TUN sits down with Dr. Joan Marques, dean of the School of Business at Woodbury University, to discuss tips for applying to business schools.
TUN: Dr. Marques, thanks so much for joining us.
DR. MARQUES: Thank you so much, Jackson, for having me.
To get started, can you give us an overview of the process of applying to business school? What are some of the important deadlines that students should be aware of? How early should they get started?
First and foremost, if you want to apply for an MBA program, you want to go to the website of the university of your interest. You should find the admissions page where they have graduate applications because most schools, of course, have undergraduate and graduate applications.
Usually, you’ll find that there are many useful drop-down menus that will explain to you all that is required. Different schools have different deadlines. Most MBA programs may have two entry points, meaning a spring entry and a fall entry.
But, some start only in the fall. That means that there are different deadlines. For us, we have deadlines of July 1 for the fall and November 1 for the spring. But, again, that may vary from school to school.
In your application process, you want to make sure that you don’t only submit your transcripts from other schools. You also will probably need to submit letters of recommendation. In our case, we require three letters of recommendation. But that, again, may vary.
Make sure that your letters of recommendation come from people who can highlight you from different angles of your life.
You will also need to write an essay. That will be a one-to-two-page story of yourself. We can go into that a little bit more later.
There are other things that you will need, such as your professional resume. Make sure that everything is addressed well and that it has been proofread and reviewed. There may be an interview, so be prepared for that.
And, of course, if you want to apply for scholarships, that will also be part of the game.
Now the admissions test. Do business schools generally prefer that students take the GMAT or the GRE?
For business entry, the GMAT is the most required test. The GRE is more general. So, for general graduate programs, the GRE may be good. If you’re going for a business degree, the GMAT is better. It is a bit heavier on the quant side. But, overall, the findings are that the GMAT is the better test.
In our case, we’re an AACSB-accredited school. Because AACSB-accredited schools are so rigorous in the way that faculty and student performance are tested and evaluated, it has become the trend that GMAT or GRE tests are no longer really required. In some cases, they’re still recommended. But, the requirement has actually fallen by the wayside.
It’s still a very good test. Either one of them is good to take. Especially if you’ve been out of the educational environment for a while, make sure that you’re well-prepared.
But, again, they are more of a recommendation than a requirement, the reason being that schools such as ours have found that, between students who have taken the test versus those who have not taken the test, there’s no real difference in their performances.
I know that applications and essays are extremely important. I know that a good application and a good essay can separate applicants from equally qualified candidates. So, do you have any advice to help business school applicants construct applications and write essays that could put them above the competition?
First and foremost, when you are applying, you want to make sure that you answer all the questions in the application, that you’re very meticulous and that you’re not too wordy.
When it comes to the essay part, you want to make sure that it’s about you and not about somebody else. You want to make sure that you’re not writing what you think they want you to be writing. Instead, write about yourself.
Don’t make it too wordy. Have it proofread. Make sure that grammar is intact. Make sure that you’re also talking about the challenges that you encountered, not only the great things that you’ve accomplished.
Sleep over it! Take some time. Sometimes, what you’ve written today may look really good, but you may have another idea the next day. So, take your time with your essay.
I know that some business schools also require applicants to interview. Do you have any tips to help students interview effectively?
As for the interview part, I would mention the same major rule that goes for the essay. Be yourself.
Also, especially now in the virtual world, make sure that your background is a presentable one. Fortunately, these days, we have virtual backgrounds. Make sure that you have a background that is not screaming. Instead, choose one that is more neutral.
Make sure that you do some preliminary research on the institution that you are applying to so that you can answer all of the questions. One of the questions that they may be asking is, “Why did you apply to our school?”
Be prepared to talk about some challenges that you overcame and how you overcame them. Be prepared to talk about some goals that you have with the particular degree that you’re seeking. Be prepared to know what that degree is about.
All those things may seem little, but they’re very, very important.
Choosing a business school is obviously a huge decision. Do you have any tips on how students can effectively tour and get the feel for campus communities at different schools?
Pre-COVID, applicants could make appointments and get a campus tour that way.
These days, there are virtual tours. The good part of it is that, most of the time, you’ll find that there are synchronous and asynchronous virtual tours.
The synchronous virtual tours require an appointment. Usually, there will be an admissions counselor or a student ambassador who will contact you and schedule an appointment with you to give you that tour and answer any questions.
But, there are also those asynchronous tours that are just a click away. You can just see what the premises look like and get all the information readily available.
I know that the sticker prices of business schools can be shocking. So, do you have any tips on how students can maximize the amount of financial aid they can receive?
First and foremost, there’s the federal aid that students can get.
One tip that I always give students is to do all that they can to improve their GPAs. Because, usually, the higher your GPA is, the more chances you have to become eligible for merit scholarships. Those come from schools.
Aside from that, there are organizations such as the USA Grant Applications website, for instance, where you can find different ways to apply for different scholarships.
Question what group you belong to. Ask yourself, “Am I eligible for a social justice scholarship or a minority scholarship?”
You can find all kinds of supplementary scholarships aside from what the schools offer you. Take advantage of them. Use them.
Thank you, again, for joining us today.
Thank you so much for having me.
This interview has been edited for clarity. Watch the full video here.
News & Content Manager
Jackson Schroeder is a graduate of Ohio University with a B.A. in Journalism from the E.W. Scripps School. He is originally from Savannah, Georgia. Jackson has covered a wide range of topics, including sustainability, technology, sports, culture, travel, and music. He plays bass and guitar, and enjoys playing and listening to live music in his free time.