am seriously looking at traditional consulting or banking as a career option. Therefore I was considering an MBA as the next step after I finish my current degree.

I was wondering what is the most important aspects of an MBA applicants package for top programs? Is it undergrad grades, GMAT, SOP, work experience?

From what I've understood it's work experience and GMAT scores? Am I right in assuming this?

My undergrad GPA was only a hair less then 3.5. However, for the GMAT I'm worried about the Quant aspects as I'm terrible at math.

Do I still stand a good chance for a top 20 program?

Just throwing this out there!

Thank you in advance for your opinions!

Comments (37)

Best Response
Jan 24, 2018

You're right that quality of work experience and GMAT are essentially the ones that will move the needle the most. A high GMAT won't compensate for no or underwhelming work experience (at least in the top 16; once you go beyond that say top 30 or top 50, the GMAT becomes #1), but conversely great work experience may not compensate for a low GMAT especially if the work experience isn't truly unique (and 99% of applicants don't have unique experiences - and if they did, they likely won't be applying for b-school).

Undergrad GPA is important but secondary. Schools like HBS care because they can and need to in some way to filter out folks (way more folks with great work experience and great GMAT to choose from). The pedigree of your undergrad matters as well, although that's also secondary to quality of work experience and GMAT. But, the very top schools care more about undergrad pedigree because it helps further filter candidates. In plain English, your GPA won't help you but can hurt you if it's shitty (i.e. low 3's, or under 3). Also, this applies to those who went to US undergrad. For those who went to university outside the US, the GMAT becomes even more important (and the pedigree of the school then matters more than the GPA).

Then comes extracurriculars. Too many folks get nervous or preoccupied with this. It's not that important. If you have some that are interesting, great. If not, it's not a make or break. In other words, the lack of any meaningful extracurriculars won't hurt as much as you think, especially if everything else is solid (plenty of ultra blue chip folks at top schools who didn't don much outside of work, and/or solid folks at say top 16's with strong work ex, GMAT, etc). But real standout extracurriculars can help - HOWEVER, that's not something you can game. There isn't a shelf where you can just pull down "extraordinary experiences". That transcends applications, and comes down to life circumstances/opportunities and stuff you'd be doing regardless of b-school.

How well you execute the application itself is asymmetric: amazing essays/recs alone won't get you in if your raw profile simply doesn't cut it (and even if it does, there's still way more folks who can do this then there are spots). But shitty essays/recs can cause an otherwise solid applicant to get dinged. In that way, it's similar to the GMAT. And there's always folks with somewhat average or banal (but not shitty) applications who get in because their raw profile is exceptional and/or they're application proof because of who they are (the application is a formality).

tl;dr -- practically speaking:
Get great work experience that will make you employable regardless of b-school plans; aim for a GMAT close or above the averages for your target schools; and do the best you can on the applications but know that beyond that, it's also a matter of luck.

    • 3
Jan 25, 2018
MBAApply:

You're right that quality of work experience and GMAT are essentially the ones that will move the needle the most. A high GMAT won't compensate for no or underwhelming work experience (at least in the top 16; once you go beyond that say top 30 or top 50, the GMAT becomes #1), but conversely great work experience may not compensate for a low GMAT especially if the work experience isn't truly unique (and 99% of applicants don't have unique experiences - and if they did, they likely won't be applying for b-school).

Undergrad GPA is important but secondary. Schools like HBS care because they can and need to in some way to filter out folks (way more folks with great work experience and great GMAT to choose from). The pedigree of your undergrad matters as well, although that's also secondary to quality of work experience and GMAT. But, the very top schools care more about undergrad pedigree because it helps further filter candidates. In plain English, your GPA won't help you but can hurt you if it's shitty (i.e. low 3's, or under 3). Also, this applies to those who went to US undergrad. For those who went to university outside the US, the GMAT becomes even more important (and the pedigree of the school then matters more than the GPA).

Then comes extracurriculars. Too many folks get nervous or preoccupied with this. It's not that important. If you have some that are interesting, great. If not, it's not a make or break. In other words, the lack of any meaningful extracurriculars won't hurt as much as you think, especially if everything else is solid (plenty of ultra blue chip folks at top schools who didn't don much outside of work, and/or solid folks at say top 16's with strong work ex, GMAT, etc). But real standout extracurriculars can help - HOWEVER, that's not something you can game. There isn't a shelf where you can just pull down "extraordinary experiences". That transcends applications, and comes down to life circumstances/opportunities and stuff you'd be doing regardless of b-school.

