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How To Blow Your Chances of Getting Into a Top Business School

 

Want to hear some frightening numbers? Try these: 6.8, 9.7 and 14.3. What do they represent? They’re the percentage of applicants who were accepted at Stanford, Harvard, and Berkleley Haas. And how about these numbers: 5,281, 3,936, and 3,501. That’s right: Those were the number of applicants rejected by Wharton, Sloan, and Booth last year.

It’s bad enough that you need a 720 GMAT (or better) to get into a top-tier school. When it comes to your application and interview, there are more ways to hurt your chances than to help them. Ask the wrong question and you come off as unprepared. Digress into a tangent and your adcom will wonder if you’re struggling to be something you’re not (or hiding something). Misspell one word on your essay and they’ll assume you don’t pay attention to detail. And every answer and tic will be dissected. Even if you impress them, someone will always play the devil’s advocate. And if they have any reservations, they’ll look for reasons to toss you onto the waitlist.

The best schools operate with a surplus; there is more talent than space. When a Kellogg or a Tuck makes an offer, few students turn them down. In an atmosphere where the margin of error is small, how can you make a strong impression and avoid a faux pas? In a recent column with Bloomberg Businessweek, the prolific Stacy Blackman shared the most common mistakes that can sink an applicant’s candidacy. Here are some of the biggest pitfalls:

  • “Relying Only On Second-Hand Information: Cruising B-school websites and YouTube channels will get you only so far. Leave the house and visit the schools you want to get into. Speak with faculty and current and former students to see if this is the right place for you.”
  • “Trying to Fit Into a Particular B-School Mold: So you like wearing shorts and flip-flops all year-round. Not everyone is right for a certain school, and admissions officers look for personal fit as much as for qualifications. Tell your unique story, rather than trying to be Joe or Jane B-school.” 
  • “Not Being Realistic About Yourself: Admissions officers sometimes wonder how applicants have time to develop a PowerPoint presentation amid the oil painting, tutoring, skiing, sky diving, flower arranging, foreign film watching, blogging, environment saving, soup kitchen work, judo studying, and overseas traveling some people claim to do every week.”
  • “Not Taking the Time to Demonstrate What Makes You Unique:You and your future B-school won’t experience a ‘win-win’ if you sprinkle your essay with such clichés as ‘thinking outside the box’ or ‘blue sky.’ Good admissions officers can spot a fake a mile off; ‘canned responses’ reveal that an applicant is not showing his or her true self.”
  • “Having Too Many People Review Your Application Essay: Just because your aunt has a doctorate in 11th century Persian poets doesn’t make her the best choice to help you with your 21st century B-school essay. Every person who reviews an essay will have suggestions. Pick a few trusted advisers and work with them, or the essay could become a watered-down ‘essay by committee’ and show less about you as an individual.”

To learn about five other gaffes that can hurt your chances; click on Blackman’s Bloomberg Businessweek column below.

DON’T MISS: How Not to Blow Your Harvard Interview

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek

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