Many St. Olaf graduates will consider pursuing an MBA (Master’s of Business Administration) several years after graduation. St. Olaf students with early career success are competitive candidates for top tier programs across the country and around the world.
An MBA is an internationally recognized degree designed to enhance management and leadership skills. Courses tend to be heavily teamwork-oriented and based around the in-depth analysis of case studies. MBA graduates are able to utilize their skills in a variety of settings including business, government, non-profits, entrepreneurship and more.
What are schools looking for?
- Strong academic performance
- Strong standardized test (GMAT or possibly GRE) score
- Early career success
- Demonstrated quantitative and people skills
- Vision for post-MBA career
When to attend
Competitive business schools require at least two to three years of experience as part of their application requirements. Admissions committees consider experience from literally any field such as government, non-profit, private industry, entrepreneurship, and education. Working in any one of these industries will help you determine more clearly what you wish to gain from an MBA program and what type of program will fit you best. Working between college and business school will give you time to develop skills that make you stand out in the applicant pool, give you life experience upon which to apply your classroom learning, and make you more competitive once recruiting rolls around for full-time jobs post-graduation.
The GMAT is a standardized exam that is an important part of the application process for business schools. Visit the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) site for more details. Your scores from the GMAT are valid for up to five years. It could be advantageous to take the GMAT your senior year if you have the time and believe business school might be in your future, as you are in the studying mindset and certain math concepts are fresher in your mind.
GMAT vs. GRE: More and more business programs are accepting the GRE in lieu of the GMAT, so if you’ve already taken it and gotten good scores, or you’re scoring better on GRE sample tests, check to see if your target schools will accept it.
As in the case of any standardized test, we recommend that you prepare for the exam by familiarizing yourself with the test format and completing practice tests.
Selecting a school
While academic reputation is important, rankings do not give the complete picture. It is essential for you to think carefully about what you wish to gain from an MBA program and its curriculum. Research each program in depth to determine which is going to be the best fit for your academic goals, geographic preference, and lifestyle. It is also important to consider your return on investment in terms of the school’s network, recruiting program, and post-graduate outcomes.
Consider visiting business schools for an admissions tour. Many will match you up with current students and allow you to sit in on a class or two. Along those lines, you may also find it helpful to speak with St. Olaf alumni who are currently attending or have graduated from business schools on your target list. Piper Center staff can help you find this information.
Full time vs. Part time: If you are hoping to change careers, you typically need the dedicated focus and networking and recruiting opportunities of a well-regarded full time program. Part time programs are a great way to save money, as you don’t have to take out loans to pay the rent, but are best pursued by those who wish to stay in their current functional area of business.
Timeline and application components
Many business schools have multiple admissions deadlines with the latest being in March or April. We encourage you to apply as early as possible to increase your chances of admission. You will be asked to fill out an application and submit your GMAT/GRE scores, academic transcript, resume, 2-3 letters of recommendation and a number of personal essays specific to each school.
Your personal essays may be the most crucial part of your application. Take the time to address each prompt (no generic statements allowed!) and tailor your writing to each institution/program. Have your statement critiqued by Jenele Grassle, our alumni career coach.
References are usually requested from your employers, and possibly a professor. Make sure that the people you choose as references can speak specifically about your skills and experience and your ability to perform in an MBA program.
- The Economist’s four-part series on how to craft a compelling MBA application
- U.S. News and World Report MBA Rankings