Top MBA programs are highly selective. At New York University’s Stern School of Business, for example, the full-time MBA acceptance rate in 2014 was just 18 percent.

So, how do you get into a school despite the crazy odds? We at, asked admissions directors how applicants can stand out from the crowd.

Be yourself

It sounds clichéd, but it's true: Business schools aren’t looking for some preordained version of the perfect MBA candidate. They actually want to get to know the real you and see how your personality suits their community.

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That means giving an honest appraisal of yourself — don’t just highlight things you believe will impress an admissions team.      

“I’d rather see an application where a true personality shows through with a few rough edges than a completely polished application with no personality,” London Business School’s admissions director, David Simpson, says. And anyway, you don’t want to end up at a place that doesn’t suit your personality either.

Do your homework

Researching an institution and its programs shows your desire to attend a school — and you should try to convey this in your application.

We’re not just talking about reading the program’s website and then making tiny tweaks to your admissions essay. Make a real effort to get to know the school, visit the campus and talk to staff, students and alumni.

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“It’s like dating,” says Leigh Gauthier, admissions director at Toronto’s Rotman School. “It’s helpful to know how keen you are.”

As NYU Stern’s assistant dean of admissions, Isser Gallogly’s, says: “An MBA is something you do only once in your life. It is well worth taking the time and money to do the research and to visit the school.”

Show that you know your stuff

Again, this isn’t just about winning over an admissions team; it’s about finding a school that can fulfill your ambitions. Knowing what you hope to gain from the degree is important, but demonstrating how you intend to spend your time at school is also important. Find out if there are any initiatives, clubs, competitions or field trips you’re keen to take part in before you apply. Speaking with enthusiasm about your plans to make the most of your chosen school’s MBA can only serve you well come interview day.

Visit the QS World MBA Tour Boston on Thursay, Sept. 17, 3:30-9 p.m. at the Back Bay Events Center, 200 Berkley Street. 

Visit the QS World MBA Tour and QS World Grad School Tour New York on Sunday Sept. 20, 12:30-6 p.m. at the Hilton New York, 1335 Avenue of the Americas.

Visit the QS World MBA Tour Philadelphia on Tuesday Sept. 22, 4-9 p.m. at Conference Center at CHF, 315 Chestnut Street.

For the inside scoop on business schools and graduate education visit and