Thinking about what to prioritize in your MBA Application?
As a business school admissions consultant, GMAT tutor and current business school student, I know that various components of your application are parts of a larger narrative. Your goal as an applicant is to construct a narrative that paints you as ambitious, intellectually curious, interesting, and posed for success. A number of students I’ve tutored feel confident that “softer” aspects of their application will validate their narratives to elite admissions committees. This is more often than not a fallacy.
Bear in mind - the average GMAT for entrants at elite business schools typically ranges from 710 to 720; the average applicant does not have a considerably lower score, typically around 660-670.
This subtle difference can often make or break a person’s application. The GMAT is the first datapoint that admissions officers consider, and is definitely the most important (though not the only important) one. For this reason, applicants must prioritize the GMAT in their preparation, and treat the rest as supporting details to a narrative build on this score.
Resumes, recommendations, personal statements, and GPAs all play important roles to admissions committees, but not typically the roles cited by their websites.
Resumes essentially instruct the admissions advisor as to whether they should put the GMAT in a different context, whether good or bad. If the applicant has spent the last year in service in Sub-Saharan Africa, uninterrupted, a lower GMAT may reflect lack of access to appropriate preparation materials. In contrast, if the student comes from Goldman Sachs and has a bad score, the brand name of the bank will pale considering the wealth of GMAT resources provided to the candidate by the company. These points are important considerations in your narrative, but do not belittle the importance of the GMAT score, no matter your background.
Your recommendations and personal statements, in contrast, are not as important as you may think.
Essentially, these components are used to test for red flags in an application. The recommendations, for example, test whether someone senior at your organization is vested enough in your success to spend time and energy on writing a paper on your behalf. This test is no small quandary, and many applicants with otherwise great narratives fail to recognize the role these recommendations play. In contrast, your personal statements test whether you will have something interesting to say. Since business school is largely based on case discussion and real-life application, the best business schools want a broad array of backgrounds and perspectives in each incoming class.