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Breaking into Investment Banking: Applying for MBAs in Canada

With a great GRE/GMAT score, you are now ready for applications, right? Not quite.

Depending on the desired school, there are a series of documents that you need to put together before the application deadline. We will go over those documents in this post.

Canadian MBA Deadlines

The first thing you should check are the application deadlines — you should plan your application based on them. Ideally you would have your GRE/GMAT written long before you start, but if not then you should have it done at least 2 months before the deadline date.

If you plan to retake (you should always plan to retake), keep in mind that you have to wait 2 – 3 weeks before your next test. Most MBAs have multiple rounds of deadlines – apply early for better chance at admission and scholarships.

The deadlines are different each year, but they are roughly in these timeframes:

  • Rotman MBA (University of Toronto): October to April
  • Ivey MBA (Western University): April to January
  • Desautels MBA (McGill): January
  • Smith MBA (Queen’s): May to October
  • Schulich MBA (York): January to April

It is up to you to know the exact date for your application.

Your Undergraduate Degree for Applying for MBA in Canada

Unless you are still in school, you are stuck with what you have on this one. If you are still in school, raising your GPA and/or transferring to a top undergraduate should be your priority — they are very important factors in your application.

If you are looking to transfer, top 50 globally on the Times Higher Education list or top 5 in your country should suffice. STEM undergraduate programs may be favoured, as STEM majors would go into an MBA with a complementary skill set.

GPA-wise, you want at least a 3.0 on a 4.0 scale for any decent MBA programs. For top programs like Harvard and Wharton, you need at least a 3.5. MBAs do adjust for the difficulty of your major and undergraduate program (aerospace engineering at MIT weighted differently versus say, general business at ASU), but do not count on that adjustment if you are sub-3.0.

Your Transcript in Canadian MBA Applications

You will need to submit your official transcript as a part of your application. This will take time, as your undergraduate school will usually mail the transcript to the MBA school (unless they are the same school, but it is usually not recommended to go to your undergraduate school for your MBA).

Your official transcript is usually not required by the deadline (an unofficial one is sufficient), but you should verify that with the admissions office of the MBA program you are applying to.

Work Experience for MBA Application

Work experience is very important in MBA admissions, much more so than the more academic Master’s programs. When talking about your work experience, you want to show leadership, impact and career progression.

Leadership does not necessarily mean that you have to be in a supervisory role — you can show leadership by leading initiatives at work, or by participating (in a leadership capacity) in various committees. For example, a great way for anyone to show leadership is to lead knowledge building sessions at work, where you can take online classes together.

Your impact at work is often asked, either in the essay, the video interview or the actual interview. You want to exhibit what you did at work, and how that led to material improvements of some kind (more revenue, lower costs, or higher efficiency). You would also want to quantify that improvement, for example your novel process led to 30% less man hours for Task A.

Career progression is an official endorsement of your merits, and is valued by MBAs and future employers. They want to see analyst to senior analyst to associate on your CV. If you are in a flat organization with little room for progression, an increase in responsibilities is the next best thing. This means that you need to show initiative and take on those projects that are outside your job description, even if it means that you have to work late.

The GMAT/GRE for MBA Applications

The GMAT or the GRE is a critical part of your application, as you can make up for a mediocre undergraduate GPA here. We devoted an entire post on it. Basically, you want to start studying early, and you want to write the test as many times as you need.

The MBA Application Essay

The essay is a time-honoured component of the MBA application. It is used to filter out those who have poor writing skills, and as an insight into your motivations and your personality.

The essay usually has a theme: for example in 2018 Rotman’s is “Why MBA? Why Rotman? Why now?”. Your response should be on topic, succinct, and relatively free of spelling or grammar issues. You should calibrate your response based on the strength of your application (GPA, GRE/GMAT score, work experience). For example, if you are a 3.8, 95 percentile GRE candidate with experience at Goldman Sachs and Doctors Without Borders, a generic essay may suffice. If your application is less competitive, you may want to try something riskier — talking about a weakness and how you overcame that weakness could work.

The Video Interview for MBA Applications

The video interview is a relatively new requirement for MBAs. Most of the top Canadian MBAs (Rotman, Ivey, Smith, Schulich) require a video interview, the exception being Desautels.

Some international MBAs also require the video interview, but most US MBAs do not. The video interview is provided by Kira Talent and is a timed video and/or written response (typically 5 mintes) to a behavioural question, one that you could probably find in our interview prep section. The video interview is relatively straightforward – prepare as you would for a regular behavioural interview.

MBA Application References

Great references can make or break your application, so it is important to build those relationships early. MBAs typically prefer professional references, so try not to use your professors.

The perfect reference would be a previous supervisor, or a previous coworker, try to have at least 2 – 3 of those. Try not to use your current supervisor — applying for MBAs signals no commitment to your current job, and if you don’t get in you may lose leverage for salary negotiations etc.

References are typically requested after the completion of your application, and they may not need to adhere to the application deadline (as long as you send out the requests before the deadline). Some MBAs request a generic reference letter, which you can recycle between applications.

Other MBAs request a tailored reference form — each application will require your references to fill out a new form. Because of this, you need to think of your references as finite resources (you can get a good idea for how many times you can use them from how they respond to your first request). You should prepare your references before your application (a quick email on why you are applying), and give them enough time to fill out the reference form after your application. Set a deadline for them, this way you will not have to follow up 50 times (2 weeks is reasonable).

The MBA In-Person Interview

Once you submit all the required documents, you may be called for an interview. This interview is typically by invitation only, and it means that you have passed the minimum requirements and are being considered for the program. We will have a different post devoted to this interview.

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