Third Biggest MBA Application Mistake

Jyll Saskin graduated from the Harvard Business School

Jyll Saskin graduated from the Harvard Business School

So far, I’ve shared two of the five most common mistakes I’ve seen people make when applying to business school: Being L.M.O. and missing out on Round One. Now, let’s explore Mistake #3: Too many applications.

Applying to business school is a major life decision. You’re choosing to invest a significant amount of time and money in an education that, let’s be honest, isn’t a prerequisite for any career; at least, not in the same way that you must attend medical school to become a doctor, or law school to practice law.

It surprises me, then, to see so many applicants who decide to apply to business school and don’t do the prerequisite research. They want to apply to eight, ten, even twelve schools! It’s true that there are many fine institutions out there, and that at the end of the day each one will grant you an MBA degree, but you’ll get a very different experience at each one. Do you want a school like Tuck that is in a small town and has a very vibrant, rich campus life, or would you prefer somewhere like NYU that’s in the middle of a big city? Do you want close access to hordes of skilled engineers for your tech start-up, like MIT can provide, or are you really interested in getting a diverse, international experience somewhere like INSEAD?

When an applicant is applying to too many schools, it usually is an early warning sign to me that she doesn’t truly know why she wants to go to business school. Otherwise, she’d be able to cross some schools off her list, because they wouldn’t provide her with the most optimal experience that she’s looking for.

If you’re thinking, “I don’t care where I go, I just want an MBA wherever they’ll accept me!” then I encourage you to do a bit more digging before making this investment. Some questions you might ask yourself (and this is by no means an exhaustive list) include:

–          How important is the teaching style?

–          How important is location?

–          How important is the strength of the alumni network?

–          How important is class size?

–          How important is the degree of freedom in course selection?

–          How important is the breadth of courses offered?

–          How important is prestige?

–          How important is price?

–          How important are international study opportunities?

–          How important are research opportunities?

–          Am I interested in a specialized type of MBA or a joint-degree program?

Websites like this one are a treasure trove of information to help you figure out which schools meet which criteria best. Based on the answers to these questions, you should be able to narrow down your list to only a handful of schools that you would be truly excited to attend, should you be accepted. Good luck!

Jyll Saskin is a graduate of the MBA Class of 2013 at Harvard Business School. She works as a Manager at Scratch, a division of Viacom, in New York. She also helps clients apply to top business school programs via

Also in the series on the Five Most Common Mistakes:

Mistake No. 1: Being Like So Many Others

Second Biggest MBA Application Mistake

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