The Basics of Writing an MBA Cover Letter: A Guide for Prospective MBA Students

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For MBA applicants, the cover letter is often their first point of contact with admissions officers. Just as when you’re applying for a job, you need to make sure your cover letter is in tip-top shape—otherwise, you may be easily passed over. 

Therefore, it’s crucial for prospective students to use the opportunity to make a good first impression. A strong cover letter should outline the applicant’s skills and qualifications and give the admissions committee a sense of who this individual is. However, it should also be succinct and well-written, with no glaring typos or grammar blunders to detract from the accomplishments.

This post summarizes key information on writing an MBA cover letter and outlines its essential components. Every person’s cover letter will look a bit different, but you can use this information to help you craft a stellar one.

If you feel your MBA cover letter needs refining, contact our editing team to ensure you have an immaculate finished product. Given the importance of your MBA cover letter, having a professional editor polish it before submission is always a good idea.

Key information to keep in mind

  • Different academic institutions will have different application requirements, including varying cover letter specifications. You may need to adjust your cover letter to meet specific requirements, such as word count. You can decrease your word count by restructuring sentences to convey the same information in fewer words, and you can increase it by adding extra details or information. However, don’t just throw in meaningless filler—that’s poor writing, and the admissions officers will pick up on it.
  • Certain schools may forgo a traditional cover letter, requesting something different instead. For example, a handful of MBA programs in Europe now require that applicants submit a video essay in lieu of a written statement. Of course, even for a video essay, you’ll want to base your content on a meticulously developed script, and the principles of clear and succinct communication still apply. On the other hand, a number of MBA programs in the U.S. only request a statement of purpose. 
  • Consider the significance of your cover letter in relation to the rest of your application. If your application for a certain school already contains a number of other personal essays, your cover letter may carry less weight. However, if it is your only opportunity to introduce yourself to the admissions officers and argue your case, then don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. If your application package includes multiple personal essays, be sure you’re not recycling the same stories in your cover letter.

Essential components of an MBA cover letter

1. Introduce yourself

Personalize your introduction by addressing the recipient by name. Instead of using a generic greeting, look up the name of an admissions officer or faculty member who will likely assess your application. Even something this minor can make a difference to your application as it shows that you’re careful, respectful, and willing to put in extra effort to land a slot at this school.

Introduce yourself by offering select biographical details, including your origins and your educational and work history. Don’t share your entire life story—you have limited space. Restrict your introduction to the most relevant information about you and your qualifications.

2. Make your pitch

The core of your cover letter should be your pitch. Elaborate on how your experience, skills, and qualifications will help you succeed in the program. Explain what you intend to do with an MBA degree and how you envision your future post-degree. Detail your ambitions and strong points. You can also say what sparked your interest in the field if there’s a good story there.

At this point, it would be wise to explain any oddities in your past, such as an atypical educational background or any gaps in your employment history. This is your opportunity to comment on the less favorable aspects of your application and maybe even turn them into an advantage.

You can also try to neutralize the negative impact of these unfavorable aspects by focusing on your strong points. If you fall short of meeting certain criteria, such as the school’s average GMAT score, use this opportunity to highlight your strengths and explain how you can add value to the program.

3. Cater to the program

It’s essential to demonstrate to the admissions officers why you want to study at their school and what aspects of their MBA program appeal to you the most. For this, you must tailor your cover letter to each program you’re applying for while retaining certain core information that pertains to your personality and background. With highly competitive schools fielding far more applicants than they could ever accept, it’s crucial to demonstrate your passion for a particular program and explain what makes it a great match for you. Otherwise, the admissions officers will most likely favor other candidates.

Conduct research into the program’s values, structure, instructors, and courses, and when you write your cover letter, mention the aspects that you’re most interested in. This demonstrates your knowledge of the program, which reflects your enthusiasm for it.

4. Polish and refine 

A standard MBA cover letter should consist of three to four paragraphs on a regular-sized page with one-inch margins and a 12-point font. Place your recipient’s address and the date in the top left corner of the page, and then sign off with your name at the bottom. If your letter is too short or too long, revise it—if it’s too short, it may look like you have no qualifications worthy of attention, and if it’s too long, you may appear conceited or unable to communicate effectively.

Don’t underestimate the importance of your MBA cover letter

While an MBA cover letter only offers a preview of the applicant, it’s important because it establishes the lens through which the admissions officers will evaluate the rest of the application. A good first impression can go a long way, and a cover letter offers a glimpse beyond your background and qualifications. Similarly, a negative first impression can sour an admission officer’s opinion and taint their perception of the rest of your application.

An MBA application consists of much more than just a cover letter. If you need help putting together the package, get in touch with our expert business editors.

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