An MBA applicant writing a cover letter

How To Write An MBA Cover Letter

November 17, 2023
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Part 1. IntroductionPart 2. What is an MBA Cover Letter?Part 3. Purpose of the MBA Cover LetterPart 4. Step-by-Step Guide on Writing a Cover Letter for MBA ProgramsPart 5. Common Mistakes to AvoidPart 6. MBA Cover Letter ExamplePart 7. FAQsPart 8. Conclusion


One of the most daunting parts of the MBA application is writing an effective cover letter. An MBA cover letter is an important supporting document in your MBA application. Along with being a required component of your application, the cover letter for MBA programs provides valuable insight to admissions committees.

It is your opportunity to make your case as to why they should admit you to the program. The cover letter and your resume are often the first parts of your application to be read by the admissions committee, and a strong cover letter is key to making a great first impression. This article will tell you everything you need to know about how to write a cover letter for MBA programs and outline the dos and don’ts for creating a top-notch MBA cover letter.

What is an MBA Cover Letter?

An MBA cover letter is a short letter — generally one page in length — that accompanies your MBA applications. This letter should provide a short summary of what you will bring to the MBA program in terms of your academic background, qualifications, and experiences.

The MBA cover letter should elaborate on some of the skills and experiences listed on your resume as opposed to simply repeating them. The MBA cover letter is also your chance to showcase your personality.

Resumes are very straightforward and fact-based, and don’t really show much personality. Your cover letter has much more space for writing and, therefore, can better display your writing style and thought processes, which can help admissions committee members gain some insights into your personality.

Purpose of the MBA Cover Letter

The purpose of the MBA cover letter is to give the admissions committee an idea of who you are. Similar to the cover letter you would write when applying for a job, the MBA cover letter is your opportunity to demonstrate why you would be a good fit based on your skills, goals, and personal traits. MIT Sloan recommends highlighting how you’ve made an impact in your recent professional roles when describing your professional experiences in your cover letter. However, you are limited in how much space you have to convey this information.

The exact word or page length of the cover letter will vary by school, so it’s crucial you check the cover letter requirements for each school before you start writing. Typically, you can expect your cover letter to be one page in length, and this limited space requires your writing to be concise.

The cover letter is also your chance to demonstrate your knowledge about the MBA program and the business school itself, which is also similar to what you would do if you were applying for a job. Showing what you have learned about the program and how it has informed your decision to apply will demonstrate to the admissions committee you have done your research and are serious about attending the school.

It can also be a helpful way to tie in how your skills, experiences, and characteristics suit the program’s mission and values, along with the types of candidates they are seeking.

Step-by-Step Guide on Writing a Cover Letter for MBA Programs

Step 1: Format your letter.

Laying out the framework for your letter allows you to see how much space you’ll have to work with once you’ve included basic information. First, start by setting up your header. Your cover letter should have the same header and font as your resume.

You want them to look like a set and not like completely separate documents. If your resume header is aligned with the right-hand side of the page, your cover letter should mirror this. Your header should contain your full first and last name, your phone number, and your email address.

Business schools will have their own criteria for the font size and spacing for MBA cover letters. You can generally expect to write your letter using a 10 to 12 point font size and single spacing, but it is vital to check each business school you are applying to for their specific guidelines and make note of these requirements.

Step 2: Include the date your letter will be sent and the name of the recipient.

The first line following your header should be the date on which you will send your letter. This should be written out in full (April 14, 20XX) and not as a short form (04/14/XX nor Apr. 14, 20XX). Leave a space between this line and the next line, which will contain the name of the person to whom your letter is being sent.

Since your letter is going to an admissions committee and it would take up far too much space to include the name of every committee member, your letter should be addressed to the head of the admissions committee. Both the dateline and the address line should be aligned with the left-hand side of your page.

Classically, prefixes have been used when addressing your letter recipient, such as Mr., Ms., Mrs., or Dr. However, it is no longer easy to assume which of these prefixes — or one of many others — a person uses. It does not make for a good first impression to address the head of the admissions committee incorrectly, so it is best not to put a prefix in front of someone’s name unless you know with absolute certainty the specific prefix they use. Simply use their first and last name.

Step 3: Include a salutation.

The salutation is the greeting that signals the start of your letter. The most commonly used salutation by native English speakers is “dear”, but “greetings” is also a suitable choice. Following your salutation, you will put in the name of the person to whom your letter is addressed. This should be the same person indicated in the previous section. 

Step 4: Demonstrate the research you have done about the program.

The first paragraph of your cover letter should demonstrate the research you’ve done about the school’s MBA program. This will show the admissions committee you are a serious applicant because you have taken the time to learn about the program and its community.

You can refer to materials you’ve read, alumni you may have spoken to about the program, or a campus tour or class visit. While you demonstrate your research, you should also indicate how this research influenced your decision to apply to this particular program. This can include how your goals, current skills and areas for improvement, and career aspirations align with the program.

Step 5: Pitch yourself.

