Application Timetable

When to Request Applications: Try to get them as soon as they are available, usually late summer/early fall.

When to Take The GMAT: Since the GMAT is now offered on computer terminals at testing centers every month, there is more flexibility for taking the test. Try scheduling the GMAT sometime in the spring or the summer. If you think you did not do well, you can cancel the scoring immediately after the test and take it again the following month. Since official reports arrive at the schools two to three weeks after the test, October and November are generally the last opportunities to take the GMAT and still be sure the schools receive the scores before the first application deadline. Schedule the GMAT early because popular days and times book quickly. It is best to take the GMAT only after you have had a chance to prepare for it thoroughly.

When To Solicit Recommendations: Basically, as soon as you know you will be applying. If you are asking someone for recommendations to more than one school, try to give them all to the writer at the same time and set a deadline. Aim to collect the recommendations 1-2 weeks before you submit the applications.

When to Write the Essays: Start thinking about the essay questions as soon as you have them in hand. Even though you may be able to rework some essays to fit other schools’ similarly worded questions, the number of essays you will have to produce can multiply quickly. Give yourself plenty of time to think about the questions, brainstorm for ideas, and polish the essays. Try to finish the essays by mid-November, if possible.

When to Submit the Application: Many schools have rolling admissions, which means your application will be reviewed as soon as it is received. Other schools have several staggered deadlines (for example, December 1, January 15, and March 1).

If the schools are using rolling admissions or staggered deadlines, it is to your advantage to apply early because fewer acceptances will have been made. If you apply just before the last deadline, a school may only have a handful of spaces available and a large number of candidates, reducing your chances.

Applying early can also work in your favor because, in the first few weeks, admissions committees have relatively fresh minds and have read fewer applications, making it easier for your application to stand out. In the later stages, after they have read through several thousand applications, admissions committees can get fatigued, and may be less likely to re-review a borderline application. Try to put most applications in the mail before Thanksgiving or Christmas, depending on the deadlines.

Submit the application at least one week before the deadline to make sure it arrives on time. Consider sending the applications using certified mail, which gives you a written receipt confirming that the applications arrived at the schools.


The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is required by most business schools. It is a standardized test, similar to the SAT. The test includes a variety of multiple choice questions to test verbal and math problem-solving abilities. It also includes a writing sample.

The GMAT is now administered on computer terminals at test centers throughout North America. The test can be taken by appointment on any one of several days each month. More information on the GMAT is available from the MBA Explorer, the official website of the Graduate Management Admission Council.

Test scores are calculated and reported on a scale of 200-800. For example, Boston College’s MBA program reported an average GMAT score of 610 among incoming students, and other MBA programs in the Boston area reported GMATs between 540 and 580. Top business schools usually report average GMATs in the 640-680 range. Conventional wisdom suggests that, to be a competitive applicant at a top program, your GMAT score should be at least 600.

Several test-preparation resources are available. Many different books are published annually with GMAT practice questions and test-taking strategies, and are available at any bookstore. It is recommended that you use one of these books to aid you in your preparation. If you find yourself needing further GMAT preparation, you may elect to enroll in a course offered by one of several test prep companies. These courses can often cost several hundred dollars, so gauge your progress and preparation needs carefully before choosing a prep course.

Why You Need Work Experience

Because work experience, as reflected in personal essays and recommendations, is used to evaluate MBA applicants, excellent work experience can increase your admissions chances. MBA programs rarely accept students directly from college. Occasionally, however, graduating seniors may receive deferred admission from business schools if they have accepted a position with a prestigious consulting firm or investment bank where they plan to work for 2 to 3 years after graduation.

Business schools emphasize the importance of work experience because this experience develops problem solving, interpersonal, leadership, and teamwork skills in a way that undergraduate classes cannot. Work experience offers exposure to everyday business problems–problems considered in MBA coursework.


Almost every business school requests at least two recommendations. Ask people who know you and your abilities well. People who have supervised you directly, or colleagues with whom you have worked closely, are often in an excellent position to complete recommendations. If you did outstanding work for a professor whom you know well, he/she may also be a good source. Generally, business schools are looking for recommendations from people who can describe your abilities in a job situation, and can support their comments with specific examples.

Ask people only if you are reasonably certain they are willing to provide strongly favorable recommendations. When asking, be sure to allow them several weeks, but stipulate a firm deadline. Check to see if the recommendations must be completed on a special form, or if attaching a letter of recommendation will suffice. Find out if the recommendations should be returned to you for inclusion with the application or mailed directly to the school. Be sure to waive your right to see the recommendations; business schools prefer to see “blind” recommendations because they feel that blind recommendations can offer a more honest assessment of a person’s abilities.

