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3 Common MBA Application Mistakes

In the past 9 years, we’ve worked on a lot of applications. Over 26,000 to be exact. And through that experience we’ve…

    1. made a lot of middle-of-the-night pots of coffee and
    2. seen some big trends across applications.

Surprisingly, year in and year out, countless applicants make the same pretty big mistakes as they approach their MBA applications. Mistakes that can really hold them back in the process. I polled the team of Admissionado MBAs to find out which are most prevalent so we can help you avoid them, and save time in the already overwhelming MBA application process.

Here are the 3 biggest offenders:

#1: Not answering the prompt

You’d be surprised by how prevalent this issue is. After all, responding to a very clear prompt seems like the easiest and clearest part of the MBA application process. But after polling our team of 40+ MBA experts, this was the number one response. And this issue comes in many forms:

  • Trying to get into the heads of the admissions committee members and just writing what you think they want to hear.
  • Wanting so badly to tell that one story that makes you look awesome, you just try to make it work in whatever essay you can, despite the question.
  • Trying to take essays for one school and smush them into essays for another.
  • Spending an entire career goals essay talking about your previous accomplishments and then rushing in a sentence about your short- and long-term goals at the very end.

Do not fall into this trap. Besides flat out lying in your applications, this is the fastest route to Ding City. Not only are the adcoms asking very specific questions for very specific reasons (read: they are looking to learn this specific thing about you so give it to them!), but you don’t want to come across as someone who can’t follow easy directions.

The adcom isn’t looking for a certain “type” of applicant, so don’t waste your time trying to be someone that you’re not. And if they want to know about your greatest accomplishment, they’re going to ask for it! So save yourself some time and give them what they are asking for. Literally. Answer the question they are asking.

#2: Underselling yourself in your resume

Let me save you from yourself right now and tell you that a job-hunting resume is not an MBA application resume. When you submit a resume in your apps, it should not merely be a list of all the things you’ve done. It should be a list of the things you’ve done and how you accomplished them and the impact of those accomplishments.

And don’t forget to put it all in context. Don’t make the mistake of assuming the person reading your application comes from your industry or even understands it. You need to present everything so anyone (even your grandma!) will know whether it is a big deal or not.

Your resume is your chance to highlight your leadership experience and your achievements, especially now that most MBA essays focus on the more personal side of things. You have very limited space to prove your impact, so you need to be clear, concise, and contextual.

#3: Not researching the individual programs.

If you’re about to drop $150K and 1-2 years of your life on something, it’s probably a good idea to do your due diligence. But even if you could see yourself being happy at any school with a strong brand, you still need to do your research. Why? To get in.

(Don’t believe me? Then listen to someone who is currently studying at MIT!)

When you’re applying to b-school, you need to prove to the adcom that you need this MBA in order to reach your career goals. And if you want to make that case, you need to also explain why that school – specifically – is going to get you there. Saying you like Columbia because it is in NYC is not enough. Neither is saying you like Kellogg because of their strong marketing program. You must go deeper. Get specific. Write a love letter to the school, laying out all the many ways it is going to get you exactly what you need to graduate, get a job, be super successful, and donate lots of money back to the school.

But you can’t do that without knowing the program inside and out.

Applying without doing research in is a waste of time. Yours and the adcom’s who will be reading that application. So take your time and do your research: talk to current students, talk to alum, visit the school… get as much information as you can.

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