MBA in US: Things to know before you make your move

Don’t tell me that you are an MBA aspirant who has never dreamt of doing the program in the US. With few of the best business schools in the world like Stanford Graduate School of Business, Harvard Business School, and Columbia business school, the United States is undoubtedly the best choice for those who are looking to do MBA abroad. With an industry-oriented curriculum and guidance from a few of the best business minds in the world, an MBA from US almost guarantees you a successful career.

But how to secure an admission in one of the top-ranked business schools in the US? Let me tell you it’s not a bed of roses. Just like you, millions of students from all around the world are trying to do the same and heavy competition is guaranteed. What you can do is fulfill all the requirements and hope for the best. In this article, I’m going to tell you about the requirements to secure an admission in a business school in the US.

Requirements for MBA in US: More than 15 years of formal education

In India, you can become a graduate in three years unless you are an engineer, doctor or an architect. But in the US, getting a college degree takes ‘4 years’. And that’s a fire alarm for Indian students who wish to pursue an MBA in the US. 

In the US education system, students will have a total of 16 years of formal education in their resume when they come out of college. Till a few years ago, 16 years of compulsory education was thus a mandatory requirement for admission to Masters programs in most Universities in the US. This was the case with reputed business schools as well. But things have changed. Yes, your dream is not dead yet. Now, many universities have cut down the requirement to 15 years, in order to make it easier for international students who did 3-year degree programs. 12 years in school and another 3 years in college. Now, that’s a fair deal. 

But you need to make sure that the business school you are opting for, accepts 15-year education before submitting your application. Or else, you can take up another one year course to add to your resume before applying to that particular institution. Now, as the ‘game of years’ is done and dusted, let’s move on to the next requirement.

Requirements for MBA in US: GMAT or GRE

It’s time for our next hurdle. Though not mandatory, you will have to clear standardized tests such as GRE or GMAT to secure admission to most business schools in India. These tests assess an individual’s aptitude for the program such as analytical skills. In India, GMAT is the most common route MBA aspirants take. 

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a computer-based test. It is designed to evaluate an individual’s analytical, numerical and problem-solving skills. According to the results of a survey conducted by Kaplan Test Prep, it is still the most popular choice among MBA aspirants despite severe competition from GRE. GMAT is owned by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). According to them, it assesses ‘analytical writing and problem-solving abilities, while also addressing data sufficiency, logic, and critical reasoning skills that it believes to be vital to real-world business and management success’. A candidate can make a maximum of 8 attempts to clear GMAT. GMAT is administered in 114 countries and more than 2300 business schools around the world accept GMAT scores. It will be hard to get into reputed business schools with a GMAT score of less than 600.

In India, we usually talk about GRE along with requirements to do MS abroad. Though not as popular as GMAT, many business schools in the US accept GRE scores for admissions. 

The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) is a standardized test that analyses critical thinking, analytical writing, verbal reasoning, and quantitative reasoning skills. The GRE is owned and administered by Educational Testing Service’. GRE tests happen almost every day in all major test centers and can be attempted unlimited times. 

Requirements for MBA in US: English language proficiency tests

This one was obvious, right? A valid score in English language proficiency tests is a mandatory requirement for admissions to most reputed foreign universities. The most common English internationally recognized language proficiency tests available in India are TOEFL, IELTS, and PTE. These tests assess a non-native English speaker’s level of comfort with the English language on domains of reading, writing listening and speaking. Let me go a little further on these tests.


Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is the oldest of the three. It was developed by the Educational testing service (ETS). This English language proficiency test assesses a non-native English speaker’s language ability on the domains of listening, reading, writing and speaking. This is one of the most popular English Language proficiency tests in the world and over 10000 universities and other institutions across 150 countries accept TOEFL scores.


Don’t tell me that you don’t know of anyone who has either attempted or is planning to attempt IELTS. The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is the most popular English language proficiency test in India. Just like TOEFL, almost all reputed foreign institutions around the world accept IELTS scores as proof of English language proficiency. Currently, around 10,000 universities spread over 140 countries consider IELTS scores for admissions. The test is jointly managed by the British Council, IDP, IELTS Australia, and Cambridge Assessment English. IELTS holds a high reputation in almost all countries that speak the Queen’s English and is also accepted by countries like New Zealand and the United States.


Pearson Standard Test or PTE is the newbie in town. It was launched only in 2009 by Pearson inc. It is a Computer-based test and like the other two, measures an individual’s language proficiency in the domains of listening, reading, writing and speaking. The test uses scenario-based exams and is administered by Edexcel. PTE has fewer test centers compared to the other two and you might find it hard to grab a slot if not booked early.

Suggested read: PTE vs IELTS vs TOEFL

Requirements for MBA in US: Statement of purpose (SoP)

Now, let’s talk about the heart of your application. It’s called the statement of purpose (SoP). As the name suggests, it is your statement about yourself. This is the part where you tell your university who you are and why you should be given admission. It is in the form of long essays that explains who you want to become, and how ready you are to pursue a certain course in an institution. Its purpose is to convince the concerned authority that you are eligible for the admission. Hence, you are expected to discuss your ambitions, your achievements in the past and also the career path you wish to follow. 

A well-written SOP is crucial for your admission. While the other records you submit are objective in nature, SoP is the part where you tell them how you are different from others.

Requirements for MBA in US: Recommendation letters

Recommendation! If you are an Indian citizen, you know that works. Be it the minister’s cabin or the clerk’s table, a recommendation letter will do the job in India. Let me tell you that it works in the US as well. In fact, most institutions in the US ask for 2 or 3 recommendation letters from foreign students. That doesn’t mean ‘pata hai mera baap kon he?’ works in the business schools of the United States. I’m talking about relevant recommendations that can vouch for you.

Here, a letter of recommendation is something that highlights your capability and achievements in the past. It should have enough information that supports your claim for admission and should be written by a relevant authority. Well-written recommendation letters can give your application an upper hand.

Requirements for MBA in US: Work experience

Even with all the things I mentioned above, you will find securing an admission hard without relevant work experience. MBA programs intend to prepare individuals who are ready to take up management level roles in the industry. So, relevant industry experience is necessary to make maximum use of the program. Thus, it is advisable to have at least 2 years of work experience before applying for MBA in the US.

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In this article, I spoke to you about the requirements for MBA admissions in the business schools of the US. It is very important to do everything right in order to keep yourself in the race. We hope the illustrated analysis has powered up your insights and widened your perspectives about doing MBA abroad. Always remember that you make your own destiny. Make sure that you invest time and thought before making your life-changing decisions.

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