Top Questions From MBA Applicants

Q: If I am applying to, let’s say, 7 or 8 schools, should you ask for many different recommenders? I feel strange asking same person to write 7 recommendations

A: We get this question a lot and we empathize with the quandary.  However, the difference in work load for recommenders for seven schools is not much higher than three to four. Even though there may be 20- 25 questions across your 7 schools, there is likely to be only 7-8 truly unique questions.  Many of the MBA applications ask questions that are common (or at least very close to common), which inherently lightens the burden.  At Inside MBA Admissions, we feel that it is important to properly prepare recommenders in order to ease their burden, and can certainly help with this process.

Q: How important is the essay section of the GMAT?  Is it worth retaking if you receive a mediocre score?

A: Honestly, very little emphasis is put on the essay section. Close attention is usually only given if the score is very low or to check for discrepancies compared to your essays.  This holds especially true for international applicants. However, we generally do not recommend retaking the GMAT just to improve your AWA score.

Additionally, admissions committees have been known to directly compare the writing styles of your AWA section to your application essays – checking for “authenticity” of your essays.  That is why it is so critical that if you choose to use an admissions consultant, they do not write your essays for you.   At Inside MBA Admissions we coach and guide clients through the development of their essays – ultimately ensuring that your writing style is not affected (consistent with your AWA) and your original “tone” shines through in your essays.

Q: For re-applicants, do adcoms compare the new application to the old one?

A: In short – Yes, they do compare the new application to the old one.  However, they are looking at it from a perspective of improvements – career goals, GMAT, overall story, etc.   Recognize that re-applicants are somewhat “anchored” by what they said in their previous application, and thus an extensive directional shift in your career might raise suspicion.
Finally, being a re-applicant is very tricky.   Remember, they rejected you last year for some reason.  Therefore, you really need to focus on what has changed and why they should accept you this year.  This is difficult as not a lot of time has passed between the applications.  At Inside MBA Admissions, we help our re-applicant clients through this process by coaching them on which improvements they need to focus.  We give them “homework” so that they can show additional insights in their career goals and their targeted schools.   We also advise them on direct ways to improve their academic profile and how to improve their overall application story.

Q: how detrimental is taking the GMAT thrice

A: The common advice is to take the GMAT as much as possible, since schools take the highest score (and some take the highest elements of each test). However, the truth is a little more complicated than that.  Since schools see all of your GMAT scores (within 5 years), each time you take the GMAT you are providing data to the school, and multiple scores can show a trend. Either consciously or subconsciously schools will take a trend into consideration. For example a 590, 620, 680 indicates a positive upward trend and potential.   In contrast, test scores of  a 680, 670, 670 indicates the candidate has topped out. More confusing is the decision to take a GMAT a third time, when your top score is “in the range” of a “Top 20” school. Two scores don’t necessarily provide an accurate trend. The third score provides more data and a more accurate picture. An applicant just needs to weigh this risk against their confidence in achieving a higher score.

Q: Where you live and work (5 years+) versus your nationality – does this help differentiate from the Over-represented nationalities?

A: As mentioned in our webinar presentation, applicants are often tracked by their citizenship.  So, you will still be considered part of the “over-represented” nationality from a tracking perspective.  When admissions committees are evaluating (not tracking) international students, they are really looking for evidence that the applicant will be comfortable and able to thrive in a primarily American culture.   Therefore, for those international citizens that have worked or studied in the United States, this experience will be factored into the overall assessment of the application.