For Students and Alumni Considering Business School

People apply to business school with different goals and at varied points in their career.  One person might apply as an undergraduate to an early admission program, another after working for a few years, and yet another with an established career and ten years of experience.  It can be extremely helpful to speak with people who have earned an MBA, particularly those working in your field of interest, to clarify your decision to pursue a graduate degree and learn about different programs.  You may also wish to view the Considering Graduate School for Business webinar offered in the Penn Alumni Live Career Tools Series.

Penn students and alumni can speak with a pre-MBA Career Services Advisor during an office or telephone appointment.  Call 215.898.1789 to schedule a time.


Visit Handshake and create an account using your Penn email address. To subscribe to a newsletter select "Pre-Health," "Pre-Grad," Pre-Law," or "Pre-Business" in the CareerMail question in the Career Interests section of your Handshake profile. You can find this by clicking your name, then "Career Interests," and finally selecting the appropriate interest under the CareerMail communications section.

Application Process

Getting Started
Timing Your Application
Business schools highly value skills and insight gained in the professional world.  Most successful applicants to business school have more than two years of work experience.  Carefully evaluate whether an MBA will serve you well at a particular point in your career and if your resume will move your application forward.  It is not uncommon for potential applicants to decide an MBA is not for them or to wait another year after evaluating their options.  Check the application deadlines for programs carefully.  MBA admissions typically occur in rounds and you want to be ready to apply during the earlier rounds.
Researching Schools
The curricula, specialties, and culture of MBA programs varies a great deal.  Potential applicants should look beyond school rankings to determine which programs are a good fit for them.  Listings and comparisons of MBA programs can be found on the Official GMAT and Poets & Quants websites.  MBA programs have informative websites that include class profiles, specialized programs, and post-graduate employment information.  Informational interviews with alumni and, when possible, campus visits can give you a sense of the school's culture and strengths.

The GMAT and GRE
The GMAT or GRE is required for business school.  Most MBA programs will accept scores from either test.  If you are unsure as to which test to take, learn about the tests and work through some practice problems to decide which test will lead to a higher score.  One test is not innately 'better' than the other.  Because the scores, for both tests, are valid for five years, some undergraduates take the exam not long after graduation while their minds are still focused on tests and academics, and before they are committed to a full-time job.

Letters of Recommendation
Most programs ask for two letters of recommendation.  Recommendations from people who have supervised you in a professional environment are preferred over academic recommendations.  Some programs require recommenders to complete an online form particular to their school, while others accept standard letters of recommendation.  Give your recommenders plenty of time to complete their part of your application by the deadline.

Essays for Business School
The essays you write for your application are extremely important.  Not only are they a way for schools to assess your writing ability, but they are the single communication from you that conveys your motivations, goals, personality and fit for the program.  Some schools ask for a single essay and others ask for several short and long essays.  It is not unheard of for schools to require or allow multimedia submissions introducing yourself.  Career Services Advisors can provide feedback on essay drafts. 

Business School Resumes
Resumes for your application should be on one page and list your professional experience before your education.  Career Services Advisors can provide feedback on your resume for MBA admissions.

Requesting Transcripts
Transcripts from post-secondary schools are ordered from the Registrar's Office at each school.  The University of Pennsylvania Registrar's Office provides instructions for sending transcripts from Penn.

Interviewing for Business School
MBA admissions interviews may be conducted on campus or off-site with admissions staff or alumni.  Some interviews are traditional one-to-one meetings and others may involve additional interviewers, observers, or a group interview or activity.  Interviewing advice for professional positions is applicable to your admissions interview.  Be ready to speak succinctly about all aspects of your application and background, your enthusiasm for business, and your career goals.  Listen carefully to your interviewer as you are demonstrating your communication abilities, not giving a speech.

HELpful resources