How to Apply for an MBA

MBA (Master of Business Administration) degrees are some of the most popular courses in the UK and internationally. They are a great way to level up your knowledge of key business practices and allow you to take successful next steps in your career. However, they are also extremely competitive and few students know how to write applications that stand out to top universities and business schools.

Using expert knowledge from The Profs’ Founder and MBA admissions expert, Richard Evans, we’ve put together this guide on how to apply for an MBA. Richard has helped students get into MBA programmes at top universities including London Business School, Oxbridge, Imperial, and Bayes Business School.

Our tutors help more than 90% of students secure places on the most competitive MBA programmes in the UK and globally. For professional, one-to-one help with your MBA application, get in touch with our experienced team today.

What is an MBA?

An MBA (Master of Business Administration) is a popular postgraduate qualification that allows professionals to develop the broad set of skills required to succeed in senior management-level positions. MBAs usually cover concepts, theories and strategies spanning multiple disciplines, including Economics, Marketing, Finance, Accounting, and Management.

Unlike many other postgraduate courses, most MBAs require applicants to have at least a couple of years’ professional experience in the industry before applying. It is very unusual that students study an MBA directly after their undergraduate degree. In fact, the average number of years’ experience of entrants to the most competitive MBAs is 5-7 years.
Some universities also allow flexible and part-time course options to allow students to study an MBA around other commitments, such as professional work.

For more on what an MBA is, the different types of MBAs, and other key information about these courses, read our guide via the button below.

What is an MBA?

6-Step MBA Application Process

Step 1. Research available courses

There is lots of variety in the types of Master’s courses you can apply for and the application process associated with each, so it’s important to do your research ahead of time. Here are three things you should always research before beginning an application:

1. Entry requirements

As well as typically requiring multiple years of professional experience (usually 3-5 years’ experience), MBA courses also usually require applicants to have a good university degree (2:1 or above) in any subject. For US applicants, this usually equates to a GPA of between 3.5 and 3.7. Most top business schools also require MBA applicants to take either the GMAT or GRE admissions tests.

GMAT and GRE are two common admissions tests required by postgraduate business courses, including MBAs. Both tests are designed to assess certain analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills.

Most MBAs require applicants to take the GMAT or GRE in order to qualify for entry, as well as some other postgraduate Business and Management courses. Top schools such as London Business School, Oxford University and Cambridge University require GMAT scores of between 687-708. Always check with your chosen university directly to confirm if you are required to take the GMAT or GRE and what score you will need in advance.

2. Course content

Not all MBA courses are created equal, so researching exactly what a course will entail before you apply is vital. Make sure you explore the specific modules you might be covering as well as the reputation of the course amongst employers and the links the university has to industries you are interested in.

Some business schools and universities offer MBAs with specific specialisms, such as an MBA in Marketing, General Management, or another area. If you are interested in a particular industry or area of business, a specialised MBA might be the best option for you. By contrast, if you are interested in all areas of business or are applying for one of the world’s top business schools (which usually offer just one MBA), a general MBA may be better.

Ultimately, the better you know the ins and outs of your chosen course, the easier it will be to write a stand-out personal statement and perform well in any potential interviews.

3. Deadlines

Many MBA courses do not run during set dates in the same way that undergraduate courses do. Each university can set its own postgraduate deadlines and these may differ between universities and between courses at the same university. It’s therefore important to check on the university website – or with them directly – what the stages of the application process are and the deadlines that you need to meet.

If you’re relying on funding to study your MBA, there may also be a separate deadline you need to meet in order to apply for this. In some cases, you will be required to apply for any funding you require before submitting your course application, so always check this in advance.

Richard’s tip: MBAs are typically so competitive that we advise students to apply as soon as applications open, rather than waiting until closer to the deadline. Universities may not wait until the deadline to offer places and if there are lots of strong applicants (which there almost always is) you could miss out if you don’t apply quickly.

Some courses also have set application calendars which involve multiple stages or multiple rounds of application which start more than a year in advance of the course start date. For example, London Business School has three rounds of applications for its MBA, each involving an interview stage, which start from September and end in March for August-entry.
If you’re looking to get ahead of the crowd and be among the first to apply for your dream course, get in touch with our experienced postgraduate admissions team who can provide the expert support you need.

Step 2. Choose your course(s) and begin the application process

Once you’ve done your research, you can decide which MBA courses you’d most like to apply for and begin the application process. Unlike undergraduate applications, you will not be required to apply via UCAS or be limited to the number of courses you can apply for. Instead, you will apply directly to universities/business schools via their own postgraduate application portals. For most universities, you will need to register for an account on the online portal before you can begin an application for your chosen course.