How well you execute the application itself is asymmetric: amazing essays/recs alone won't get you in if your raw profile simply doesn't cut it (and even if it does, there's still way more folks who can do this then there are spots). But shitty essays/recs can cause an otherwise solid applicant to get dinged. In that way, it's similar to the GMAT. And there's always folks with somewhat average or banal (but not shitty) applications who get in because their raw profile is exceptional and/or they're application proof because of who they are (the application is a formality).

tl;dr -- practically speaking:
Get great work experience that will make you employable regardless of b-school plans; aim for a GMAT close or above the averages for your target schools; and do the best you can on the applications but know that beyond that, it's also a matter of luck.

Thank you for your through reply,

Just wondering I had a couple of questions building on what you brought up.

1) How important to admissions is things like prior courses in economics, stats, or finance? So far I've done the basic intro econ courses-undergrad micro and macro and got A's in both.

2) Do internships count as work experience in the eyes of admissions for top programs?

Thank you again!

Jan 25, 2018
  1. No. More than half the folks at b-school are non-business folks (engineering, military, liberal arts, etc).
  2. No. Work experience = post college, full-time experience. The only people who think of internships as the same or almost the same are college students or fresh grads i.e. inexperienced professionals. Fast forward 4-6 years when you've worked full-time for a while, and you'll feel the same that there's no way in any way shape or form that your 2-3 years of full-time work experience is comparable to some college kid working for a few months in the summer. Again, internships are a good way to dip your toes in the water, establish a beach head for you to eventually get the full-time offer, but it's not the same.
    • 1
Jan 25, 2018

I don't think anyone will care as long as you don't end up with Fs.

Jan 25, 2018

Step 1, Forget about the MBA completely
Step 2 Enjoy university/college, you NEVER GET those year back
Step 3 Go out into the world and do the best you can
Step 4 (This is about 6 years down the line) Re-post this question

1percentblog.com

Jan 25, 2018

MBA programs won't care. Safe travels.

Jan 25, 2018

More seriously, they do look at your main undergraduate transcript ahead of your overseas transcript. However, it makes sense to keep your GPA on par with your home university, otherwise, it does look like you have taken your eyes off the prize.

As for "easy classes," they will look at that pretty seriously in your overall transcript, especially if you are from, as your moniker indicates, a non-target school. STEM classes are always appreciated, and even getting a B in a hard math class is better than getting an A in "cultures of the Basque provinces" class.

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... Ask away!

Jan 25, 2018

i've heard that for B-school your application is weighted as follows (as a rough rule -- obvioulsy varies by school):

1/3 on the numbers (GMAT / GPA / SAT, etc -- GMAT being the most important # in here)
1/3 on the Essays and Recs
1/3 on work experience / other activities

so more of a big picture look -- i'm not sure about law schools

Jan 25, 2018

really? GMAT more important than GPA?

Jan 25, 2018

i would say they weight it slightly more - and defniitely mroe important than the SAT. that being said, if you have a GPA of 2.5, that will hurt you. If you had a 3.2 GPA but a GMAT of 740, your still going to get a very high score on this 1/3 of the evaluation. I would say that a 3.2 with a 740 is better than a 3.7 with a 680. but it is never an exact science here and that is just my opinion / my impression from what i've heard.

Jan 25, 2018

What are you retarded? SAT? No one asks for your fucking SAT.

Jan 25, 2018

i agree, the gmat is more important. the median gpas at the top b-schools aren't that high.

Jan 25, 2018

GMAT because the admissions council understands that your GPA, while it is important, is a indicator from 5 years ago or whenever. Alot might have changed since then, your maturity etc. You might have gotten a really low GPA because you partied too much in Uni and now your more career oriented etc. Hope that helps.

Jan 25, 2018

GPA is almost useless because every school grades differently (Everyone gets an A at Harvard). GMAT is your key stat, followed closely by work experience, and finally essays/recs. It also helps to know someone that has a library named after them...

Jan 25, 2018

How important is your SAT and High school grades? Reason being in high school i was a bit of a slacker. You know more concerned about being "cool" rather than grades. I mean I did OK, and I went to a good private school. My SAT score was decent 55th percentile. My first year and a half in college I was the same, had a 2.2GPA!! But then I got my act togethor 2nd semester sophmore year and got nothing less than a 3.4 any semester. I graduated with a 3.45GPA. I have great internship background and I will be starting at a BB this summer as a FT analyst where I feel I will get great experience.

You give me a gift? BAM Thank you note! You invite me somewhere? POW RSVP! You do me a favor? WHAM Favor returned! Do not test my politeness.

Jan 25, 2018

high school grades and SAT scores are not considered.

Its a combination of the following things (not necessarily in this order) -

GMAT

Undergrad GPA

Work Experience (industry, showing progression, quality of work/employer)

Extracurricular activities (hopefully you've been involved in something outside of work for several years. Bonus points if you had a leadership position.

