What Does a Winning MBA Application Strategy Look Like Today?

winning MBA application strategyMany of you have probably heard about skyrocketing applications to US business schools fueled by the pandemic.  Despite today’s hot job market and competitive acceptance rates, now is still an excellent time to pursue an MBA degree. The competencies that business schools seek have not changed significantly in the past few years. They continue to prioritize getting to know the individual applicant’s authentic life story and character. Here’s what applicants should keep in mind if they hope to come up with a winning MBA application strategy and a spot at their school of choice.

More focus on soft skills

Soft skills are an essential set of personal attributes that enhance interactions, job performance, and career prospects. They are also a cornerstone of a winning MBA application strategy. The days when the ‘hard’ skills of analytical and strategic thinking dominated are over. Now, it’s oral and written communication, presentation, adaptability, and the ability to negotiate that companies want the schools to teach.

NYU Stern School of Business continues to ask for two EQ (emotional intelligence) endorsements with your application. They must come from someone who knows you personally and/or professionally and can act as a persuasive advocate of your EQ strengths.

As NYU Stern Executive Director of MBA Admissions Rabia Ahmed explained to Find MBA, “EQ is attractive to MBA admissions teams and corporate recruiters alike. ‘Our alumni and corporate partners are constantly telling us that future leaders are those who can foster engaging and meaningful dialogue.”

Along the same lines, the Yale School of Management includes a behavioral assessment to the MBA application to better identify high-potential candidates.

“We wanted more confidence to assess applicants who don’t perform as well on traditional measures while also looking at those who perform very well on the tests and wind up underperforming in school,” noted Laurel Grodman, the school’s Managing Director of Admissions, when the school added this component.

Ever-evolving technology and greater efficiency

Applicants to the full-time MBA programs at NYU Stern have several options to fulfill the standardized test requirement. For example, applicants can take GMAC’s Executive Assessment (EA) as an alternative to the GMAT or GRE. The Graduate Management Admissions Council designed the EA to evaluate business school readiness in the context of career experience. Additionally, NYU accepts the MCAT, LSAT, and DAT for admission to the MBA program.

winning MBA application strategy

Meanwhile, digital elements such as videos allow the admissions committee to see an applicant’s presentation and interpersonal skills. This helps them determine if you are confident and if you have any communication faults. Programs want candidates to be authentic. They also want to evaluate an applicant’s creativity and ability to think on their feet.

From an admissions standpoint, videos allow the adcom to make better decisions about which candidates match the program best. It’s also a way for them to see how candidates can handle an uncomfortable or awkward situation. They want to know how a candidate operates outside of their comfort zone.  Also, it helps them judge whether the “real you” matches the impression you’ve built through your other materials.

With these updates in MBA admissions, schools continue to raise the bar on the essential requirements of a winning MBA application strategy.

Shifting demographic trends

As we previously shared with Find MBA, far more people from the technology industry are applying. Meanwhile, fewer overseas students are applying to US MBAs overall. Applicants from companies including Google, Amazon, Uber, and LinkedIn are applying in high numbers. Candidates from startup tech companies are also a more prominent presence in the applicant pool.

This means that tech applicants may find the process more competitive this season. At the same time, strong overseas candidates should see easier admit odds.


Focus on what you can share with your classmates that would be valuable to them—unique experience or knowledge from which others can learn and benefit. Although negotiating your acceptance into a top MBA program seems daunting, by showcasing your individuality, you can do so with success.

With deadlines around the corner, you may be interested in the world-famous SBC Flight Test. Once a full set of application materials for your initial school have been drafted, but not finalized, the application will be sent to a former admissions committee member for a one-time review, adcomm style. You’ll have the benefit of a true admissions committee review while still having the ability to tinker and change.  You will receive written feedback within two business days after submitting.

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