MBA Admissions Advice You Might Not Want To Hear

MBA Admissions Advice You Might Not Want To Hear

I have worked with a lot of business school applicants since founding North Star in 2012, and during my years at Dartmouth. Sometimes the best guidance is hard for people to hear. Nevertheless, if any of this MBA admissions advice sounds familiar please consider listening.

You need to retake your GMAT.

Virtually no one likes taking the GMAT, much less retaking it. And there is a very human tendency to think that the school will understand that your score doesn’t reflect your potential – those averages apply to other people, not to you. And while it’s absolutely true that you are more than your test score, sometimes you just need a higher score (or quant percentile) to be competitive for your dream school.

Your application isn’t ready.

This usually happens when people procrastinate – you know who you are. The essays are a really big deal, your recommenders need more than a week’s notice and the applications themselves take longer than most people think to complete. Plus, there is a lot of conceptual work that ideally happens before you even start applying – what are your real goals? What are your strengths and weaknesses, and what do you want the schools to know about you as a person? If you haven’t put in the requisite work you are better off waiting until the next round and submitting a polished application.

You need to re-think your school list.

This can become necessary when projected test scores aren’t materializing, or when people get focused on one or two schools (or a tier of schools) and refuse to consider anything else. Perhaps surprisingly, I also sometimes encourage people to apply to schools that are MORE selective than the ones that they were considering. You can’t get in if you don’t apply, it’s about more than numbers, and as the process unfolds it’s important to keep an open mind, in all directions.

Your essays are done – stop revising them!

This advice may sound counterintuitive, but there really is an inflection point past which additional edits make your essays worse, not better. Also, beware the last minute input from well-meaning friends – there is a right time to solicit feedback, and 48 hours before you hit submit is not that time.

Getting into business school requires stamina, planning, self-awareness and grit. Sometimes the best way to get the results you want is to take a step back and listen to MBA admissions advice, even when it’s not exactly what you want to hear.


Karen has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and to 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, Wharton, MIT, Tuck, Columbia, Kellogg, Booth, Haas, Duke, Johnson, Ross, NYU, UNC, UCLA, Georgetown and more. Over the last three years, clients have been awarded more than 10.3 million dollars in scholarships, and more than 95% have gotten into one of their top choice schools.