Provide the recommendation writers with some background materials, such as a resume and application essays. These materials can help the writers tailor the recommendations to complement the rest of your application package. For example, if you discuss in an essay a work project of which you are particularly proud, you will want to be sure your supervisor or colleague includes a reference to that project in a recommendation. This background material, including your reasons for applying and your career goals, helps recommendation writers focus on your specific strengths, accomplishments, and interests. Managers are pressed for time to complete recommendations along with their regular workload, and would welcome your help.

Selecting your Recommenders

The best letters of recommendation tend to come from those who currently or have recently supervised you. Sometimes, applicants think that having someone with a lofty title, such as a CEO or a Vice President, write on their behalf will impress the admissions committee. Unfortunately, unless the applicant works closely with these senior officers, the recommendation will ultimately be vague and not helpful in the candidate’s evaluation. A supervisor that the applicant has worked closely with is most often able to provide a strong assessment of a candidate by citing specific examples of her/his strengths, areas for improvement, and potential for future success.

There are certainly instances where an applicant may not feel comfortable revealing her plans for MBA study to her supervisor and asking for a recommendation. In this case, a colleague or client would be a good alternative. If this is the case for you, we would recommend that you address this briefly in your optional essay so that the committee has the necessary context.

Former professors, colleagues or supervisors from an applicant’s volunteer work or extra-curricular activities can also provide valuable information to an admissions committee, presenting an applicant in a fuller light. However, we would recommend that you use these as supporting letters of recommendation rather than the two primary letters you are required to have in your application.

Finally, once you have selected your recommenders, it is a very good idea to take them out for coffee or lunch to discuss your goals, your plans for MBA study and beyond. Doing so will provide clarity and context to your recommenders, allowing them to write a more complete letter on your behalf.

MBA Essays

Most business school applications have three required essay questions, but some have as many as eight. Some applications suggest essay lengths for each question, ranging from one paragraph to 2-3 pages. Stay within the suggested lengths. If no suggested length is given for an essay, aim for one page, double spaced.

Some common types of questions are:

“Discuss the evolution of your long- and short-term professional goals.”

“Describe your greatest managerial accomplishment. How did it contribute to your development?”

“Describe your hobbies, activities, interests, and any significant related accomplishments.”

Many applications, in addition to the required essays, offer one optional essay question something like:

“Is there anything else not covered elsewhere in the application that you would like the Admissions Committee to know about you?”

Do not pass up this opportunity. Use this essay to talk about some experience, work related or not, that reveals something about you that makes you a compelling candidate for admission.

When writing the essays, be yourself. Show, rather than tell, what you can offer and why you are a compelling candidate for admission. Find your “voice” and write honestly without forcing a particular style or tone. If a question leads you to discuss a subject with an element of humor, for example, let the humor show, but don’t turn the essay into a comedy routine. The most compelling essays have a ring of authenticity to them, whether they are serious, funny, sad, or some combination of the three. Write from personal experience, and write honestly. Write carefully and proofread the essays for proper syntax, grammar, and spelling.

MBA Essay Sample Questions

The essay questions from our online MBA application are given here for your information and to help you prepare to apply to the program. The questions reflect our interest in learning more about how you work, think, and act. We hope that our essay questions will help us get to know you both as a person and as an individual who can contribute to the Rady School and that they will be interesting for you to write. When we evaluate your essays as part of your application for admission, we consider your writing ability, as well as the substance of your essays.

  1. Please give an example of a situation when your thinking differed from that of your colleagues or superiors. (500 word maximum)
  2. Please give an example of a time when you added demonstrable benefit to an organization, or to a project you were involved in, by generating a new idea or a creative solution to a problem. (500 word maximum)
  3. What are your intermediate and long-term professional goals? (250 words maximum)

There are also two optional essays, which you may wish to use to provide us with additional information. Please do not feel you must respond to these questions if you believe your application represents you well.

  1. OPTIONAL: Please provide any information on economic, family or personal circumstances that you believe would help us in understanding the scope of your achievements. (250 words maximum)
  2. OPTIONAL: Please feel free to provide any additional information you would like us to consider in evaluating your application. If you believe this application already represents you well, do not feel you need to respond to this question. (250 word maximum)

Utilizing the Optional Essay

The optional essay is just that: optional. Do not feel compelled to write an essay for this section if you do not have anything that is additional – and relevant – to add to your application and tell the Admissions Committee. That being said, the optional essay is an excellent tool for you to address any perceived weaknesses/gaps in your application and also a great way to highlight any strengths that were not previously conveyed in the application.

