Global applications to business master’s programs – including Master in Management, Master of Finance and Master of Data Analytics – grew 3.2 percent year-on-year in 2022, underscoring the strong demand for courses that can help candidates with little to no work experience get ahead in the world of business.
While these programs have a proven track record of accelerating career progress and boosting earning power, admissions are highly competitive, especially for the most highly-ranked institutions which receive thousands of applications for hundreds of places on their business master’s programs.
With the best schools admitting only a slim fraction of those who apply, it is vital that prospective students put their best foot forward when it comes to putting together a business school application. There are several elements including standardized tests, interviews, essays, CVs and recommendation letters among other requirements that differ slightly between institutions.
So make sure that you meet all the requirements of entry to the individual school you are applying for. It may sound obvious, but numerous applicants get rejected because they make this simple mistake, says Andrew Keating, academic director of the CEMS Master in Management Programme at UCD Smurfit School of Business in Dublin, Ireland.
He adds that you should have all the required documentation ready to go, but he warns not to hurry the process. “A rushed application will generally lead to a weak application that will likely be rejected,” Keating says.
“Take your time in writing application essays that are tailored to the program and school to which you are applying,” he adds. Since most candidates will apply to multiple programs, it is not uncommon to see essays naming another school by mistake. “This can be perceived as sloppy, as well as insulting to the program you are applying to,” says Keating.
It is also vital to have a well-crafted CV that states your experiences and accomplishments. “This is a brief synopsis of you and your accomplishments and helps to answer why you should be considered,” says Keating. “When reviewers see a poorly put together CV, a reaction is, ‘Why are we wasting our time considering this person?’”
It pays to get an early start on the application, says Sophie Dimich-Louvet, director of recruitment for the masters program at HEC Paris, a leading French business school. “Attend webinars, request personalized consultations, contact the recruitment teams for a CV-review, and prepare for the exam (if applicable),” she says. “These are steps that can help applicants put their best foot forward and maximize chances for a positive admission result.”
When it comes to choosing the right business school and masters program, reflection is important. “Take time to consider why a particular MiM program is right for you and what your future plans are,” says Keating at UCD Smurfit School. “Don’t simply make the choice based on the reputation of a school or its ranking in league tables.”
Indeed, applicants must understand how the school can enable them to reach their career goals, agrees Omid Aschari, managing director of the Master in Strategy and International Management at the University of St.Gallen in Switzerland.
“Take time to investigate the program beyond the brochures. That means talking to the admissions officer, participating in webinars and ideally chatting with alumni and students,” Aschari explains. But would-be students should avoid asking questions they could have easily answered for themselves. “They should remember: there is never a second chance for a first impression,” Aschari warns.
When it comes to the admissions interview, do not think you can wing it, says HEC Paris’s Dimich-Louvet. “We highly encourage you to prepare. There is often a delay between when a candidate submits their application and the interview period. Download your application again and review it thoroughly before the interview. Above all, be yourself and not the one you think we want you to be.”
Shirley Lui, associate head of recruitment and admissions for the Master in Management at ESCP Business School, also stresses the importance of thorough preparation, not just for the interview. “Treat the application process the same way you would apply for an important job,” she says. “We like to see authenticity and that you’ve tailored your application to this specific school and program.”
No one likes a show-off, but Lui adds: “Don’t undersell yourself or be overly vague in the application process.”