What you do while waiting to apply for the Oxford MBA matters

6 minute read

I remember chatting with my sister years before I applied for the Oxford MBA. We discussed the importance of my activities while waiting to apply. This discussion, however, did not prepare me for the email response from a member of the MBA Recruitment and Admissions Team when I sent them my CV to check my suitability for the program. 'Your CV looks great in this format; interesting to see you were a judge with the xxx; we work closely with them too. Look forward to receiving your application for the Oxford MBA.' I was pleasantly surprised that this volunteer judge activity for an Africa-wide business competition tucked at the bottom of my CV in one line was what they commented on.

So now, I will pass on the advice my sister gave me years before I started my application - as you prepare to pursue the Oxford MBA before you apply and after you get an offer, what you do matters in the short and long term. In this post, I outline a few things you could consider doing. 


If you can, take the GMAT/GRE exam when it is not critical for you to do so. That is, not when you must submit your application in a few hours or days. Learn steadily for this, take practice exams, and if you must take the exam multiple times to better your score, do so. I recognise that the GMAT is a financial commitment, but if you can afford to take the exam sooner rather than later, please do. The exam is valid for five years. The GMAT/GRE is evaluated as part of your application to Saïd Business School, and some recruiting organisations for post-MBA roles also require it. Put your best foot forward.

That said, no matter where you are in the GMAT/GRE journey, you can still make the best of the situation. Proper planning and execution are essential regardless of the time frame. 

Save up to cover application-associated costs

There are several costs you would incur as you apply for the MBA. An obvious one is the GMAT/GRE fee which, as of January 2023 is $275. Considering the exchange rates for most countries, this is a significant cost for some applicants. As such, please ensure that you set aside money as you wait. The following are other costs you might incur: 

  1. GMAT/GRE classes or learning materials.
  2. The MBA application fee. This is £150 as of January 2023.
  3. The admission fee to confirm your offer acceptance. Please check for any admission fee waivers at the time of your application. When I applied, the Skoll Scholarship had an admission fee waiver that applicants could apply for. This is separate from your application and needs to be sent by a deadline before the application deadline. Check the Skoll Scholarship page for details.
  4. Cost of visa processing.
  5. Cost of TB test for TB Certificate, which is required by UK Law for students of some countries. Check the list of countries here.
  6. Cost of health insurance, which must be paid along with the cost of visa processing.
  7. Your air ticket costs.
  8. Accommodation costs which might require a deposit in advance to secure your accommodation.

Volunteer work

As you build up your professional experience, lend your skills and expertise through volunteering.  Sometimes the work you do as a volunteer makes you stand out from others with similar skill sets. It could be related to your work, but you could also consider doing things outside of your profession. It could also be an excellent opportunity to exhibit your leadership, teamwork or other soft skills that would be useful in your application. Your volunteer experience goes beyond your business school application. It also shows your areas of expertise and passion, which could be useful in post-MBA opportunities. 


Co-curricular activities/hobbies

The Admissions Committee will be evaluating you in totality. That is, who you are as a person. This shows how well you would contribute to your class’s MBA experience. My classmates have many talents and achievements, from gardening to expert musical instrument players, including the piano and guitar, to debating and professional sports people and dancers.

Oxford offers several opportunities to pursue your previous hobbies and to find new ones.  

Research and network

Research the kind of organisations you hope to work with post-MBA, speak with current students/alumni of the Oxford MBA and other programmes in the University of Oxford, and attend Oxford MBA information sessions. These give you a better understanding of the Oxford MBA experience and how you can make the best of your time at Saïd Business School and the University of Oxford. It could also provide valuable insights on what you might be excited about in the University of Oxford community. Be sure to highlight these insights in your essays and during your interview.

Shore up on your expertise/credentials

Even if the Oxford MBA is the next major academic/career milestone you are considering, there are other academic pursuits you could consider in the interim. This could range from online courses to master’s degrees in a field of interest to professional certifications such as the ACA, CFA, PMP, and CIM. All of these can be helpful for your career growth. 

Build your professional experience

Give off your best in your current roles. The skillsets and the networks you build now would be relevant to your post-MBA experience. More importantly, your professional experience comes to bear in the MBA in-class discussions and your networking with your classmates and industry professionals. It is also essential to push yourself out of your comfort zone, contribute to important tasks and start new initiatives to build the rigour needed for the intense Oxford MBA and life after Oxford.

Submit a strong application!

Put in a robust application when you are ready. Every aspect of your application will be evaluated. Ensure everything is impactful and shows that you are an excellent fit for the Oxford MBA. Get people who know you and your work to serve as references. Give your referees information about the Oxford MBA and sufficient time to submit their recommendations. Reach out to people who know you well and others who do not know you well enough to read your essays. They could give you feedback on how your essays portray you from different perspectives. Do not forget to submit robust scholarship applications as well. Treat the scholarship applications as meticulously as you would the Oxford MBA application.

Finally, do not hesitate to contact the Oxford MBA Recruitment and Admissions Team at oxfordmba@sbs.ox.ac.uk with any questions. They are always willing to help. All the best! I look forward to you joining the Oxford Saïd community and becoming an Oxonian. 

Featured image: Annatu guest lecturing on Impact Investing in Ghana at Ashesi University where she is an alumna.

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