The second and third sections of your cover letter should discuss how your profile of skills, experiences, achievements, and leadership potential make you a good fit for the program. This can be done in either a narrative or bullet format. A narrative format is likely the way you have written cover letters in the past. In this format, you write in full sentences to tell the story of how you’ve gotten to where you are, where you want to go, and how the MBA program will help you get there.

With the bullet format, you'll still include an introduction and conclusion paragraph written in the narrative style. The middle section is where the bullet format differs from the narrative format. Instead of using full sentences to communicate information about your skills, you will use a list of bullet points. Each bullet point will speak to a specific skill you’ve used in the workplace.

Depending on your industry, this could range from developing financial strategies for your organization to crafting creative briefs for clients and anything in between. These bullet points will look similar to the structure of bullet points you may have used in your resume to provide details on your responsibilities and accomplishments at the jobs you listed.

You will have to balance the information needs of the admissions committee and the space constraints, regardless of the format you choose to use in the middle section of your cover letter. Using the STAR method will help you to write in a way that both conveys relevant information to the admissions committee while keeping it short and sweet.

  • Situation - This is the who, what, where, and when of it and sets the scene for your reader (a.k.a., the admissions committee). For instance, this might start a sentence and look something like “While working as a financial analyst at XYZ Company.”
  • Task - What were you responsible for doing? This should be a very specific aspect of your job responsibilities and should also be something you excelled at in your role. Following the situation outlined above, it may add on like this: “While working as a financial analyst at XYZ Company, I was responsible for compiling data for quarterly reports.”
  • Action - How did you complete the task? Adding this to the situation and task already mentioned, it may look like this: “While working as a financial analyst at XYZ Company, I was responsible for compiling data for quarterly reports. I created a new reporting system which increased the efficiency of data collection.”
  • Result - What was the outcome of the action(s) you took? This will show the importance of your actions and what you accomplished. Your final statement may look something like this: “While working as a financial analyst at XYZ Company, I was responsible for compiling data for quarterly reports. I created a new reporting system which increased the efficiency of data collection. This drastically increased the visibility of our clients’ revenue and expenses, and its adoption throughout the department resulted in a 14% increase in our own revenue one year after implementation.”

Since the cover letter is only one page long, it is a good idea to only discuss a small portion of your skills and experiences. You could describe two or three key elements from your resume if you follow the narrative format in your letter, but in the bullet format, you would be able to describe three or four elements.

The skills and experiences you choose should be the best examples of your knowledge and abilities, as these will be your best opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition. It’s not necessary to restate everything on your resume in your cover letter. The cover letter should provide some additional insight into a couple of items on your resume with the goal of standing out.

Step 6: Summarize your letter.

In your concluding paragraph, it is important that you summarize the contents of your letter. This is your last chance in your cover letter to establish yourself as a strong applicant, so restating how your educational background and professional experience make you the right fit for the program is crucial.

Thanking the person for reading and considering your application is a common courtesy in both professional and academic cover letters. This is critical for you to do at the end of your letter since its absence will be noticed by the admissions committee and will reflect poorly on you. Your final sentence should include a call-to-action for the next steps you want to take. This is usually a request for an interview or conversation about your fit for the program.

Step 7: Sign off.

The final part of writing your cover letter is to sign off. You should include a complimentary close, which is a polite way to close a letter. This is usually done by using “sincerely” or “yours truly,” and there is a line space separating it from your final paragraph.

Although phrases like “best wishes” or “kind regards” are other commonly used complimentary closes, they are better suited for situations where you are on a first-name basis with the recipient. You likely will not be on a first-name basis with the head of the admissions committee, so it is best that you use a more formal option such as “sincerely” or “yours truly” in your cover letter.

Following your complimentary close, you will include your first and last name. The way you write your name here should be the same as it appears on your resume and in the header of your cover letter. Your name will also be separated from your complimentary close by one line space.

You may also want to insert your signature above your name. This can be done by handwriting it, taking a picture of it, and scanning it onto your computer to insert into your letter, or by including an e-signature. Including your signature adds a professional touch to your letter and will be noticed by admissions committee members.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

As has been covered so far in this article, there are a lot of things you should do when writing your MBA cover letter. There are also a number of pitfalls you will want to avoid in your cover letter, as these can cause admissions committees to not move forward with your application. Some of the common mistakes to avoid include:

1. Writing one general cover letter and only changing the names.

Admissions committee members will be able to tell the letter wasn’t tailor-made for their program, and a generic letter will come across as lazy.

2. Stuffing your cover letter with everything on your resume and not giving yourself enough space to detail the experiences that matter the most.

Your resume already shows all your work experiences and skills. Do not waste valuable cover letter space by putting your whole resume into it.

3. Forgetting to change the name of the school or admissions committee member to whom the letter is addressed.

Reviewers will notice this immediately. They will see it as a lack of attention to detail and this mistake could result in your application being rejected.

4. Not following the basic format requirements set out by the business school.

The admissions committee won’t be keen to admit you if you demonstrate that you cannot follow instructions.

5. Neglecting the principle of “show us, don’t tell us.”

You want to show the admissions committees the impact you had as a result of your combined skills and experiences, not just that you possess certain skills or had particular experiences. 