Each university’s MBA application process differs slightly depending on a range of factors, such as the competitiveness of the course, the deadlines you’re aiming for, and whether you’re applying for full-time or part-time study. Most business schools will ask applicants to submit all or some of the following:

  • Provide a CV or overview of your academic achievements (and/or a grade transcript) and work experience
  • Write a personal statement (see step 4)
  • Provide academic and/or professional references (see step 3)
  • Provide your GMAT/GRE results (if required)
  • Answering additional questions relating to specific areas of interest, such as your career plans or subject knowledge
  • Written work, usually academic with references, ideally related to your chosen Master’s topic.

After you have submitted your application, many universities will also ask you to attend an interview (see step 6) before making an offer. Make sure you always find out which stages you’ll have to go through as part of the application process so that you can prepare and successfully complete each one. Mapping out an application calendar, such as those already provided by London Business School and Oxford, can help you stay on track and reach out for help when you need it. The Profs’ consultancy team can help with this process as part of our admissions packages – get in touch to find out more.

Richard’s tip: If you are an international student applying to a UK university, you may also be required to take an advanced English language test such as the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) or TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). Due to Master’s courses being more advanced and usually more research-based than undergraduate courses, universities will be keen to make sure that your language skills are adequate for higher level study. They may therefore have their own minimum scores you must achieve in specific tests in order to qualify for entry, for example a minimum 7.5 overall score in the IELTS or 110 in the TOEFL, as is required for Oxford’s MBA. Always check on the university website or with an expert such as a Profs international admissions tutor to ensure you meet the entry requirements.

Step 3. Academic references

In most cases, universities and business schools will ask for two academic and/or professional references to support your MBA application. Usually, you will be required to submit referee details via the applicant portal or admissions form. Your referees will then receive a reference request from that university.

It’s best to start thinking about your academic references early in order to give yourself enough time to consider who would be the best person to corroborate your academic abilities and suitability for an MBA. It also gives you enough time to send them an email to check that they would be available, that they understand what their reference needs to include for your chosen course (e.g. your academic or professional achievements, intellectual ability, motivations, etc.) and that they consent to you providing their details.

In most cases, the best person to provide an academic reference for your MBA application would be an academic advisor or tutor who has taught or worked with you during your undergraduate level studies. This is because academic staff are the best placed to be able to comment on your subject-specific abilities and potential to succeed at postgraduate level. For a professional reference, an appropriate referee would typically be a previous employer or manager.

Step 4. Write your personal statement

Your personal statement is an important part of your MBA application because it is your first chance to show that you are the best candidate for a place on your chosen course.
Unlike during the undergraduate application process, where you are only allowed to submit one personal statement that is then sent to every university via UCAS, MBA personal statements can be personalised to each university/business school. This means that schools will expect to see more research into your chosen course along with your motivations for studying there (as opposed to any other school) and how the course aligns with your future goals.

Our guide to writing a Master’s personal statement gives detailed stages and top tips on how to stand out to even the most competitive universities. Click the button below to read it for free:

How to Write a Master’s Personal Statement

You can also access more personalised, one-to-one support with your postgraduate personal statement by reaching out to our admissions team today. Our network of tutors have a more than 90% success rate of helping students receive offers from their first and second choice universities so are best placed to give you the expert guidance you need.

Additional written work

Some universities require applicants to submit additional written work as well as – or instead of – a personal statement. Usually, universities will provide specific questions relating to your prior experience and/or career goals for you to answer within a set word count. Some universities, such as Oxbridge, will instead ask you to provide written work without set questions, such as sample essays.

London Business School, for example, asks applicants to its MBA course to answer the following two questions:

1. (500 words) What are your post-MBA goals and how will your prior experience and the London Business School programme contribute towards these?
2. (500 words) (This question is optional) Is there any other information you believe the Admissions Committee should know about you and your application to London Business School?

Richard’s tip: Make sure you check which questions (if any) your chosen university will ask separately from your personal statement. This will allow you to focus less on these areas in your statement, freeing up more characters for your other attributes and experience.

For example, if you know you will be asked separate questions (and thus given additional characters for) career-related questions, you can focus less on your career plans in your personal statement and instead go into detail about your motivations, work experience, and skills that would make you an excellent candidate.