Essays (writing skills and ability to demonstrate you fit in with the school "culture")

Desire (b-schools want to feel wanted and expressing your desire to attend their school goes a long way)

Interview

Ultimately every applicant fits into a bucket. Some of the buckets are race, gender, work experience, nationality, etc. B-schools strive to have a diverse class and they do so by picking people from each bucket. Under this approach people with the highest test scores or GPA's dont always get admitted, but that's the price b-schools pay to have diverse classes.

I finished b-school (top 10) in May and worked as an admissions fellow during my 2nd year.

Jan 25, 2018

mtones, does mentoring an underpriveldged kid in Big brother big sister look good? (you have to commit to 3 days a month for like 3-4 hours a day for a min. of a year). They also have a leadership council that i plan on being a part of.

Jan 25, 2018

I currently do this JA Fellows thing which is like teaching H.S to run their own small business, teaching them basic accounting, marketing, etc.... But i've only been doing it 4 months, and ive gotten soo busy that I havent been going to the meeting anymore. I currently work for a regional bank doing PM, but i will be moving to NYC and working at as a FT analyst at a BB, and I KNOW i'll be way to busy to do stuff like this. I'm going into Private Bank not IB so hopefully I will have some weekend time. I hope I can find the time to get involved in some stuff.

You give me a gift? BAM Thank you note! You invite me somewhere? POW RSVP! You do me a favor? WHAM Favor returned! Do not test my politeness.

Jan 25, 2018

hffb i think the leadership is more important -- starting something or being involved and DOING something is more important than just volunteering -- volunteering is nice but in the end its what everyone does so doesnt wow anyone particularly from what ive heard. starting something/leadership roles are much more interesting

GPA from undergrad can be mitigated well if you have great work experience and a strong GMAT -- although one can easily argue getting great work experience with crap undergrad GPAs is much easier said than done :>

Jan 25, 2018

They're looking for the following things:

  1. Intellect (as evidenced by your GPA/GMAT/strength of undergrad institution)
  2. Leadership (projects you've led, initiatives you've taken, student groups you've held office in, etc)
  3. Professional Potential (evidenced by working for an elite firm or industry)
  4. Involvement (some sort of extra curricular, be it charity or hobby)
  5. Maturity (usually they'll have an essay question that forces you to admit a mistake, failure, weakness -- owning up to the mistake and showing growth displays maturity, especially if you're a younger candidate, like <5 years work exp)
  6. Career goals (make sure they're well thought out and attainable -- schools want their career stats to be nice and high so make sure you can articulate why exactly you're getting a job and sell them on it)
  7. Why B-School X (sell them on the fact that you need an MBA, you need it now, and that the best place for you to get it is at their school)

If you sell those 7 points successfully: Congrats! You're in.

    • 1
Jan 25, 2018

The above points are quite accurate:
1. Intellectual ability - GMAT, GPA, undergrad university prestige
2. Work experience
2. Leadership displayed at work or elsewhere
3. Extra-curricular activities - sports, etc.
4. Fit with school and career objectives - essays
5. Social activities - volunteer work
6. Ethical integrity

Perhaps most important:
1. Gender - Female is a big plus
2. Ethicity - African-American is a huge plus. Hispanic is plus. Asian-American male is dead in the water.
3. Age - most preferred age is 26-28.

Jan 25, 2018

They want leadership. Thats how I got in

Jan 25, 2018

forgot:

?) ECs/Volunteer

Jan 25, 2018

Good work experience, gmat scores, decent undergrad GPA, personality/story during interview

Jan 25, 2018

Also solid extracurriculars and great recommendations

Jan 25, 2018

roughly describe "decent UGPA"

Jan 25, 2018

3.5+

Jan 25, 2018

My recommendation would be to take a look at the school websites -- they actually tell you what they are looking for. Here's an easy example: Harvard Business School
If you click on this link : http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/Pages/default.aspx
you will see an entire page that answers the question -- "Who are We Looking For?"
They break it down into 3 categories:
1. Habit of eadership
2. Analytical aptitude and appetite
3. Engaged community citizenship

The rest is up to you. Look up "class profile" under any business school to get the average stats, such as GPA or GMAT. Sometimes they give you the middle-80%.

But having said all that, it's not cut and dry. And there are plenty of people here on this forum who will will say you simply need to have your family donate a building or kill the GMAT. The former may be more powerful than the latter, depending on where you aim.

Overall, it's a multi-pronged process and knowing who you are and what's your purpose will take you a long way.

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... Ask away!

    • 1
Jan 25, 2018

African-American Females

    • 1
Jan 25, 2018

Business schools look at your profile and post-MBA goals and then calculate whether they can place you at a job!
That is it!

Jan 25, 2018

I think requirements are similar to IB. They want high GPA, great GMAT, great story, inspirational letter/essay, work experience, international experience would be a plus, and some achievements outside school.

Feb 9, 2019
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Feb 9, 2019