6. Using the wrong prefix to address the recipients of your letters.

As stated earlier, it is best not to assume your recipient’s prefix and instead omit it altogether. Your recipients will not appreciate being addressed incorrectly, and it could negatively impact your chance of being admitted.

7. Sending in a cover letter with grammar, punctuation, or syntactical errors.

A letter containing errors shows you didn’t take the time to proofread and shows poor attention to detail. Make sure you take the time to make sure your letter is perfected before you send it, or have someone else review it to catch any errors you may have missed.

MBA Cover Letter Example

Here is an example of a cover letter written by a successful applicant to the MIT Sloan MBA program. As you will see, this applicant used the narrative format to describe how they started a blockchain currency transfer in response to seeing first-hand the amount lost due to transfer fees.

The narrative format allowed this applicant to tell a story about a relevant experience that demonstrated to the admissions committee their strengths and accomplishments, and to a lesser extent, what they would bring to the program.

The introduction sets the scene and explains why the applicant chose to apply to MIT Sloan by relating what they’ve learned about the school and the way their skills meet the program’s goals.

They do this in a way that’s not pushy or boastful but rather have found a way to weave these facts into their narrative. The conclusion summarizes what was discussed in the cover letter, including restating the applicant’s interest in Sloan. Finally, the applicant ends the letter with their name and signature.

cover letter example


1. What should I put in my cover letter? Do I write about everything that’s on my resume?

Your cover letter should focus on key items from your resume that are the best representation of what your skills and abilities have enabled you to accomplish at this point in your career. It’s important to keep in mind that your letters of recommendation will provide far greater insight into your performance in specific roles, so you don’t need to describe those same roles at length in your cover letter since your recommenders will already be providing those details.

2. How do I know whether I should use a narrative format or bullet point format?

This decision will ultimately come down to which one will best help you tell your story. If you have two main things you want to discuss in your cover letter, the narrative format will enable you to provide more details about these items. It will also be the best way to use the available space since you don’t want to leave a noticeable amount of blank space in your letter. 

If you have three or four items you want to discuss in your letter, using the bullet format may be the more suitable choice for you. This will allow you to make shorter notes without having to worry about transitioning between sentences, which can eat up valuable space. The choice between formats is based on your preference and which one you believe will help you produce a convincing cover letter.

3. How do I know if my cover letter is tailored to the program enough?

The easiest way to tell whether your cover letter is tailored to a specific program enough is to ask yourself: “Could I send this letter to another school and get into their MBA program?” If the answer is yes, you will need to make some revisions to make the letter relevant to only that program.

Although you may wish to discuss similar aspects of your profile in many of your letters, you will need to make adjustments depending on the school’s mission, values, and the focus of the program.

For instance, if a program values innovation, such as MIT Sloan, your cover letter should emphasize your ability to think critically and creatively solve problems. If a program values ongoing learning, such as Berkeley Haas, you should highlight your curiosity and times when you’ve challenged yourself to learn a new skill.

4. What skills and experiences should I write about in my cover letter?

The aspects of your profile you choose to emphasize in your MBA cover letter will vary depending on the school. Paying close attention to the mission and values of each school you’re interested in will give you insight into who the school is looking to admit, and how to show that your skills and experiences align with their mission and values, demonstrating that you’re a good fit for the program.

The curriculum and learning outcomes established by the business school will show you more specifically what’s important to the school. Knowing details about these aspects will further help you to customize your cover letter.

5. How do I format my MBA cover letter?

Formatting varies by program, but typically you can expect to use a 10 to 12 point font size in a common font (Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri). Page margins should be set to one inch on all sides. Your header should contain your contact information and be consistent with the style of your resume.

6. How can I be sure my MBA cover letter is error-free?

There are a lot of different programs out there that will check for spelling and grammar errors. Most word processors have spelling and grammar check functions built into them, and running these a few times will help to catch basic errors. Reading your cover letter out loud will also allow you to pick up on errors as well as identify any spots where the sentence flow isn’t natural or where the meaning of what you wrote isn’t clear.

It is best to consult an expert to get a more holistic review of your cover letter to ensure it is error-free and that you have pitched yourself in the best way possible.


Writing a cover letter can be an intimidating process, but it doesn’t have to be. Doing research about the programs that interest you will help you understand the types of students who are admitted and which of your personal qualities you should emphasize in your letter. Each school has a unique mission, so it’s essential that every cover letter you send is customized to each specific program.

When writing your letter, be mindful of your format and show the committee the outcome of your experiences and how they prepared you for your future as an MBA student and graduate. Now that you know how to write a cover letter for MBA programs, you’re ready to begin writing your winning cover letter.

About Inspira Futures

At Inspira Futures, our sole focus is to get you accepted at your dream business school. Our team of experts consists of former admission committee members and alums from Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB, and other M7 schools. Our goal is to help you write great essays, ace interviews, and win scholarships. Without any stress or hassle. Our clients have gone on to secure admits at the world's top business schools while also being winners of some of the most prestigious scholarships like Stanford Knight Hennessy, HBS Baker Scholars, and many others.
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