Mistakes To Avoid In Your MBA Application
In a recent post on her Expartus site, Chioma Isiadinso, a former assistant director of admissions at Harvard Business School, painted a pretty bleak portrait of admissions:
“…every spot is subject to intense competition and there are many more qualified applicants than there are openings at top business schools.”
She was writing about the biggest mistake that she saw applicants make: Not applying to enough schools. However, there are several errors that potential students can make on the actual application that are equally lethal. In a recent column in U.S. News, Stacy Blackman pointed out several of the key errors that she has seen in her two decades as an admissions consultant.
For one, she advises students to follow directions – and that doesn’t just mean word count. “Applicants often become so determined to drive home a particular point, or worse, drift off into a tangent, that they fail to succinctly answer the question,” Blackman warns. “Business schools create their essays with the goal of finding out how you fit their program, and not answering the question immediately indicates poor fit.”
Your word choice and tone are also critical. In particular, Blackman cites “industry jargon” and “Flowery or stuffy language” as major no-no’s. “With hundreds of applications on their desks, the admissions staff has only a few minutes to review each essay. It should be immediately digestible,” she writes. She also advises readers to avoid anything that might potentially alienate decision-makers. “Leave out any mention of religious or political views; avoid the subject of money and how you want to make loads of it after you get your MBA; and steer clear of overt humor in general, unless you are a comedian by profession,” Blackman notes.
And the same principle applies to how students frame their experiences. “As you come up with those great anecdotes to illustrate your leadership, problem-solving or team-building skills, make sure the examples in your essay don’t include criticizing a co-worker or complaints about your supervisor, even in a subtle way,” Blackman emphasizes. “Always keep the tone positive, or it will end up reflecting poorly on you.”
You can also equate an essay with an attorney’s closing argument – a rational and absorbing narrative that puts your case (i.e. being admitted) into the best light. However, an argument has little potency without a passionate delivery behind it. And that’s a final area where Blackman sees candidates fall short. “Most MBA applicants aren’t professional writers,” she explains, “and sometimes make the mistake of writing essays that are informative, logical, well-organized and, inadvertently, a snooze fest. This is not the time to repeat your resume in prose form. In fact, she cites some recent advice from the University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business as the best measure for success: “Convince us that you are not only capable, but that you are special and that we will be lacking something without your presence.”
For additional nuggets from Blackman, along with Isiadinso’s advice for expanding your school search, click on the links below.
DON’T MISS: A GREAT 100 HOUR MBA APPLICATION