Home Media SCU Leavey Blog A Guide to Online MBA Admissions Checklists

A Guide to Online MBA Admissions Checklists

10 Aug
Person works on an online application portal on a laptop

Applying to a top-ranked online MBA program is a multi-step process. In order to streamline this process, prospective students can use an application checklist, a document that lists all of the required materials a school needs students to submit in order to complete their applications. With an application checklist, you’ll never miss a beat—or a necessary application item—as you go through the submission steps and apply to the online MBA program of your choice.

Read on to learn more about the materials on the application checklist, why they are important to your application, and the best way to ensure they are added to your application in a timely manner.

The Online Application

First things first: Be sure to complete the online portion of the online application, via your program’s online application portal, to set up your application account. Once your account is set up, you’ll be able to easily submit the rest of your application materials, check your application’s progress, and see admissions status updates when you log in. Most online portions of the applications ask you to submit your basic information, your contact info, preferred email, some additional background information, and your educational history—including where you earned your four-year bachelor’s degree. To expedite this first part of your application, have this information handy.

Keep in mind, it will take about two to three weeks to gather and submit the rest of the checklist materials. Give yourself plenty of time to collect them as each is important to your application and must be turned in prior to the deadline.

GMAT/GRE Test Scores

GMAT or GRE test scores from the GMAT and GRE exams are required at most graduate-level educational programs in the U.S., and Canada, and are used to assess prospective students on their written and mathematical acumen. Applicants that perform well on these tests are generally sought after by multiple, online programs. While you will want to perform as best you can on your graduate exam, test scores are not the only factor schools use to assess prospects. Many top online schools, in fact, look to admit well-rounded students from multiple backgrounds that can bring a variety of perspectives to their programs. Applicants are never solely measured by their test scores alone.

The GRE has three scored sections: analytical writing; quantitative reasoning; and verbal reasoning.2 Established in 1936 by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the GRE “aims to measure verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, analytical writing, and critical thinking skills that have been acquired over a long period of learning.”3 Due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, the GRE can be taken online, from home, to ensure test taker safety.

The GMAT, or The Graduate Management Admission Test, is a “computer adaptive test intended to assess certain analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English.” Today, the test is taken over 230,000 times per year at 114 different global locations.4

Both tests have a test fee of around $250 and can be taken multiple times, should test takers want to improve their scores. Both tests consider their test results valid for 5 years only.3,4

While results from either your GRE or GMAT test are preferred, some top-ranked online MBA programs, including Santa Clara University’s Online MBA program, offer GMAT/GRE waivers to qualified students. Santa Clara University Leavey School of Business states on its website that it understands certain work experience and a “proven dedication to high standards of study,” may qualify certain program applicants for an exam waiver. Interested applicants should contact an SCU Leavey Admissions Advisor at 844-554-2425 or email onlinemba@scu.edu to discuss their qualifications and gather more information.

Official Transcripts

Your official transcripts are your academic records from your previous undergraduate degree and postbaccalaureate work. To be considered official, your transcripts must come directly from those institutions and must not have been opened, or unsealed, by the applicant before they arrive at the online MBA program.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation, written by a professional or academic reference, are also a part of the online MBA application. Admissions teams refer to the letters to validate your personal qualities and the caliber of your work and academic experience. Most programs require two or three letters that stick to traditional formatting and cover key reference letter topics including:

  1. What capacity you worked together and for how long
  2. How you perform and compare to your peers
  3. What they believe makes you a standout applicant
  4. Why they recommend you and believe you would benefit from an MBA degree

Be sure to share important application materials (resume, personal essay, etc.), including submissions dates and guidelines, and a complete list of schools to submit to with your letter writers at the time you ask for the reference letter(s). This ensures your recommenders can write a comprehensive, impactful letter that supports your application materials and avoids contradictions. To help make sure your letters are submitted in advance of the deadline, give your letter writers at least three weeks to complete and submit them.

Many online graduate MBA programs, including SCU Leavey’s Online MBA program, prefer electronic official transcripts be sent directly to a designated digital address (but will also accept hard copies of transcripts via traditional mail, if necessary.

Application Essays

Reputable online MBA program applications require, on average, two to three essays. Each essay is roughly 700 to 1500 words, in length, though certain programs may specify a word length required.

Each of your essays should be concise, well-written, and free of grammatical and spelling errors. Admissions committees use essays to determine your writing ability as well as your thought process and persuasive writing skills, so be sure to make your essay is organized, yet fluid from paragraph to paragraph. You should also support any assertions with examples, details, and facts.

