Five Common MBA Application Mistakes to Avoid
Applying to business school is a challenging process. Your future rides on your MBA applications. Each component of an MBA application needs to stand alone and work together to showcase who you are, what you can contribute, and what you plan to do with your MBA. It is not an easy mix to achieve, but it is essential when applying to business school. Take charge of the application process and improve your chances for acceptance by avoiding these five common business school application mistakes:
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- Boring essays: Essays are the one component completely under your control. Admissions committees read hundreds of essays in pursuit of diverse, well-rounded candidates. “It’s your job to add some color to the picture,” says MBA blogger Scott Duncan in Poets & Quants. Make your essays personable and enjoyable to read. Many MBA applications cite experience and accomplishments without demonstrating any individual personality. This is your opportunity to tell who you are and how you will be a valuable addition to the class, if admitted. Convey your passions and provide personal insight that will distinguish you from other candidates.
- Not following directions: In a Magoosh poll of MBA experts on common MBA application mistakes, “not answering the prompt” was cited as the top offender. Do not get bogged down on a particular point or drift off into a tangent. “If you are asked to submit a 750-word essay, don't submit 1,000 words. If you are asked for two letters of recommendation, don't send seven,” says higher education admissions expert Don Martin, Ph.D., in U.S. News. “This behavior begs the question: If you cannot follow simple directions on the application, how will you follow directions and procedures as an MBA student?”
- Insufficient research: Your MBA application needs to reflect the personality of the school you’re applying to and clearly demonstrate that your background and personality are a good match for the program. It is perfectly acceptable to apply to one or two schools that are a stretch in terms of your GMAT scores and GPA, especially if you have a compelling explanation. However, you will increase your chances for acceptance if you apply to programs where your GMAT scores and GPA are realistic. Tailor your application to each school using every opportunity to convey how the school’s mission and values mesh with your vision and future goals. Explain why you want to attend that particular school and how you would contribute to its MBA community now and in the future.
- Ignoring weaknesses: Admissions committees see them, so you’re better off acknowledging weaknesses like low GMAT scores or a low GPA and addressing them in your application instead of ignoring them and hoping admissions committee members will ignore them too. “Compelling essays, recommendations, and interviews can provide context for a low GMAT score or GPA,” says MBA admissions consultant Stacy Blackman in U.S News. Being upfront about a weakness can completely change how it is perceived.
- Poor recommendations: Be sure to pick people who have direct experience supervising you and who want to advocate for you. Make sure they understand the recommendation is not a performance review. Then spend time preparing them and keeping them on schedule. Provide them with your resume, your essays, specific stories that illustrate your strengths and a list of key points you would like them to emphasize. “These references are a small but crucial test of your management abilities,” Blackman says. “If you can't ensure that your recommenders submit on time or follow other directions, what does this say about your skills as a manager?”