What are the most important qualities schools look for in an MBA candidate?

Oct 1, 2013
Tags: Admissions Process

Al DiFrancoSubmitted by Al DiFranco, director, Admissions at Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University

This question is asked during admission interviews ALL the time…and I understand why. You want to know what we as admission professionals are looking for, in hopes that you have those qualities. It also gives you an opportunity to listen to the answer and respond in a way that addresses some of the qualities which you have not yet touched on in the interview or elsewhere during the admission process.

Here are four qualities I look for:

  1. Solid Work Experience: We typically look for 3-5 years of post-graduate work experience from our MBA candidates. This work experience will help you relate with classmates, give you real-world perspective, and make you marketable for MBA-level internships and jobs. Whether you are looking at an MBA as a career enhancer or a career changer, some level of work experience is helpful.
  2. Academic Achievement: I don’t just look at a GMAT and say, “You have to get a 650 or you can’t get into our school,” or glance at a grade point average and say, “A 3.5 is necessary and anything less isn’t good enough.” Other factors come into play that speak to academic achievement, such as the quality of your undergraduate institution, quantitative versus verbal score on the GMAT, and any other degrees or certifications you may have.
  3. Genuine Interest: Admission professionals know you are looking at a number of schools in your search process. You should be! What I am looking for is your genuine interest in our program. That’s why in interviews I often ask why you applied to our school and what you like most about us. If you can’t answer those questions in a decisive manner that sounds like your own words and not just what can be found on our website, then I will probably feel uncertain about whether you really want to attend our school.
  4. Passion: This is something I look for in personal and professional relationships, and I think it’s a great predictor of how successful someone will be in an MBA program and beyond. I want to see passion from a prospective student, especially in an interview. If an applicant can convincingly convey in an interview why he or she wants an MBA, and why he or she wants one from my school (see #3!), that will stay with me. When a prospective student shows me passion early on, I begin to picture him or her as a leader in student organizations and in our alumni community, which adds value to his or her candidacy.

Those are some of the main qualities I look for in MBA candidates. I hope this information is helpful for you!

For more on what it takes to stand out as an applicant, visit mba.com.