Masters In Business Administration admission requirements: What do top US universities expect?
An MBA In The USA: Do You Have What It Takes?
It is no small accomplishment to even be accepted into an American B-school.
It’s incredibly hard to get in, which is why acceptance to a US MBA is an achievement in and of itself.
The Upfront Conclusion
Too much to do?
No Problem — We are big believers in upfront conclusions.
Here are the things you will need to get your MBA in the USA as an international student:
Must Have or “Nice To Have” ?
A Bachelor’s Degree In Any Field
A GMAT Or GRE Score
Must Have, Ideally GMAT 600+ or GRE 320+
Letters Of Recommendation
Must Have, Not A Deal Breaker
Language Requirements (IELTS/ TOEFL)
Depends On University, Usually Must Have
Nice To Have, Certainly A Bonus
Extracurricular Activities (ECAs)
Nice To Have, Certainly A Bonus
A Statement Of Purpose
Nice To Have, Certainly A Bonus, Sometimes Compulsory.
A Valid Passport (with anywhere from 6 months to 2 years of remaining validity and anywhere from two to five empty pages)
Must Have. Also, the US has different rules for students from different countries regarding minimum remaining validity at the time of application.
An MBA In The USA: The Must Haves
If you are planning on pursuing your MBA in the USA, here are some non-negotiable entry requirements.
These are the bare minimum that top US universities expect from international students.
1. A Bachelor’s Degree
The What: Unlike most other postgraduate programs, for an MBA in the USA, a bachelor’s degree in any discipline is perfectly acceptable.
The Why: A bachelor’s degree is not “just a formality” — top US universities want your degree and transcript mainly to assess your academic compatibility for the course.
Additional Info: You will usually need all your transcripts, and ideally with a good average test score (think: 70%+). Two year bachelor’s degrees are usually not valid in the USA for an MBA.
International Bachelors degrees also sometimes need “accreditation”.
For example, the Zicklin College of Business at Baruch requires some international candidates to get their degrees attested from a NACES-approved agency.
Pro Tip: If you can get your transcripts (some places call these “marksheets”) on your college letterhead with the university stamp, it will help you a lot in the long run.
Also, check whether or not your chosen college needs degree accreditation — the simplest way to avoid a hassle here is to ask a representative.
2. GMAT/ GRE Scores
The What: At least one of these tests is compulsory for an MBA in the USA, with some exceptions. A good score to aim for is 600+ on the GMAT and 320+ on the GRE.
The Why: Educational systems around the world differ, which is where these tests come in. Being standardized (I.E. the same worldwide), these lt colleges know where a candidate stands on a global footing.
Additional Info: A lot of colleges, such as the NJIT Martin Tuchman School Of Management may waive the requirement in certain cases for an international student to have a GMAT or GRE score.
Pro Tip: “Is there any situation where the GMAT or GRE is not required for entry to the MBA program offered by [Insert College/ University Name Here]?”. Copy this message without the quotes and send it to the college you are researching.
3. Letters Of Recommendation
The What: Most programs will ask for at least two letters of recommendation from you, preferably from teachers or colleagues.
The Why: Letters of recommendation show an admissions officer how a person acts and reacts, how he or she performs in a team, etc.
A letter of recommendation usually also includes personal characteristics and strengths that wouldn’t otherwise come to light.
Additional Info: Even if you have, for example, worked with a family member, most top US universities reject letters of recommendation from family.
This includes extended family members.
Pro Tip: The most valuable letter of recommendation will be from your immediate boss, immediate subordinate, immediate teacher, or immediate peer.
4. Language Requirements
The What: Even if your mother tongue is English, most international students are required to demonstrate their English proficiency through either the IELTS or TOEFL.
The Why: A bachelor’s degree is not just a formality” top US universities want your degree and transcript mainly to assess your academic compatibility for the course.
Additional Info: An increasing number of Universities are also beginning to accept alternate methods of displaying English proficiency.
For instance, the Brandeis International Business School accepts the Duolingo English Test and the Pearson Test For English (Academic) in addition to the TOEFL and IELTS.
Pro Tip: A lot of places will say that a minimum score of 100 (TOEFL) or 7.0 bands (IELTS) are required for an MBA in the USA, the tests are simply to prove you can communicate in the language; so — no pressure.
An MBA In The USA: The Nice To Haves
While not strictly necessary, they certainly go a long way.
1. Work Experience:
The What: Self-explanatory, includes any internships/ mentorships you’ve done.
The Why: Even if you feel that your work experience is unrelated to your degree, it still is important. Top US Universities always give due weightage to work experience, especially for business programs.
Additional Info: Though not usually an official requirement, not having work experience can often be quite the deal breaker for top US universities.
For example, the Miami Herber Business School (#3 in the US, #15 worldwide) clearly says that “The program is ideal for candidates with an undergraduate degree in any field and three or more years of work experience…”.
And the University Of Maryland, College Park states clearly that their MBA class freshmen usually have at least five years’ work experience.
Pro Tip: Even if you do not currently have any work experience, use the time you have after a bachelor’s degree and applying to an MBA in the USA to work, even if it’s part-time.
Even if nothing comes of it, at least you’ll have added something to your resume.
2. Extracurricular Activities (ECAs):
The What: All MBA applications will have some sort of designated space where you will be able to showcase your extracurricular interests.
The Why: All work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy. All colleges appreciate candidates who can balance their academic and work careers while still making room for their interests.
Additional Info: Even if not listed as a compulsory part of the admissions process, international students especially should list their ECAs.
Remember, in a lot of people’s eyes, you’re taking up a spot that could go to a local — so show that you deserve that spot, and are a well-rounded applicant.
Pro Tip: It’s perfectly alright to not have any ECAs in college — the course load can be quite burdening.
If you feel that you don’t have many ECAs to show, you can always list the weekend sports you play.
You could even break out your high school certificates to show ECA interests.
3. A Statement Of Purpose:
The What: Almost every college that offers international students an MBA in the USA will have a space for an essay. In addition to that, many also have an optional “personal essay” that candidates can submit.
The Why: Just like a letter of recommendation, the personal statement, or statement of purpose can bring out information that wouldn’t normally come to light.
Pro Tip: When writing your personal essay, think of it like you writing a letter of recommendation for yourself in the first person.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that all the minimum requirements have been gotten out of the way, here are some burning questions that international students have about an MBA in the USA.
- What documents do I need to submit as part of my MBA application?
A: You will typically need to submit transcripts from all universities attended, GMAT or GRE scores, a resume, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement or essay.
2. How important are extracurricular activities in MBA admissions?
A: While not as important as academic and professional achievements, extracurricular activities can demonstrate leadership skills and well-roundedness to admissions committees.
3. Can I apply for an MBA program without a bachelor’s degree?
A: In most cases, a bachelor’s degree is required for MBA admission. However, some universities may consider applicants without a bachelor’s degree if they have extensive work experience.
4. What is the average duration of an MBA program in the US?
A: The average duration of an MBA program in the US is two years, although some universities offer accelerated or part-time options.
5. What is the acceptance rate for MBA programs in top US universities?
A: Acceptance rates for top US MBA programs vary widely, but they are generally highly competitive. For example, Harvard Business School has an acceptance rate of around 11%.
Now that you’ve understood the basics of MBA admission requirements, we’d suggest looking into funding your degree.
A prudent further step would also be to choose a specialized degree MBA in the USA as opposed to a general MBA.
That said, the simplest advice is often the best advice.
The single most important takeaway from here should be the following: “When in doubt, ask”.
We hope that you found this article helpful, and we hope to see you in the next one.