MBA Application Prep Series 2

Application and Essay (1 month or more)

By now, you should have finished 1/2 of the entire application process. The rest is to re-evaluate your school list with your tests result. If you feel your test result falls way back in the class profile and you don’t have a good story to tell, you might want to find another school or retake the tests.

Application form

Easy piece, you can fill one first and store all the information, so that you can reuse them for another application in other schools.


An appropriate recommender is important. Usually, the school will give you some suggestion. Basically, you need to find someone who supervised you and knew you really in detail. If your friend is CEO of a company that does not relate to your work, his recommendation might not work.

Prepare a list of the characteristics of you. Talk with your recommenders as early as possible about you and the schools you want to apply. They may give you some suggestions on which characteristic you may want to emphasize for different schools, especially if your recommender graduated from that school. This is also good for you to write the Essay.

Normally to write a recommendation letter needs 4 weeks. You need to leave enough time for your recommender. frequently check in with them about their difficulty and progress.


This part of the application is where you grow the most before MBA program. A lot of reflection, challenges, and changes happen here. But hang there, don’t give up. The essay usually defines the time to submit your application.

Make sure to submit your application in an appropriate round. Usually, application rounds towards to the end of application season result in less admission. So statistically speaking, the early the better. And as an international student, you need extra time to get the paperwork ready. Allow at least 2-3 months for the process.


Talk with people who know you well. Those who you worked closely in projects, who you spend a lot of time together, and who love you and who provided feedback to you, especially negative one, if you guys are still friends. Position to them that you will appreciate their honesty and ask questions like:

* What do you see in [your name]? Name top 3 characteristics.
* What is the strong point of [your name]? Would you give 1 or 2 examples?
* What is the weak point of [your name]? Would you give 1 or 2 examples?
* When people mention [your name], what experience jumps into your mind?

Create a list about your experience, put every major event in your life into the list, such as:

* when you saw a computer program for the first time
* when your family moved to [xx] city where [xx] industry is centered
* when you finished a project that brought [xx] $ to your company
* even tiny bit, such as when you discover your sexual orientation
* when you give up your college time to babysit your brother while your parents struggling with the death of your grandparent
* Volunteer experiences, if you don’t have much, you can start some now.

Identify your long term and short term goal after MBA

Identify events that relevant to your goal and find a point that can connect all the events together. e.g. you grow up in a foster family that allows you dismantle all the machines in the household, then got your first computer, learned your first script. Then studied in computer science in college, and made into a company that design system for child care department of the government. Your goal is to expand your influence with technology for foster kids like you by leading project in NGOs to provide a platform for foster kids to learn computer and information technology and prepare them for the age of AI. The gap in the example includes the skills, such as strategy and operation of NGO, which [xx] MBA can provide. The story line is the foster experience and your interests in computer science.


With all the materials you have, now you can put them into words. The key is put things into detail. This mindset is a challenge for people from Asian circle. I got a feedback from my USA coworker that I sound like an artist, instead of an entrepreneur in my Essay.

Use data/standards that can compare to describe you. e.g. greatly improved the productivity vs reduce 2 hr (50%) average turnaround time.

Ask feedback about your draft. Find someone who had experience of the application. Mainly, their feedback should focus on the construction and structure.

Some content can be shared among essays to different schools, depends on the program.

Write the essay to the program in the list that is not your top option first as practice. You will find that you are getting better and better to reshape your story each time. So let the top choice be the last 2 to write.


Use what you learned from GMAT SC to go through the essay looking for typos, grammar mistakes, and wordiness.

Trim the essay into the word count required by the school. If some story you can not tell, you can still tell in the interview.

Make the essay into the required format, if it is a creative essay, do what you are comfortable with, presentation, video or other forms.

If there are no significant aspects you need to explain, you can skip optional essay. e.g. if both of your quantitive score in GMAT and math in your transcript is not good, then you need to tell why. Maybe you are juggling with 2 part time jobs, but you are not proud of it and are studying in some class to catch up.If  you got a 50+ in GMAT but with a D- in math from your college, then there is no need to explain, you can slightly hint that worked on your math in your regular essay.

Interview (1 week for each)

For traditional programs, the questions in the interview are quite standardized. Mostly from these categories:
* Introduce
* Personality, advantage and disadvantage of you
* Goal/Plan
* Why MBA
* Why this school
* Why the school should admit you

Prepare questions to ask your interviewer, something that you want to know but can’t be solved by simply looking at their website.

Some specialized programs might add some interesting part. They might ask you to analyze a case, maybe you have no experience in consultancy at all. In this case, do the best you can, remember what GMAT CR taught you, each word you say should have evidence to support. Draw the conclusion with your logic. There is no wrong or right answer to such case.

Once you are done with the interview and some appropriate follow up with the admission office, then move on to next school.


The application is not only about scores, you are more than scores. The admission office will review the whole package. If there is one defect, find a way to improve it.

Your fitness to the program is not just from your side, also the program will see if you fit into the environment. That is why if you feel you don’t feel fit in the school or hesitate, then don’t. If you did apply, the school might find that you are not a fit neither. So why not use your time and effort wisely?

GMAT and Essay are 2 parts that take the most of the time. Make sure your timeline works before the middle round(s) end.

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