Why the MBA Admissions Committee Said No

When I was the Associate Director of Admissions for Tuck, I was often really excited about candidates who I would meet on the road or at events. We would have great conversations, and I would start to envision them as part of the Tuck community. Unfortunately, when I finally reviewed their applications there were often avoidable but fatal mistakes that precluded the MBA admissions committee from admitting them. Learn from their failure, and help the committee say yes.

Garbled Goals.

The bottom line is that business schools will not admit people who can’t get the jobs they want when they graduate. If your goals don’t make sense given your work history, are too vague (“I want an MBA to shift gears”) or don’t require business school the MBA admissions committee simply won’t admit you. For tips about how to articulate your goals, please read these blogs.

Elephants in the Room.

I have admitted people and worked with successful clients who have all sorts of “imperfections” that you might think are deal breakers, like super weak grades or test scores and job gaps. You really, truly can get into top 5 schools with these blemishes, AS LONG AS YOU EXPLAIN THEM. (And as long as the rest of your application is as strong as possible.) The key is to mitigate what you can, and to incentivize the MBA admissions committee to admit you despite the flags. It’s crucial to demonstrate humility, maturity and self-awareness.

Tepid School Love.

All MBA programs look for people who are really going to contribute to the school culture, and who truly want to be there. Yield is also an issue, even for the top programs. Do yourself a favor and get really specific and enthusiastic about the school. Talk about courses, clubs, and social opportunities in detail, with the right names. Network as much as possible, and take any opportunity to interview on campus.

Shaping a business school class is a privilege, and tremendously fun. When you interact with members of the MBA admissions committee, remember that they are genuinely excited to meet you – and really hoping that your application matches the terrific impression that you are making in person.


North Star Admissions ConsultingKaren 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, Wharton, Yale, Cornell, Dartmouth, Columbia, MIT, Duke, Georgetown, Northwestern, Booth, NYU, Ross, UVA, Haas and more. Clients have been awarded more than $10.2 million in scholarships, and more than 95% have gotten into at least one of their top-choice schools.