Applications to MBA programs are expected to increase this year after experiencing a three year decline, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports. MBA programs are competitive. Although some top schools accept almost 80 percent of applicants, others accept barely a third, according to Poets and Quants. You need to make your application stand out from the crowd. Here’s how:

Use Social Media

  • Almost one-third of all admissions officers report they use Google to learn more about applicants. Twenty-seven percent visit social networks like Twitter and Facebook to get more information. In 10 percent of their social networking visits in 2012, officers found information that negatively impacted the chances of an applicant’s acceptance, notes Kaplan.
  • Consultant Stacy Charles assists students with their MBA applications. She recommends you do a social media makeover before applying to any MBA program. Review all photographs you have posted or are tagged in. Remove any that appear unprofessional. Review your posts and delete anything questionable. Even review your “likes” on Facebook and delete any that may cast you in a bad light.
  • After you have removed all potentially embarrassing material from your Facebook page, add to it by liking the schools you are applying to. Like industry publications and businesses in which you have an interest. Ms. Charles notes that some schools are experimenting with Twitter and will ask you to Tweet, in 140 characters, why the school should accept you into the program.

Where to apply

Select schools based on the type of program that meets your needs. You can attend school part-time, full-time or enroll in an accelerated program. The time it takes to complete the program, generally between one and three years, depends on the school and the specific program you choose. According to a comment posted on the Alliant University website by an MBA graduate, “The MBA program at Alliant School of Management was a perfect fit for my needs and I feel very well prepared for a future leadership position.”

When to Apply

Submit your application at least six months prior to the enrollment date, suggests MBA.com. This is considered early and gives your application a chance to stand out from the pack. Other advantages to applying early include:

  • It shows you plan ahead and are organized.
  • It increases your opportunities to line up financial aid.
  • If there are any missing components, such as transcripts or recommendations, or if the school has any questions, you have time to fill in the gaps.

Ace the Entrance Exam

Almost half of all admissions officers said that the GMAT entrance exam score was the most important factor in their acceptance decisions, notes Kaplan. You need to prepare vigorously for the exam.

  • Begin preparing three to six months in advance.
  • Start by taking an assessment test to determine the areas in which you are weak.
  • Enroll in a test preparation class. Many are available online.
  • Use a GMAT study guide that has a lot of sample tests.
  • Take sample tests and time them as though you were taking the actual exam.
  • Guess only if you can eliminate at least one answer. GMAT scoring penalizes you a quarter of a point for every wrong answer.
  • Establish a study schedule and stick to it.

Author: Mackenzie Carlin

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