If you’re aspiring towards studying abroad, then one of the first things you need to do is understand how the admissions process generally works at leading business schools. In this blog, we’ll take you through this process step by step. While this is not based on one particular school, we’re assuming (for the sake of this example) that the school in question invites a select group of candidates to interview after reviewing applications, as opposed to a school that offers open interviews.

Receiving the application

Once an application is submitted, it is received and processed by the admission committee’s operation staff. Much of this process is automated via the school’s online application system. However, there is typically a person who verifies the
completeness of a submitted application, and who notifies candidates who have incomplete files.

Reviewing the application

Complete applications are then sent out for review. This review is undertaken by an associate director of admissions or a student member of the admissions committee. Some schools distribute applications to readers at random, while others have readers who specialize by industry, geographic region, or demographics.

The first reader spends approximately 30 minutes reviewing each application. The numbers (GMAT and GPA) are digested, the data forms reviewed, and then the essays and recommendations are read. The essays take maximum time to be reviewed. The reader writes up an assessment of the overall application, as well as each element of the application, using a structured format that the adcom has designed.

Recommendation for admissions

The reader will make a recommendation at this stage – to interview or to deny – and will provide a ratings score. Keep in mind that in this day and age, most applications are read digitally (usually on iPads), but there are some schools that continue to use a paper-based process for application review.

Further review

Depending on the admissions office, a second reader may now get the file. This person will read through the application and the first reader’s review, and then add her own review and rating. If the second reader agrees with the first reader, then the interview/deny recommendation is forwarded on. If the readers disagree, the file may be reviewed during an admissions committee meeting.

Notifying the applicants

The no brainer: Applicants who receive an “interview” decision are notified.

The applications of those who receive a “deny” recommendation go to the admissions director. The director either affirms the decision or overturns it, and diverts the file for an interview invite. In making this decision, the admissions director will review the write-ups of the first two readers, and then may choose to review aspects of the application to evaluate these assessments.

The admissions director will also be aware of any legacy candidates and will treat them accordingly.

Interview report

For applicants who are invited to interview, an interview report will be added to the applicant’s file once the interview is complete. The interview report will include an interview rating score.

Summary review

After the interview, a reader (sometimes one of the first two readers, but possibly someone else) will review the application again, focusing on the original write-ups as well as the interview report.

This third reader will then add a summary review and rating score and make a recommendation whether to admit the candidate, deny the candidate, or place the candidate on the waitlist.

Final decision

The file is then forwarded to the admissions director, who will review the final recommendation and either affirm it, change it, or refer the application for review by the full admissions committee. The admissions director will have a statistical summary of the make-up of the class that will change as new decisions are made.

This helps track the profiles that are either under- or over-represented in the applicant pool, and tracks the number of admits and matriculated students in the class overall.

Files that are particularly contentious – that cause disagreement among admissions readers – may be forwarded to an admissions committee meeting. These are held periodically during the admissions season for those admissions officers who are in town and not out recruiting. In addition to making decisions about these “borderline” applicants, admissions officers also use the meetings to share what they are seeing in the applicant pool and at recruiting events.


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