Application Process and Criteria

Admission to SMU Cox is highly selective. Just as you invest in your future by attending the Cox School of Business, we invest in our future by admitting only the top applicants to become members of the SMU Cox community. We seek candidates who demonstrate the following qualities and characteristics:

  • A strong potential for success in today's global business environment (based on demonstrated success from a results oriented resume)
  • Demonstrated analytical capabilities
  • Leadership experience
  • Interpersonal and communication skills
  • A personal commitment and motivation to the field of business
  • Outstanding academic achievement and potential (we require a baccalaureate from an accredited college or university around the world)

Application Deadlines – 2020 Entry

October 14, 2019   - Round 1 deadline
December 2, 2019   - Round 2 deadline
January 6, 2020   - Final deadline for International Applicants
February 24, 2020   - Final deadline*

*Rolling admissions following February 24, 2020

Application Checklist:

  • Online Application (no application fee)
  • Professional resume
  • Essays
  • GMAT or GRE test scores*
  • Undergraduate transcripts where you have received 12 or more credit hours*
  • Two professional references
  • TOEFL/IELTS/PTE scores (International Applicants only - see below)
  • Admissions interview, by invitation only

Admission decisions are typically made before the next round deadline.

*SMU Cox accepts unofficial copies of scores and transcripts in the application for evaluative purposes. If offered admission to Cox, you are required to submit official GMAT/GRE scores, official TOEFL/IELTS/PTE scores (International Applicants only), and official school transcripts within 30 days of your enrollment deposit. Cox reserves the right to rescind an offer of admission should any misrepresentation occur.

Resume

Your resume outlines your career progression and highlights significant accomplishments. It demonstrates that you can communicate with brevity in another business-oriented format. You will be creating resumes to use in marketing yourself throughout your MBA experience. We want to see your ability to master this tool.

Take some time with your resume and use it to reveal your personality and especially your strengths. Take some time to think about and write down some of the key "wins" or accomplishments you've had in each role. Use that list to create your bullet points - where possible, quantify your achievements rather than letting your resume simply be a regurgitation of your job description. You will do a better job selling yourself to the admissions committee if you can highlight your accomplishments rather than listing job duties.

We strongly recommend having at least one other pair of eyes look at this document before you submit it as part of your MBA application. Spelling mistakes on resumes often send a message that you cannot focus on details. Remember that spell-check does not catch everything!

Essays

The MBA Admissions Committee uses your essays to evaluate several aspects of your candidacy. First, your essays tell us a great deal about your career aspirations and what has shaped your life to this point. Second, your essays often reveal your strengths as well as your weaknesses. Finally, your essays demonstrate your written communication skills. Be sure to take time to think about and carefully craft your essay responses.

Candidates often ask if they should utilize the optional essay. If you have a unique experience to share with us that is not reflected elsewhere in your application, or if you have work gaps, academic problems or other issues that you would like to address, you should take advantage of submitting an optional essay. We strongly suggest you identify any issues upfront and address them here rather than wait and disclose them in person. Otherwise, please do not feel pressured to submit the third essay simply to fill space.

The essay questions for May 2020 admissions are as follows:

Full-Time One-Year MBA, J.D./MBA, and MS Engineering/MBA Candidates

1. Please describe your immediate post-MBA career goals, including the target industry, sector, and/or organization. Why are you interested in pursuing a career in this particular area? (250 word limit).

2. Learning from one another’s experiences is a tenet of the MBA experience. As a member of the SMU Cox MBA class, how do you plan to contribute to the development of your classmates, whether personally or professionally? (250 word limit)

3. Growth is often the product of experience. Please discuss a time when you experienced professional failure. How did this event impact your professional outlook or affect your future work? (250 word limit).

General Essay Tips:

As always, be sure to proofread your work for both spelling and grammar. If you are applying to more than one school, be sure to double-check places where you mention a specific school. Every year, we receive at least one application that discusses the merits of another MBA program! Essays with these mistakes reflect a lack of attention to detail.

Candidates often ask if they should utilize the optional essay. If you have a unique experience to share with us that is not reflected elsewhere in your application, or if you have work gaps, academic problems or other issues that you would like to address, you should take advantage of submitting an optional essay. We strongly suggest you identify any issues upfront and address them here rather than wait and disclose them in person. If none of those situations pertain to you, please do not feel pressured to submit the supplemental essay simply to fill space.

Educational Experience

We require an undergraduate degree for all MBA applicants and find our students come from a wide variety of educational backgrounds. We will thoroughly assess your transcripts to obtain an understanding of your educational credentials. We do not require any particular classes as prerequisites, but like to see students with some quantitative coursework. Please click here for more information regarding our educational experience requirements and attaching transcripts to your application. 