Most online MBA program applications will ask for essays that answer one, or more, of the following questions:

  1. Why you are pursuing an online MBA and why you are qualified to do so?
  2. Why you are applying to a particular school's online MBA program?
  3. What are your short-term and long-term career goals and how will earning an online MBA help you achieve them?

When writing your essay, express why you will benefit from the flexible learning environment of a top-ranked online MBA program. Share how you will be better prepared to achieve your short, long-term career, and personal goals by earning your online degree. Lastly, proofread your essays multiple times after implementing any critiques you receive from a trusted contact before submitting them to ensure admissions officers see your best writing.


An important part of your online MBA application is your current resume or CV. Because MBA programs are seeking students who are business-minded, have professional business experience, and can handle the rigors of online coursework—often while they are working in a full-time capacity—admissions committees look at resumes to assess applicants. To make sure your resume meets the bar for a top-ranked program, be sure to include the quantity and quality of your work experience. List work experiences that show an upward career trajectory or your growing abilities in a chosen field or professional passion. Include leadership and management roles in which you made a positive difference and brought value to your company, project, and/or team.


If you are a non-native English speaker, you will be required to show your English proficiency by submitting a TOELF (Test Of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam score. Both tests are used to measure a test taker’s reading, listening, speaking, and writing skills in English. Programs look at language test scores to evaluate students’ ability to handle the English-based graduate degree coursework.

The TOEFL exam has been around since 1964, is a trademark of ETS, and is currently accepted by more than 11,000 universities and education institutions in over 150 countries.5

Its counterpart, the IELTS exam, launch in 1980, is jointly managed by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia, and Cambridge Assessment English. Scores are considered valid for 24 months from the date the test IELTS is taken.6

There are a few differences between the language exams. Though both tests look for proficiency in English on multiple levels, the IELTS is more popular with over 3.2 million tests taken in 2018 and lasts a total of 2 hours and 45 minutes. The TOEFL test is slightly longer but is entirely computer-based, whereas the IELTS is paper-based. Ultimately, according to U.S. News & World Report, “TOEFL's structure and language are more academically focused while the IELTS has a more real-world communication feel.”7

If you will need to submit an English-language exam test score, it’s a good idea to review both tests before deciding which one you prefer to take.

Application Fee

Application fees are a necessary part of your application for two important reasons. The first reason is that colleges, including those with online programs, have dedicated staff that review applications. Applications fees help compensate this uniquely equipped staff. Secondly, online MBA programs want to ensure that only the most serious applicants apply.1

Some programs offer an application fee waiver based on certain requisites. For SCU students and alumni who apply in the SCU Alumni Pathway, and for veterans as well as active-duty military, the application fee is waived. Be sure to check if your program offers a fee waiver and what waiver requirements are. Application fees are generally paid at the end of the application process.

Personal Interview

Once all of your required application materials have been submitted, the admissions committee will thoroughly review and evaluate each part of your application to ensure your submission—like all submissions—is given full consideration.

Based on submitted materials, applicants that show particular promise for the program will be contacted to schedule a candidate interview. During this interview, candidates should answer any questions the interviewer poses and provide additional information about themselves, their backgrounds, including why they feel they are uniquely qualified for that university’s online MBA program. The interview also gives candidates the perfect opportunity to ask any lingering questions they may have about a program’s faculty, curriculum, networking opportunities, online learning experience, and more.

With today’s endless array of electronic devices and communication technologies, online MBA program interviews are conducted both virtually and in person. At top-ranked Santa Clara University, for example, candidate interviews are be conducted via Zoom, by telephone, or face-to-face, according to your interview preference.

Advance your career with the Silicon Valley Online MBA.

Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business offers an Online MBA program that puts the best of Silicon Valley at your fingertips and prepares you to thrive in the ever-evolving world of business. Learn more about our faculty of accomplished business leaders, and explore some of the exciting networking opportunities available to online students at SCU.

  1. Retrieved on August 12, 2021, from edmit.me/blog/why-do-colleges-have-application-fees
  2. Retrieved on August 12, 2021, from poetsandquants.com/2020/03/23/average-gre-scores-at-the-top-50-mba-programs/
  3. Retrieved on August 12, 2021, from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graduate_Record_Examinations
  4. Retrieved on August 12, 2021, from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graduate_Management_Admission_Test
  5. Retrieved on August 12, 2021, from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Test_of_English_as_a_Foreign_Language
  6. Retrieved on August 12, 2021, from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_English_Language_Testing_System
  7. Retrieved on August 12, 2021, from usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2017-02-16/ielts-vs-toefl-what-are-the-differences