Step 5. Submit your application

In most cases, you will submit your Master’s applications directly to your chosen university via the online applicant portal you are registered with. Before you submit your application, it’s important to have a friend, family member, or ideally an admissions expert review it. This not only helps to ensure your application is free of grammatical or spelling errors – which can detract from your amazing skills and experience if left unchecked – but also allows you to make any changes that will maximise your chances of success.

You’ll also need to consider the costs associated with submitting your application. There may be a fee to submit your application; for example, the processing fee for Imperial’s MBA course is £150 for most applicants. You may also need to provide proof that you have secured or applied for the necessary funding for your MBA.

Step 6. Prepare for your interview

Many MBA courses interview applicants as part of the admissions process. Whether you have previous interview experience or not, the structure of a postgraduate interview is unique and will probably be unfamiliar to you. It’s therefore important to know which type of interview you will be facing and how you can best prepare for it.

There are three main types of postgraduate interviews: online video interviews (such as Kira Prep), interviews with admissions staff, and interviews with university alumni. Our helpful guide to preparing for a postgraduate interview gives more information on each as well as offering top tips on how to prepare. You can read the guide via the button below:

How to Prepare for a Postgraduate Interview

How can we help?

The Profs’ admissions consultants are true experts in helping students get onto the best MBA courses in the UK and internationally. Our network contains dedicated Business and Management tutors who can help you prepare for everything from the GRE and GMAT to the most demanding MBA interviews at the likes of London Business School, Imperial and LSE. Get in touch with our team for support with your MBA application today.

FAQs

What is the difference between an MBA and other postgraduate degrees?

There are several differences between MBA (Master of Business Administration) programmes and other postgraduate degrees, such as MiMs (Masters in Management).
Firstly, MBAs usually require students to have 3-5 years’ work experience as a minimum. MiMs and other business-related Master’s degrees, in contrast, usually require students to have a maximum of 2 years’ work experience. In addition, MBAs almost always require applicants to take a test (GMAT or GRE) while this is less common among other types of Master’s.

Typically, MBAs are also more competitive than other management-focused postgraduate courses. MBAs are also more focused towards international candidates in the UK.
MBA courses are almost always more expensive than MiMs and in the US can regularly move into 6 figure fees. MIT Sloan is currently the most expensive MBA ($241,984).

Is an MBA worth it?

Although MBAs are among the most expensive postgraduate courses, having one on your CV can be highly valuable. Not only can an MBA help you learn the most effective and up to date management strategies, but it also provides invaluable links to top industry experts. An MBA from a top business school can also help you stand out from other applicants to competitive jobs and companies. In a poll by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the global association of business schools, 82% of respondents said an MBA increased their earning power and around 70% of recent full-time MBA graduates said they could not have got their jobs without their degrees.

Is the IELTS required for MBAs in the UK?

If you’re applying for an MBA in the UK, it is common for the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) to be a requirement. Typically for UK business schools, an IELTS score of at least 6.0-6.5 will be required.

What job can I get with an MBA?

An MBA can give you access to management-level roles in a range of industries all over the world, including:

  • Finance
  • Accounting
  • Marketing
  • Consulting
  • Technology
  • Transport
  • Non-Profit
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • And more.

An MBA is often used as a way to accelerate your existing career, but it can also be a way to pivot your career into a different sector as well.

Does LSE offer an MBA?

No, LSE does not offer an MBA. Instead, it offers a prestigious Global Executive MBA (EMBA) in partnership with NYU Stern and HEC Paris (known together as Trium). LSE itself also offers a MSc Management course as well as a 2-year Global MiM (Master’s in Management). Read our guide to the best universities for Business and Management for more information on what courses are offered by LSE.

Can you apply for an MBA without a degree?

Most MBAs require applicants to have a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree (or equivalent), especially at top universities and business schools. However, some universities will accept applicants without undergraduate degrees, so long as they have relevant professional experience, and it is not impossible to get into top business schools without a degree.

Applicants without degrees are also typically required to take the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) and sometimes universities’ own admissions tests too. Edinburgh University, for example, will accept applicants without a degree as long as they pass a verbal and numerical reasoning test and the GMAT, and complete an essay assignment.

What GPA is required for MBA in UK?

Applicants to MBA programmes at top universities and business schools, such as London Business School and Oxbridge, are usually required to have a GPA of between 3.5 and 3.7. Some MBA courses also accept applicants with GPA scores of between 3.0 and 3.5. Ultimately, your application will be reviewed as a whole and while a great GPA score will help you stand out, you may be able to stand out in other areas too, such as your GMAT/GRE score, professional work experience, and more.