Studying at a top business school: master's degree application tips

Studying at a top business school: master's degree application tips

By H. Young

Updated November 17, 2021 Updated November 17

Sponsored by Bocconi University

Putting together your master’s degree application takes time and planning, particularly if you’re looking to study at a top business school.  

Ensuring you have all the relevant information about the application process and the programme is the best way to boost your chances of success when applying to study a master’s degree.

Bocconi University in Italy, ranked among the best five business schools in Europe by the Financial Times, offers a variety of MSc degrees in both English and Italian. It hosts networking events throughout the year for students looking to learn more about the Graduate programmes offered by Bocconi University.

We spoke to Bocconi University’s Students Division Director, Paolo Cancelli, to find out what international applicants need to know about applying for a master’s degree a top business school such as Bocconi.

What does the application process at Bocconi University look like for master’s degrees? 

Bocconi University has three main stages when screening international candidates’ applications.

Stage one: GMAT or GRE scores

Bocconi looks at this quantitative test to compare candidates in the most objective way. Applicants submit their overall score (in the verbal and quantitative sections) and there is no minimum requested result.

Stage two: Academic background

Applicants will need to submit their grade point average (GPA) earned in their undergraduate degree. 

Stage three: CV and personal statement

The third part of the application is the CV and personal statement. Programme directors will consider this qualitative section to evaluate the candidate’s suitability for the programmes.  

Possible stage four: Video interview

A video interview may be required for some programmes. The interview will give candidates the opportunity to talk more about their motivation and interest for Bocconi and the programmes.

How important is it to have previous work experience when applying to business school? 

Work experience is not a mandatory requirement for applicants interested in joining Bocconi for their master’s degree.

In the Italian education system, students often graduate from their bachelor’s degree and immediately start their master’s. MSc programmes at Bocconi are designed to give students an in-depth overview on a specific sector, industry or function into a company.

If you do have work experience - preferably up to two years - don’t forget to include it in your CV. This is valuable information to evaluate your background.

How should students prepare for applying to an MSc programme at a top business school, such as Bocconi? 

Prospective students interested in Bocconi should consider the timing of their application.

Bocconi University offers five application rounds for international applicants, starting from mid-September until the end of May. Each round is considered separately, on a rolling basis, meaning that applications are reviewed as they come in.

Generally, the sooner an applicant applies the better, as there are more places and scholarships available. On the other hand, these will be assigned up until the fifth round, so take your time when preparing your application. Set aside enough time to prepare for your GMAT or GRE test.

Prospective students can apply for multiple programmes at once. Bocconi University offers several programmes in the fields of the social sciences area and prospective students can apply to up to five programmes in order of preference.

Non-admitted students can apply again for the same academic year. At least one element of the online application will need to be changed when the application is submitted for the second time.

For special programmes, students need to pay more attention to the specific requirements and deadlines.

What do you look for in a successful application?  

Bocconi University is looking for brilliant young talents to join the MSc programmes.

We organise plenty of activities each year, so attend one and find out more about Bocconi. This background information will help when writing your personal statement as it’ll show you researched the university and programmes.

The next upcoming virtual events are:

·       Bocconi Meets China event on 18 November 2021. Bocconi Meets events provide a unique opportunity for prospective students, parents, teachers and the business and educational community to get to know our university through the words of Bocconi representatives living in your country.

·       Virtual Open Day on 11 December 2021. The open day is a fantastic chance to interact with current students and course directors to have a clear understanding of what to expect from Bocconi, clarify your doubts and ask your questions.

·       Masterclasses on 24 January, 24 February, 30 March 2022. Broaden your knowledge and delve into current issues, attending our free interactive classes. Take advantage of exclusive content brought to you from our top-notch international faculty.

What common mistakes should applicants avoid? 

If you are interested in applying to Bocconi master’s degrees you should be aware of some common mistakes to avoid:

Never underestimate the personal statement

The personal statement will give programme directors an idea of your suitability for the degree programme. In the personal statement, try not to repeat the exact same information that’s included in your CV.

Instead, focus on your motivation for studying in Italy, at Bocconi and in the specific programmes of your interest.

IELTS is not essential for all postgraduate programmes

A prior knowledge of Italian is not required if you’re applying to an English-taught programme, but all international students will have a chance to attend an Italian course at the introductory level.

English will only be required in case of admission at the enrollment stage. 

You can apply in the last year of your undergraduate degree

This is a perfect time to apply. The admissions team will consider the grades from your bachelor’s degree when you submit your application.

Be different and highlight your uniqueness

Bocconi is looking for talented individuals who have the courage to challenge themselves and take on responsibility.

Diversity in backgrounds is an advantage. Your personal, unique perspective may be exactly what we are looking for.

Whether you have an economics/business background or not, Bocconi offers the possibility to attend free of charge pre-courses before the start of the official classes, to make sure everyone starts on the same level.

What would you like to see more of in business school applications? 

There are five things I would like to see more of in business school applications:

·       A drive to succeed

·       Long-term vision

·       Willingness to achieve high standards

·       Passion to work hard to reach your goals

·       An inclusive mindset that is open to diversity

What five tips would you offer to Chinese students applying to a top business school? 

Figure out your interests and motivation before sending out your application

Sometimes Chinese students pay too much attention on the rankings of the school and the programme and ignore their real interests. If your motivation is not clearly presented, it’s easy to fail the application because the school can't see your passion in the subject.

Go through the course structure of each programme

Looking through the modules you’ll be taking as well as the course structure is a good way to see if it’s the programme you’re looking for.

Location matters

A good school location can give you a better student experience and more job opportunities, giving you the option to take on internships and travel.

To learn about the school’s location, you could either visit the school in-person or make use of online resources, such as the school’s WeChat account. Once you know more about the city, the school and the programme, you will be able to prepare a more persuasive personal statement.

Make use of the university's website

The university’s official website contains the most updated information for students. When preparing your application, please do check the website from time to time as sometimes the admission dates or the entrance requirements change.

Stay in touch with admissions officer

Schedule a meeting or call with your school’s admissions officer or local representative to get more information and answer any questions you might have.

This article was originally published in November 2021 .

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