Most MBA (Masters in Business Administration) programs consist of a set of required core courses (typically, accounting, economics, finance, marketing, and statistics) and electives. Often electives include a cluster of courses in one specialized area (e.g., finance). Many graduate business courses, including some of the core courses, require good analytical and quantitative skills.
In preparing to make yourself an attractive applicant to a top MBA program, you should develop your abilities to think quantitatively as well as write effectively. In addition, it is very unusual for the most competitive MBA programs to admit applicants without at least two or three years of work experience.

How are MBA applications evaluated?

Admissions committees will review your academic background, GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test) score, work experience, application essays, letters of recommendation, and interview. Your application and supporting documents should include evidence of your ability to perform well in analytical and quantitative courses. Most business schools place considerable weight on your prior work experience, and good schools typically require at least two or three years of employment following graduation from college.

Academic Preparation for MBA Programs

Most programs aim to enroll a class with diverse academic backgrounds. Thus, many programs have few, if any, specific requirements. In particular, neither an undergraduate degree in business nor an economics major is necessary. As you select your undergraduate courses, you should consider the following:

  • Many business schools require at least one semester of calculus. Some schools require or strongly recommend course work in statistics, accounting, or economics.
  • In light of the quantitative nature of many graduate business courses, admissions committees look closely at an applicant's grades in analytical and quantitative courses (e.g., math, statistics, and economics).
  • Many MBA students enter graduate school with prior course work in math, statistics, economics, accounting, and financial markets.  To help provide a more level playing field, some programs offer (optional) short, intensive courses in some of these areas prior to the start of the regular MBA program. However, students who need to catch up in all these areas may find their first semester a difficult one. In addition, most MBA students will enter with some facility for using standard computer packages (e.g., spreadsheets, presentation software, word processing).

How much work experience is required?

Most highly regarded business schools expect two to five years of work experience after graduation from college. Work experience is required because it helps students better appreciate course material and contribute more insightfully to class discussions. Admissions committees use letters of recommendation from business colleagues to help assess your potential for leadership and your ability to work as part of a team.

Finding a job before going to business school

Business school deans of admission stress that no one type of business experience is more valuable than any other. The most important consideration for your work experience is that you choose something that you do very well. Your work experience gives you an additional opportunity to demonstrate your ability to set and achieve goals that are important to both you and your organization. The academic preparation expected by employers varies by employer and position. Most employers expect a graduate from a liberal arts college such as Hamilton to be broadly educated, a good writer, and an articulate speaker. A student who seeks a job in investment or commercial banking or in management consulting should have a high overall GPA and a strong record in quantitative courses. For such a student, the Career Center recommends accounting, a year of calculus, introductory economics, statistics, and a course that includes material on financial markets.

When should the GMAT be taken?

Your scores are good for five years. You should consider sitting for the GMAT in your senior year if you think that your quantitative skills might deteriorate after you leave Hamilton.

Where can you find additional information about MBA programs?

  • Annual editions of Getting Into Business School, which is prepared by Kaplan Educational Centers.
  • Annual editions of Student Advantage Guide to the Best Business Schools, which is prepared by Princeton Review.
  • Business Week’s website has a section on business schools which includes rankings, profiles, and interviews with deans of admission.
  • The Career Center counseling staff and library.
  • The Career Center career advising team. Students can make appointments with their dedicated career advisor through Handshake.

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