The deciding factors for admission committees

How to get into the world’s most prestigious and highly selective business schools? A high GMAT score, academic excellence, a convincing essay and strong references? Yes, they all count, but as important are personal connections, says a seasoned expert.


Have you ever wondered what happens to MBA applications once they arrive at the schools? What factors swing the admissions committee towards or against you? MBA expert John Byrne was allowed to sit in during the meetings at three different schools in the US, Canada and Europe. “I sat quietly and observed the behind-the-door proceedings of how admission officials discuss candidates and come to their often controversial decisions at Boston University's Questrom School of Business, the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, and Iese Business School in Spain,” he wrote in an article for Forbes.

On average, eight of every ten applicants meet the qualification demands but still as many as eight of ten are rejected at the top schools. Byrne wanted to know what makes or breaks an MBA applicant and how important are the following:

  • High GMAT or GRE scores and undergraduate transcripts
  • The essay
  • The admissions interview
  • Work experience
  • Other accomplishments

After going through the admission process three times, his verdict was an astonishing one: “Surely, all of these things matter in an MBA applicant,” he wrote. “But the single biggest surprise at all three business schools for me was the importance of personal contact with a school, its students and the admissions officials making decisions.”

He repeatedly heard how admissions officers described meeting someone for a coffee chat, open house or admissions event. How well people connected and made themselves known in a friendly and intelligent manner, often was the little detail that made all the difference. The admissions officers’ personal opinions weighed heavily into the decision or as Byrne phrased it: “Their impressions carried undue weight over who got admitted and who didn’t.”