What Does a Winning MBA Application Strategy Look Like Today?

winning MBA application strategyMany of you have probably heard about the decline in applications to US business schools. However, the booming job market and higher acceptance rates actually make it an excellent time to pursue an MBA degree. Find MBA‘s Seb Murray recently looked at 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.

The competencies that business schools seek have not changed much, SBC shares in  Murray’s piece. But there’s an increasing priority on getting to know the individual applicant’s authentic life story and character.

More focus on soft skills

Soft skills are an important set of personal attributes that enhance one’s 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.

Again this year, NYU Stern School of Business asks for two EQ (emotional intelligence) endorsements with your application. The endorsement must come from someone who knows you personally and/or professionally and can act as a persuasive advocate of your EQ strengths.

Along the same lines, the Yale School of Management has added 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.

Ever-evolving technology and greater efficiency

Applicants to the full-time MBA programs at NYU Stern have a new option to fulfill the standardized test requirement. Beginning with the current 2019-2020 admissions cycle, applicants can now choose to take GMAC’s Executive Assessment (EA). The Graduate Management Admissions Council designed the EA to evaluate business school readiness in the context of career experience.

According to NYU Stern Executive Director of MBA Admissions Rabia Ahmed, “As a school on the move, we recognize that business is rapidly evolving, and we’ve responded with new program options as well as innovations in our admissions process, such as the EQ Endorsements, to ensure we are assessing talent for today’s changing workforce.”

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 as well as their ability to think on their feet.

From an admissions standpoint, videos allow the adcom to make better decisions about which candidates are the strongest match with the program.  This is also a way for them to see how candidates can handle an uncomfortable or awkward situation. They want to see 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 key requirements of a winning MBA application strategy.

Shifting demographic trends

As we 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 larger presence in the applicant pool.

This means that tech applicants will 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—experience or knowledge that others can learn and benefit from. Although negotiating your acceptance into a top MBA program seems daunting, by showcasing your individuality, you can do so with success.

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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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