MBA Admits Facing Background Checks

by John A. Byrne on Print Print

You’re already been admitted to business school and you’re ready to pop that cork on the champagne bottle.

Unbeknownst to most MBA admits, however, is that the school is in all probability going to do a background check on you.

Since at least the early 2000s, top business schools have been scrutinizing the professional, personal and academic backgrounds of admits before letting them matriculate. Increasingly, B-schools are outsourcing verification of admitted applicants’ details to professional firms such as Kroll, Inc. and Re Vera. The heightened probability of facing intrusive questioning—and the chance of having admission revoked due to a claim or description that cannot be verified—has sent some admitted MBA candidates into near panics.


Popular online forums like reveal the confusion and anxiety prompted by the mere thought of verification.  “They called my recommender, and they asked him about my current employment (salary, position, bonus), which surprised me because supervisors might not know this detail nor would they want to be bothered with it since it is an HR issue,” griped one poster on GMATClub..”After calling your surpervisor, I have no idea what they do as they delve into your background.”

“They will have a problem at some companies,” added another. “If they rang up anyone from my company asking for that information they would be told they can’t give out personal details for security reasons.”

Complained yet another: “I actually had about a week of sleepless nights over this because I was going through the whole scenario of “what if i fail? how am i going to explain this to work and everyone who thinks i’m going to business school, etc…”


Most schools say they run the checks to avoid the remote possibility of admitting someone who falsely portrays him or herself in an application. “We don’t want to admit someone to the program with a shady history,” says Robert Dammon, dean of the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University. “We want to make sure that the people who come into the MBA program are who they say they are. It’s a very small percentage of people who are turned away.”

Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management begins its background checks the moment a candidate puts down a deposit to attend its MBA program. “We start the process after someone submits their deposit,” says Admissions Director Christine Sneva.

It’s rare when an offer is taken back as a result of a background check. “We didn’t have to rescind any offers last year on the basis of the background checks,” adds Sneva. “My experience is that someone will put down that they graduated with a degree in electrical engineering and it will really be civil engineering. It’s little things like that. It’s very minor. Most people are very honest about what they put in the application.”


Still, some candidates get tripped up by simple misunderstandings or mistakes. Afterall, everything presented in a resume, application form, recommendations, and essays is subject to post-acceptance verification.  Even when the applicant is in the right, documenting facts and responding to ambiguous questions can sometimes be exhausting.

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  • Tara

    Well, I used to agree with the other musings below that this is not something to be worried about unless you have really lied or faked something in the application. However, one point from the common mistakes you identified about sole proprietors or running a business, and that Wharton grad running her own consultancy, gave me the jitters. I am part of a small family firm, and ‘registering the company’ or other such activity is not really required to cause any problems (though we do of course have bank accounts and service tax numbers to get paid), while being able to run a successful, trusted business.

    Does this mean they will simply deem my small business as a legally non-verifiable entity??According to which rules? Because in India, it is not some offence to operate like that. Pretty irritating to hear. Please clarify on what happens in entrepreneurial contexts like mine and for international applicants.

  • mba2k13

    Do they contact managers/rec writers or HR? Not sure if my supervisor has the exact figures/dates. or even if he would share such information.

  • Rose Lee

    Nice informative Post. MBA Outsourcing guiding stuff to be share

  • Aditya

    I completely second Tara over here. I ran my own startup as a sole proprietor as running as business in India in this category is absolutely legal. I do not believe this should be a deterrent. However, if anyone has any views, I welcome the same.

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