Ask an MBA Admissions Expert: Hamada Z.

Varsity Tutors brings you insider tips and advice straight from nationally recognized admissions experts. He has offered Law School admissions advice before, but now Hamada Z. is discussing Business School. Hamada is the co-founder of Write Track Admissions, a global admissions consulting service. He has counseled hundreds and hundreds of students all over the world and is currently leading the international expansion of Write Track Admissions. Hamada received his law degree from The University of California-Berkeley and his Master’s in International Relations from The University of Cambridge. Being highly knowledgeable in all areas of admissions, Hamada has advice to offer for students going down any path – see his insights on the MBA admissions process below.

VT: How much time should be set aside to adequately prepare for and complete the application for an MBA program?

Hamada: The MBA admissions process is dependent on ‘Rounds’, which create staggering deadlines throughout the admissions season. Therefore, if you plan to apply in Round One, be sure to have started the process over the summer so that you can complete the applications by the early fall. If you apply to Round Two, then you want to start the process in late summer/early fall for the December/January deadlines.  Whatever Round you apply, make sure to give yourself 3 months for the entire process.  One thing to note, you must have your recommenders lined up as soon as possible. I know numerous applicants who missed a particular Round because their recommenders were late in submitting letters.

VT: What would you say is the single most important thing to focus on for this kind of application?

Hamada: Your essays are critical! But I have to say that your Letters of Recommendation can also ‘make or break’ your application. A poor or mediocre letter can completely derail your prospects of admissions, especially if you are a borderline candidate.  Therefore, make sure to select your recommenders wisely.

VT: What do MBA admissions officers look for most in the essay questions? 

Hamada: Well-thought out answers; a logical flow in your career path; maturity; and a unique set of experiences professionally and personally that can add value to the entering class should all be demonstrated in your overall application to a given program. I would also say this: one thing I personally believe business schools look for is a ‘winner’ candidate. This doesn't mean someone who is or will be a millionaire or a celebrity.  Rather someone who will wear their MBA alma mater’s colors proudly as an ambassador so that others recognize the institution and in turn tap into its resources. Of course, an MBA applicant who screams ‘financial success’, is quite appealing given that this will result in alumni donations and influence in circles that will similar donate or add value to that institution.

VT: What are the biggest mistakes one can make on this application?

Hamada: A badly thought out response to this B-School favorite: “Why are you pursuing an MBA at this point in your career, and how do you plan to achieve your immediate and long term post-MBA professional goals?” If there is no method to the madness and you don't know why you are really applying, then whatever ‘cover’ story you concoct it will be the kiss of death for your application.

VT: What aspects of the MBA admissions process makes it most different from undergraduate admissions process?

Hamada: As an MBA applicant, you really need to discuss and showcase your professional and personal experiences, as well as exhibit signs of maturity, responsibility and the desire to succeed in the future.

VT: Is there anything that automatically disqualifies an applicant from being considered for an MBA program (i.e. low GPA, lack of particular work experience, etc.)?

Hamada: Other than a horrific GMAT, rock-bottom GPA, or a felony record, Admissions Committees often harp on the need for experience. Why? Because they want to stack their classrooms full of students who can add professional experience value and contribute to the networking environment that is so key to an MBA program. This can only realistically take place if the class is full of students that possess a host of diverse and rich professional experiences.

VT: What kind of work experiences should be highlighted in the MBA application?

Hamada: Leadership, teamwork, initiative, willingness to assume responsibility for a failure and how you grew from that experience, congeniality with others by demonstrating your seamless ability to report up or down.

VT: What advice do you have regarding GMAT test prep?

Hamada: Practice the timing.  It’s all about timing.  If I gave you a day to finish the GMAT, needless to say you would ace it. But lack of practice in time management will lead to panic, panic to wrong answers (for even the simplest of questions), wrong answers ultimately to a low score, low score to an unfair denial of your program(s) of choice.

VT: Is it absolutely necessary to have work experience prior to starting an MBA degree?

Hamada: If you look at the class averages of any top program, there are so few, if any, of those programs that have fewer then 2 years of average experience. Quick note, there are those that have more education than actual work experience, i.e. former Masters or PhD students. For those candidates, always try to spin your education and subsequent internships, research, or interactions with industry to your advantage and how that will help the school’s respective program and allow you to be a successful professional upon graduation. 

VT: What are the characteristics of a great MBA program?

Hamada: Diverse class (personally and professionally); wealth of resources (cross-cultural business school trips, career placement center, technology resources); network in top companies (private sector) or organizations (public sector); world-renowned faculty – not cerebral juggernauts, but practitioners and leaders in their respective fields.  You also want to be mindful of the geographic location of your program.  I am a firm believer that being in a vibrant city, steeped with job opportunities, will help you rub elbows with movers-and-shakers, giving way to employment after you graduate and long-term contacts for the future.

Visit for more information on Hamada’s admissions services.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.