The MBA application is one of the most contemplated, over-analyzed, and anxiety-inducing things in the life of young business professionals around the world. The intensity of preparation and calculation varies from region to region, but the message remains the same: Do your homework.
There is no substitute for the careful research and preparation that comes with reaching out to the students and alumni, and reading all the published materials from your target schools to find out if that place is right for you. While there is only one MBA degree, no two MBA programs are exactly the same, and schools have the experience to identify the truly motivated from the merely speculative.
It is extremely difficult to know where to get good advice about school admissions in the era of internet and social media communications. There exists an ‘MBA Cloud’ that includes discussion forums, alumni advice networks, blogs, and admissions consulting firms, that can be the source of both good and bad advice. Admissions officers spend much more time now than in the past making sure that the MBA Cloud has the right story, and understanding which parts of the MBA Cloud are giving the wrong advice, and to who.
Many top schools run their own mini-Cloud to provide rapid and informal advice to applicants. This includes Student-2-Student discussion boards, the Adcom blog, student blogs, and published statements from the director (or deputy director). These informal answers are provided by a group of students who specialize in talking to applicants as part of their extracurricular activities (described at Wharton as the Volunteer Admissions Committee), but are monitored and directed by the Adcom to maintain consistent messaging and accuracy.
An applicant should take everything that doesn’t come directly from the school’s official mini-Cloud with a healthy dose of skepticism: Who is the person giving the advice? Are they an alumnus or experienced consultant? How can you check the validity of their advice?
The more familiar you are with the MBA programs of your choice, the better your chances of admissions success.