The most critical step in writing a stellar optional essay takes place even before the pen touches the paper, and that can make all the difference in the world: be reflective before you submit! Make sure you really have something to tell us or to clarify and give us the right context – don’t write an essay full of excuses, but be proactive about any weak points or regressions in your history.

Several excellent examples of the types of information that should be addressed in this section are: a low GPA, academic discipline or probation, gaps in employment history, skills or qualities you would like to mention and explain, any honors, awards, or achievements that weren’t previously mentioned, classes you plan to take to strengthen your application, or the fact that your current supervisor is not one of your recommenders – just to mention a few. In essence, the optional essay is the ideal opportunity to briefly explain the reasoning and rationale behind this and other sorts of relevant information.

Those of us on the Admissions Committee have quite active imaginations; therefore, you do not want us coming to our own conclusions as to why, for instance, your current supervisor is not one of your recommenders. This may simply be because you not want to jeopardize you current position – which is completely acceptable and understandable – but please explain that in the essay, instead of relying on us to figure it out for ourselves, because we may draw the wrong conclusions.

From the viewpoint of the Admissions Committee, you can almost never go wrong with providing us an optional essay if you believe that you have something important to tell us, but please be reflective and succinct.

Happy Writing!

MBA Resume

A resume is written communication designed specifically to convey to an employer why you should be hired. Consider it your personal marketing instrument. A good resume will help open the door to an interview.

General hints to keep in mind:

  • Use concise language. Eliminate all extraneous words. Frequently, direct and indirect articles such as “the” and “a” should be omitted. In addition, leave out personal articles such as “I”, “my”, “me” or “our.”

  • Use a legible, 11 or 12 point font. The style of font you choose is one way to give your resume flair and personality. However, we recommend a fairly conservative font, especially if applying for a job in a conservative field. Examples of suggested font styles are Arial, Times New Roman and Garamond.

  • Keep your margins between .5”-1”. Margins do not have to be the same on all sides.

  • Minimize or omit anything that is irrelevant or mundane. Personal and high school information should not go into a resume. Stick to facts, leave opinions and beliefs about your personal qualities for the cover letter.

  • Select and order the major categories (e.g., Work Experience, Education) so that the most relevant information is near the top of your resume where it will receive the majority of the reader’s attention. This applies to the statements under each employment entry — order your statements so that the most relevant and impressive duties and accomplishments are near the top of the bulleted list or paragraph.

  • Your resume must be free of typographical and grammatical errors. Pay special attention to the proper use of capitalization and punctuation. When writing the names of school subjects, do not capitalize the first letter unless they are incorporated in the title of a course (e.g., math; Principles of Math). All languages are capitalized.

  • There is no single correct way to write a resume. Each person will have a unique way to present the information. Therefore, you may receive conflicting advice if you ask several people for their opinions. We suggest you use a single qualified person (such as a PEP counselor, of course!) to critique your resume.

  • Print your resume on 22-25 lb. cotton bond paper. Stick to conservatively colored paper. Always use a laser printer. Digital photocopies may be made from a laser-printed original copy.

  • The length of your resume will usually be one page but no longer than two pages. It is typical for someone who has many relevant work experiences and accomplishments to have a 2-page resume. If your resume is two pages long, make sure your name is on the top of the second

Making the Most of your Admissions Interview

There are many components of your application that are somewhat out of your hands. Your undergraduate GPA has already been tabulated and recorded. Your professional experience and work history is just that: history. Fortunately, there are aspects of your application which are very much under your control, namely the admissions interview. This is why making the most of your admissions interview is so important.

The key to a successful admissions interview is preparation.You will want to take time to collect your thoughts and stories regarding your academic and professional experience, teamwork and leadership opportunities, and your short term and long term goals.We want to know how the MBA, specifically the Tepper MBA, will help you achieve those goals.Preparation will allow you to speak to your strengths while keeping your answers clear and concise.

The primary purpose of an interview is for our team to get to know you a bit better.For this to happen, you must first know yourself!Before your interview, be sure to review your resume and reflect on your academic and professional progression.Think about how you can best demonstrate your strengths and contribution to the MBA class of 2009.

When the admissions team evaluates candidates, we are primarily looking for a “fit” between the Tepper School and a candidate’s interests and profile. This fit is not only important for the interview, but also for your eventual success and satisfaction with your MBA program. Being able to communicate that fit is ultimately what makes an average interview outstanding.


MBA Admissions Requirements