6 top tips for applying to the Cambridge MBA

Thinking about applying to the Cambridge MBA? We spoke to the Head of MBA Admissions & Recruitment, Emily Brierley, who offered a series of insightful tips on the process. She covered the first steps of applying - including the interview stage - before discussing the collegiate system, financial aid, and more.

In short

1. Expectations, timings & deadlines

Whether you’re deep into your research on business schools or you’re just getting started, you’re probably aware that applying to the Cambridge MBA at Cambridge Judge Business School brings stiff competition. Emily tells MBAGRADSCHOOLS, “We receive over 1,000 applications each year and we typically have a cohort of around 200.” (05:12)

However, that should not put you off applying. In this article, we hope to give you the best chance of being one of the 200 accepted! As a guiding piece of advice through your application, Emily recommends students keep the number three in mind. “You would submit an application and within three weeks you would have the outcome and it’s similar for the interviews,” Emily shares. “When you have your interview, you should expect the outcome within three weeks” (05:35)

The Cambridge Judge Business School admissions team does not work with rolling applications, instead running five rounds throughout the year. After the deadline, different members of the admissions committee review each candidate to remove any unconscious bias. 

2. The first hurdle: Cambridge MBA application essays

In the first stage of Cambridge Judge Business School applications, candidates must submit a series of application essays. They cover aspects such as your motivation for pursuing an MBA as well as topics on self-reflection. Emily says, “The essays are a really strong component and candidates really shouldn’t underestimate these, so it’s really important they do their research before they apply.” (05:01)

She goes on to offer advice on what the admissions team is looking for. “One of the things that always stands out in a strong application are candidates who, in their essays and throughout their application, demonstrate what it is they’re going to bring to the cohort, not just what they’re going to take away from the program,” she reveals. (09:37)

This tip helps to give applicants perspective. Of course, people do an MBA to achieve career goals in the future. But, when applying for Cambridge Judge Business School, focusing on what you can give back is a crucial element. Peer-to-peer learning is a key aspect of the Cambridge MBA, and it sets you up for a successful, collaborative career. 

3. What to expect from the Cambridge MBA interview

The Admissions Committee is made up of members of the admissions team, the Executive Director, and the Academic Director. However, Cambridge Judge Business School prides itself on also including faculty throughout the process. 

Emily elaborates, “Faculty do all the MBA interviews at Cambridge. We are really rigorous on this and I believe we’re one of the only schools, if not the only school, that does this.” (02:25) With such a variety of minds involved in the interview stage, the team gets a well-rounded picture of each candidate as they pass through the process.

Taking a deeper look into how the interviews are structured, Emily says, “They’re really more conversations, so they’re designed to see how the students think. How do they respond to new information, how do they assess it, and how do they come up with solutions and ideas in response to this?” (03:29

We know the Cambridge Judge Business School admissions team does not simply go over academic records. Indeed, the interview can cover literally any topic, not just your motivations and interest in studying at Cambridge.

Emily highlighted one aspect that holds many candidates back. “Candidates who are unable to clearly articulate their motivations for doing an MBA and how that fits in with their overall career plans, candidates who haven’t done their research on the program, that really stands out,” she says. (04:35)

4. Navigating the Cambridge collegiate system

When you’re accepted into Cambridge Judge Business School, you are officially part of the University of Cambridge. However, with the collegiate system, you will also belong to one of the 31 autonomous colleges within the university. Colleges are where you will mainly live, eat, and socialize alongside other students who could be studying any course that the university offers. The thinking behind this system is to bring together a broad range of minds and backgrounds for ideas to flourish.  

When applying to Cambridge Judge Business School, you should research which college is best for you. Each college has a quota for MBA students, so Emily recommends getting your application in as soon as possible to secure your first-choice college. She tells MBAGRADSCHOOLS, “We strongly encourage you to apply early – I would say by round three [of the five application rounds] – if you want a good choice of colleges to select from.” (07:33)

5. Applying for financial aid at Cambridge Judge Business School

Many of the candidates applying to Cambridge Judge Business School are eligible for diverse forms of scholarships, bursaries, or awards to help finance their MBA. One tip to bear in mind is that financial aid at Cambridge Judge Business School is only sent before the start of term. Therefore, students should not make financial plans hoping to receive funding during their studies.

While the school automatically considers all candidates for bursaries, scholarships follow a different selection process. Emily explains, “If you are invited to interview, at that stage, you will also be invited to apply to our scholarships for the ones that you indicated on the application form.” (08:06) Some scholarships require a video assessment, while others go to a scholarships committee for review. 

6. Emily’s final tip: Go for it

Although an MBA application can seem like an intimidating endeavor, the admissions process is far from a box-ticking exercise. The team aims to build a diverse cohort in terms of nationalities, industries, and especially in terms of educational background. 

Emily gave an example of a student who applied even though he didn’t have a bachelor’s degree. Emily reviewed his profile as a whole and put forward his case to her colleagues. Not only did he get accepted, but he went on to earn a distinction on the course. That was when Emily received a message of thanks. “He sent this absolutely delightful email [saying] ‘Thank you for taking a chance on me when no one else would.’ And I think that’s Cambridge – that’s the community.” (12:49)

The key lesson we can learn from this story is that candidates applying to Cambridge Judge Business School who haven’t followed the traditional educational route or who don’t meet every detail in the entry requirements should not be disheartened. In many cases, the right attitude can go a long way to securing your place.

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