Work Experience

The admissions committee prefers candidates with a minimum of two years of full-time work experience; however, most admitted students have between three and six years of work experience after completing their bachelor's degrees. We strongly recommend you accurately highlight your key accomplishments in your resume and discuss your career progression in your essays. Most admitted students have work experience in which they have demonstrated the ability to work in teams, solve problems, resolve conflict, and manage people, projects, and budgets. Please note your progression within a company as well as the responsibilities you have on a daily basis.

Prospective MBA candidates often question the widespread practice of only evaluating full-time post-undergraduate work experience. Most top MBA programs, including Cox, believe the skills and competencies you develop as a full-time employee, with your undergraduate career under your belt, are quite different from those you experience as an intern or a part-time worker. While internships and part-time jobs during college are valuable, MBA recruiters will largely focus on your accomplishments after college, which will impact the types of job offers you receive.

GMAT/GRE

The majority of applicants to the Full-Time MBA program submit results from the GMAT. In April 2014, the SMU Cox Graduate Programs Policy Committee approved the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT. The Admissions Committee will focus on your highest total score (of either test) as we review your overall candidacy. The Admissions Committee does not have a preference on which test you take, so we encourage you to take the exam on which you will perform best. Keep in mind that some careers and industries do prefer one exam over the other, so if you have questions about which exam you should take, you can contact the Admissions Team at mbainfo@smu.edu.

To learn more about the GMAT or to register to take the test, visit www.mba.com. Please note that there are timing limitations as to how often and how close together you can take the test; you should keep this in mind when planning your application process to ensure you meet all applicable deadlines. If your GMAT score is more than five years old, you must submit a more recent score report. To learn more about the GRE or to register to take the test, visit www.ets.org/gre

External GMAT and GRE Preparation

Many students will utilize Test Prep courses through for-profit firms like Kaplan and Princeton Review as well as the test prep programs through SMU's Continuing and Professional Education courses. There are also many free test prep materials offered at www.mba.com as well as the recently launched free GMAT prep course offered at www.gmatfree.com. Our advice is to take the time to prepare for the test and to take as many practice tests as possible prior to sitting for your initial GMAT or GRE.

If you're looking for additional materials regarding test preparation, the following organizations offer resources from free practice tests to classes you can pay for:

TOEFL/IELTS/PTE Requirements

Students whose native language is not English are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). We require a minimum total score of 100 with no section below 22. TOEFL scores are valid for two years. Our TOEFL institution code is 6660.

The IELTS or PTE may be taken in place of TOEFL. A minimum overall band score of 7.5 is required on the IELTS, with no section below 7.0. A minimum score of 68 is required on the PTE.

If your score report is more than two years old, it is no longer valid. We do not accept any other score reports other than what is listed above.

To learn more about requirements for International Applicants, you can read more detailed information here.

Professional References

The Cox MBA Admissions Committee no longer requires applicants to submit letters of recommendation. Instead, we ask you to submit the names (with applicable contact information) of two people who could serve as professional references if needed during the review process. We will only contact those individuals if we have questions about your background that are otherwise not answered in your resume and essays. We will only contact references after notifying you so you can give your reference advance notice that we will be contacting them. The best references are those who know you in a professional capacity, such as current or former supervisors.  You should not submit professors or personal references.

If this is not something you are able to do or if you have questions, you can contact the Admissions team at mbainfo@smu.edu in advance of submitting your application or use the supplemental essay to explain who you have instead selected.

Interview

Once your application is completed, submitted, and reviewed, the Admissions Committee will issue you an invitation to interview if you have satisfied all the requirements. We use the interview to get to know you and learn more about your background before making a final decision, which means it is an important part of assessing candidates for admission. Personal interaction gives you the opportunity to present key aspects of your background, personality, and career aspirations not easily communicated in writing. It also gives us an opportunity to hear about your career goals, why you want an MBA, and how you believe a Cox degree will help you in your career.

Interviews may be completed on campus (STRONGLY encouraged), off campus, or via telephone/Skype with a designated admissions representative. For on-campus interviews, candidates are invited to meet with a Cox Ambassador (current student), attend a class, and tour the school's facilities. Off-campus interviews are conducted when our admissions team travels to recruiting fairs and forums. Interviews generally last 45 minutes. You can expect the interviewer to ask you to clarify points in your application, discuss your desire to be an SMU Cox MBA candidate, and to talk about your post-MBA interests.

You can also expect our interviewers to ask the "tough questions.” Be prepared to address why a particular class was difficult for you or why there is a time gap in your work experience. Our Admissions officers not only look at your "stats," but also want to know why something happened the way it did. There are many examples of world-class business leaders who, once upon a time, were unemployed for six months or had a poor showing in an undergraduate class. Address any shortcomings head-on in the interview. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose by giving the Admissions officers "reasons to admit" rather than "reasons to deny!"

For more tips on how to prepare, check out US News & World Report's "10 Ways to Ace the MBA Admissions Interview."