As I ramp up my efforts for applying to top MBA programs in 2014, I look back at my application season in 2013. I applied to one school (Tuck at Dartmouth) and was put on the waiting list for more than seven months (which I am still on). What did I do wrong? What mistakes created this temporary roadblock in my journey for a top MBA? What could I have done differently?
I have spent a lot of time, contemplating my 2013 application season. I have read countless articles and spoken with consultants, elite b-school alumni, and various adcom.
These seven mistakes are the result of a lot of self-introspection and external research.
- I didn’t start early enough. Speaking with MANY individuals that have gotten in Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, etc., I have learned they all have one aspect in common: they started really early (some even two years earlier). Researching school cultures, understanding job opportunities, building the proper networks, taking the GMAT, all take an immense amount of time. Can you do all of that in 4 months? Barely. Is it immensely easier to do it over 12-18 months? ABSOLUTELY!
- I didn’t take the GMAT early enough. This goes hand-in-hand with #1. The GMAT is a beast of a test, hands down. There is no way around it. If you want a top MBA, you need a top score to maximize your chances. The best proven way to get a high score is to put in the time (100-200 hours of studying). IF I had taken the GMAT earlier, I wouldn’t have had to split my attention, and I would have had the opportunity to retake before my application was due.
- I didn’t get a free admission consultation. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating getting an admission consultant. That is a personal decision every applicant should make. However, speaking with an admission consultant would have given me a valuable outside perspective of my profile and story. What are my weak areas? What makes sense or doesn’t make sense? It is absolutely critical to get an outside opinion of your profile. I really wish I had last year.
- I didn’t take a step back and look at my application overall. Is there a common theme running through my application? I wish I asked that question. Instead, I just “vomited” all my goals, skills, and achievements onto the application. What I should have done is examine my application in its entirety and understand if it was a cohesive, concise statement of who I am and where I want to go. Your whole application should sell a particular story and theme, instead of just relying on your essays to do that.
- I didn’t reveal “who I am” in my essays. Did I list my goals and accomplishments? Yes. Did I share who I am as a person and HOW I achieved those goals. No. This is so vitally important to your essays. It would have helped me differentiate myself among all the other applicants. Many people will have similar accomplishments, but they probably didn’t operate the same way you did to achieve them.
- I didn’t have a person with MBA experience read my essays. This is so critical. I absolutely needed an experienced person to read my essays. Those individuals understand what b-school’s are looking for and HOW they want it communicated. I know this one aspect would have produced different results for me.
- I didn’t prepare correctly for my interview. Even if you are a great job interviewer, you may not be the best MBA applicant interviewer. The interviews are not the same at all (in my opinion). My answers were disjointed and didn’t flow in one coherent direction. I wish I spent time developing how I was going to communicate my examples, my vision and my goals in a coherent way.
In conclusion, I want to encourage everyone to take advantage of my mistakes. By understanding how I came up short, hopefully you can create a flight plan that will lead you to success.
As my dad has often said:
A stupid person doesn’t learn from their mistakes.
A smart person learns from their mistakes.
A wise person learns from others’ mistakes.
GrantMeAdmission is a young corporate (Fortune 50) finance guy for a Fortune 50 company who blogs at GrantMeAdmission! A graduate of a leadership rotation program, he’s dreamed of going to a top MBA program and has structured his life to support that journey (making plenty of mistakes along the way). After graduating from a college in California and working for two years, he found transferred to the East Coast so he could visit schools and complete his research. He applied to one school (Tuck at Dartmouth College) and was wait listed for five agonizing months. The process totally caught him off guard, leaving him dazed and confused.
Previous Posts On Poets&Quants: