MBA Application Mistakes to Avoid – Part 1

July 27, 2015 | by Matt Symonds

MBA Application Mistakes to Avoid – Part 1

With the new 2015-2016 MBA application season underway, many of you are just getting started with your business school applications. But before you get too far along, we’d like to make you aware of some of the common mistakes that we saw on a regular basis when we worked as admissions directors at top MBA programs. Many of these mistakes are easy to make, especially when you’re working under tight deadlines to complete your applications while also juggling the demands of your full time job. By identifying these mishaps in advance, hopefully you can avoid these traps to improve your chances for admission.

Mistake #1 – Waiting until the last minute to work on your application

When we read applications at top business schools, it was pretty obvious to us when someone had waited until the last minute to complete an application. Telltale signs were sloppy typos, essays that were poorly organized, and even mentions of why applicants wanted to attend another school (Note – if you’re applying to NYU Stern, make sure not to write about how much you can’t wait to be uptown at Columbia). With about two months to go before the first round of deadlines for most schools, you should already be started on your MBA applications. But if you’re a little bit behind already, get moving now and focus on dedicating a few hours of time during the week and on weekends to your applications. Plan out a week-by-week schedule and set deadlines for yourself. One of the most time-consuming components of the application will be your essays, so it’s important to invest time upfront on self-reflection before you get started on your drafts. Remember, you can’t prepare to run a marathon by starting to train a week in advance, so the same goes for your MBA applications. Start early and pace yourself.

Mistake #2 – Repeating too many points from your CV/resume in your essays

If you’re like many other MBA applicants, you have a number of professional accomplishments that you’re proud of and eager to share with admissions committees. However, don’t try to incorporate a long list of achievements in your essays, especially when they’re already listed in your CV. The individual reading through your application will also read through your resume and will get a sense of what you’ve done already. Some applicants use their essays to write out long list of various points on their resume rather than focusing on one or two points and providing more detail to explain these and showcase examples. When it comes to your essays, focus on depth rather than breadth.

Mistake #3 – Not fully answering the essay questions being asked

Before you start writing your essays, ask yourself if your answer is really getting to the heart of the question being asked. For essays with multiple questions, make sure that you cover answers to everything that’s being asked. Let’s take the Tuck question, for example, which asks about your goals, why you need an MBA and specifically why Tuck. Make sure that you specify what skills or knowledge you will gain from a Tuck MBA to help you achieve both your short-term and long-term goals. It’s not enough to just answer part of the question, which is a mistake that we sometimes see applicants make.

Mistake #4 – Choosing the wrong recommenders

Although it might appear impressive to have a letter of recommendation written by a company CEO or other C-suite executive, it’s more important that you select someone who knows you well and can provide very detailed examples of your performance, skills, and accomplishments. We often read letters of recommendation written by someone with a senior level title but who barely knew the applicant or who had limited experience working together. Schools are more interested in getting to know more about you on a deeper level, so think about who you have worked with who can best attest to your skillset, your character, and your achievements.

We have four additional mistakes to avoid, which we will discuss in our next blog, part 2, on this topic. Click here to read the continuation of this blog.


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