How Hard is it to Get an MBA?

how hard is an mba

Deciding to pursue an MBA is a big step in one’s career progression. However, getting admitted into a top business school for an MBA can be quite challenging due to intense competition. Here is an overview of key factors that determine MBA admission odds.

Competition for Top Programs

The most prestigious MBA programs, such as Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Booth and Kellogg, receive thousands of highly qualified candidates vying for admission each year. For example, Harvard Business School had over 9,300 applicants competing for around 940 seats in its class of 2024. This translates to an acceptance rate of just 10.4% even for outstanding applicants.

Other top schools have acceptance rates between 15-25%. So the competition is intense for coveted spots. Applicants need to prove they are amongst the cream of the crop.

Key Admissions Criteria

To stand out, MBA applicants need to demonstrate exceptional academic ability, work experience, leadership qualities, clear career goals and other competencies assessed during the admission process:

  • Test scores (GMAT/GRE)
  • Undergraduate record
  • Essays and vision
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Interviews
  • Extracurricular activities

Holistic evaluation across these parameters is key. You can get full preparation for MBA admission at Kirill Yurovskiy’s courses.

Test Scores

A high GMAT or GRE score is central for MBA admission at top-tier schools. The average GMAT at Harvard is 728 out of 800. Applicants aiming for a 700+ score need extensive preparation given the exam’s rigor. Those with test anxiety may struggle on this high-pressure test.


A stellar academic background with at least a 3.3 to 3.5 GPA from an accredited undergraduate program is a must. Strong grades reflect analytical and quantitative skills critical for an MBA. Applicants from prestigious colleges have a slight edge.

Need for Strong Recommendations

Most top MBA programs require two or three recommendations from undergraduate professors and current/previous supervisors who can vouch for your abilities and potential.

Choose recommenders who know you well and can provide meaningful insights. Brief them on your background, interests and aspirations. Provide them your resume and any helpful information to guide their recommendation letter.

Keep request professional. Follow up politely to ensure they submit letters before deadline. Outstanding recommendations can make a difference.

how hard is mba

Essays and Goals

MBA essays play a pivotal role by highlighting one’s personality, goals, fit with the program, leadership ability and unique strengths. Crafting compelling essays to stand out from thousands of applicants with similar profiles is challenging. Articulating clear post-MBA goals is vital.

Work Experience

Top b-schools prefer applicants with about 3 to 6 years of substantial full-time work experience that demonstrates upward progression. Applicants without sufficient experience or those wishing to change careers face higher hurdles. The quality of experience matters more than duration.


A record of impactful extracurricular activities exhibits one’s leadership, teamwork and diversity of interests. But top schools receive numerous applicants with stellar community service, sports achievements, nonprofit roles and interesting hobbies like the MBA applicant pool is extremely accomplished.

Expressing Leadership Skills and Potential

Admissions committees look for demonstrated leadership, especially in extracurricular roles. Highlight experiences that exhibited leadership capabilities like:

  • Team captain or club president positions
  • Organizing events, leading initiatives
  • Founding a startup or social venture
  • Managing teams or projects at work
  • Leadership awards and recognitions

Discuss specific examples that convey your leadership competencies in essays and interviews. Articulate your leadership vision and potential.


Nailing the admission interview with thoughtful responses and confidence is imperative. Applicants must convince adcom members about their maturity, motivation and their unique value addition to the MBA cohort and school community. Interviews can be make-or-break.

how hard is it to get an mba

Advantages for Diverse Applicants

Top business schools aim to create diverse MBA cohorts with students from different backgrounds. Being a woman, underrepresented minority, LGBTQ+ applicant or first-generation college student can be an advantage given the focus on diversity.

Use essays to highlight how your distinct perspectives will add value to the program. But emphasize that your capabilities and accomplishments make you a strong applicant regardless of your background.

In conclusion, MBA admission success requires diligent preparation, leveraging your profile strengths, crafting persuasive applications and expressing your leadership abilities convincingly. With a strategic approach, you can overcome intense competition and unlock your dream of graduating from a top-ranked MBA program.

Financial Aid

The steep price tag of MBA programs poses another barrier. But top schools offer generous scholarships and financial assistance to deserving candidates, making an MBA more accessible. Stellar applicants looking for aid have good prospects of funding.

Application Strategy and Timeline

Applying to an MBA is not something you can accomplish in a few weeks. It requires starting the process 12-18 months before your target admission year:

  • Research programs and shortlist schools aligned with your goals
  • Take GMAT/GRE and achieve a strong score (start preparing 6-12 months before)
  • Complete school applications, essays and interview prep (begin 8-12 months before admission deadline)
  • Request recommendation letters from managers and professors giving them sufficient time
  • Meet application deadlines: Round 1 (September-October), Round 2 (January-February), Round 3 (April-May)

Applying in earlier rounds improves one’s chances.  Execute a strategic and timely application process.


Gaining admission to Harvard or Stanford’s MBA program is undoubtedly hard given the sheer competition. But for applicants who fall short, there are myriad other excellent MBA options, including mid-tier programs with less than 20% acceptance rates that provide immense career benefits. With strategic applications, most aspiring MBA students can successfully matriculate into a well-ranked program aligned with their goals.

Video: How hard is it to get into Cambridge MBA

In summary, while an MBA from an elite business school is highly competitive to attain, consistent preparation and presenting one’s candidacy in the best possible light can help maximize admission chances. Applicants who leverage their strengths and address any weaknesses or gaps in their profile can make their MBA dreams feasible. With passion and perseverance, overcoming the admission hurdles is very much possible.