While the requirements for MBA program admission may vary from university to university, some standards are quite common. An MBA is a serious undertaking, and most top-tier universities want to assess how prepared their potential students are for the rigors of the coursework, whether they will be able to contribute positively and consistently to the program’s academic community, and how likely they are to represent the university well with a standout career after graduation.
Take a look at this list of common requirements for MBA programs, and keep in mind that not all prerequisites for MBA students are courses. Some of them are simply elements of a winning attitude.
Regardless of whether you studied business or a related field as an undergraduate, some things just can’t be learned in the classroom. Many MBA programs want to see that you’ve spent some time in a professional environment so they can be sure you’ve experienced a taste of the unique challenges you’ll face there and understand what it takes to overcome them.
Generally, MBA admissions committees prefer candidates with at least two years of experience on their resume. This length of time—which, incidentally, is the amount required for admission to the Online MBA program at William & Mary—is long enough for early-career MBA applicants to form a more concrete idea of their professional goals than they would have had immediately after completing their undergraduate studies, as well as the steps required to attain them.
Standardized Test Scores
For years, the top MBA programs have required applicants to submit standardized test scores as part of their application package. The most commonly requested exams are the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT), which is designed specifically to assess business school candidates, and the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), a more general test for prospective graduate students across fields.
However, even elite business schools are beginning to reassess the need for this rite of passage. This is due in part to a growing sentiment that standardized tests may not be as effective at evaluating business acumen and professional potential as once thought, but it can also be attributed to the sudden closure of testing centers in early 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before this landscape-altering event, the Online MBA program at William & Mary proudly did away with its GMAT/GRE requirement, opting instead to view candidates holistically in terms of their academic and professional accomplishments.
People Who Believe in You
An MBA is something you can’t take on alone. A network of people who not only believe in your ability to succeed but want to help you do so can be a crucial factor in both your admission to an MBA program and the quality of the work you do once you’re enrolled. First and foremost, most MBA programs will require at least one letter of recommendation from a professional or academic reference (W&M’s Online MBA program requires two). To successfully meet this common MBA application requirement, it’s essential you cultivate strong relationships with your coworkers, supervisors and professors so you can identify just the right people to attest to your abilities.
Beyond the application stage, your academic accomplishments and career advancement during your MBA program can be bolstered by a broader support network. This includes friends and family members who understand the increased demands that graduate-level coursework will put on your schedule. It also means professional mentors who may have completed an MBA program before you and can give you crucial pointers about how to get every advantage out of it.
A Desire to Lead
The best MBA programs aren’t just designed to help you build new skills and boost your salary. They are intended to shape you into a dynamic, confident leader with a broad range of knowledge that can be applied in any situation. In order to graduate from an MBA program positioned to take on this kind of responsibility, you need to approach your studies with a clear-eyed vision of where you want to go.
If you’re interested in developing a uniquely powerful approach to leadership, be sure to seek out an MBA program specifically built to cultivate it. The curriculum for the Online MBA program at William & Mary, for instance, teaches design thinking as the fundamental mindset successful, creative leaders should utilize. In order to learn this nonlinear, iterative approach to problem solving, you should enter the program ready to embrace it.
Willingness to Grow
Among all the MBA requirements discussed here, perhaps the most important is an open mind. Regardless of how much success you may have found in your career to this point, remember there’s always more to learn. An MBA, after all, should be more than just an investment of time and money, and its true value will scale to how much you are willing to take away from it.
Take courses in subjects that challenge you to expand your idea of what’s possible, both in the world of business and your own career. Listen to the diverse perspectives of your classmates and think deeply about how you might benefit from their unique experiences. And remember that as valuable as the credential you will receive upon graduation will be, the growth you will experience as you earn it is priceless.
Check All the Boxes? Apply Today to William & Mary
If you’re ready for a challenging and powerful business school experience, one that can truly transform your mindset and your career, explore the Online MBA program from William & Mary. Check out some examples of the thought leadership produced by the innovative thinkers at W&M, from the importance of viewing data as an asset to the pros and cons of social media in the workplace.