Dangerous MBA Admissions Myths

Karen Marks

Karen Marks, president and founder of North Star Admissions Consulting

There is a lot of information out there about MBA admissions. Unfortunately, much of it is wrong! Don’t fall for these dangerous MBA admissions myths:

Don’t apply in the first round.

Have you heard that it’s better to wait and apply in a later round, because the competition is stiffer in the first round so it’s harder to stand out? This is genuinely awful advice.

It is true that many strong candidates apply early, and also true that you should take the time you need to write fabulous essays and get strong test scores. However, it is critical to apply as soon as you are ready. The competition for seats in the class and scholarships only intensifies as the rounds go on. If you don’t get in early you weren’t getting in later, and delaying your application only hurts your chances.

Your recommenders need to have elite credentials.

Did someone tell you that schools are super impressed by recommendations from the CEO or chair of the Alumni Committee, even if they don’t know you very well?

Please don’t waste your recommendation on someone with a big title who can’t advocate for you on a personal level. The schools really aren’t impressed by the title alone, and will actually question your judgment and wonder why you don’t have someone who can speak in more detail about your qualifications.

Plan to take the GMAT or GRE only once.

Most people take it at least twice. In fact, if you only take it once and your score is below the average for your target school, they will wonder why you didn’t try again. They may waitlist you and encourage you to do so, or assume that you aren’t that into it and deny your application. Leave yourself enough time to take the test several times, and consider it an unexpected bonus if you get a 760 the first time and are one of the few who does not need to re-test.

Extracurricular activities only count if you are a leader and/or volunteering.

I hear this so often from new clients — candidates don’t think that they have any activities that “count.” When we talk more, they realize that they have lots to share. Schools want to admit candidates who are active in their communities, and who have interests and who have a personality. Stamp collecting, golf, cooking, dog breeding — all are relevant, along with the more traditional mentorship and volunteer activities. You also don’t have to lead every activity. The key is to demonstrate that you will be involved, so please don’t delay your application in order to spend a year building up your extracurricular profile.

Karen Marks has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Dartmouth, Columbia, MIT, Duke, Georgetown, Northwestern, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Wellesley, and more. Over the last three years, clients have been awarded more than $8.5 million in scholarships, and more than 90% have gotten into one of their top-choice schools.

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