The Real Answers To Your MBA Admissions Questions

If you are applying to business school, you have already discovered that there is a lot of confusing and conflicting information out there. As a former Associate Director of Admissions at Tuck and the Founder of North Star, I am happy to help sort through the misinformation and answer your MBA admissions questions. Here are a few that I am hearing a lot this time of year:

  • Do schools invite their strongest candidates to interview first?

No. The timing of your interview invitation has nothing to do with the strength of your candidacy, or how excited the schools are to meet you. It is truly just a function of when your application was reviewed. There is a lot going on behind the scenes that is completely unrelated to your application. The admissions officer who has your file might fall behind, or the application processor who sends out interview notifications might be out sick. Please don’t read anything into when you get your invitation – it’s good news whenever it comes, and you are just as likely to get in if you are invited in the last wave.

  • Do I really need to interview on campus?

Yes, unless you live super far away or there are extenuating circumstances like deployment or illness. Can you get in if you choose the skype or alumni option? Sure, but it’s harder, and don’t you want to do everything that you can to optimize your chances? Going on campus demonstrates genuine interest in the school. Also, it’s harder to connect via with your interviewer via skype. Still on the fence? Alumni interviewers are often less consistent than admissions officers or even trained second year students, which means that it’s more difficult to predict what they will ask. Finally, it is especially important to interview on campus (or at a satellite location) at schools like Ross and Wharton, which offer team exercises.

  • Should I be “keeping in touch” with admissions after I apply?

Probably not. If you have really bonded with a particular admissions officer it can be a nice gesture to send them a BRIEF email thanking them for their support and letting them know that you applied. You can also reach out if something material changes, like a new GMAT score or a huge award or promotion. However, please be very cautious about overdoing the communication. Admissions officers are super busy this time of year (see above about falling behind) and too many notes just to say hello can backfire.

  • Should I have my friend from college email admissions?

Maybe. If you are close to a student or alum at one of your target schools it might be helpful to have them send a note of endorsement to admissions. However, the culture varies across programs, so these notes won’t help everywhere. Also, please don’t ask anyone who doesn’t know you well – the current student who you talked to for 15 minutes at a reception is not an appropriate choice.

  • What happens if my recommender submits after the deadline?

It depends. If it’s within 24-48 hours some schools will let it go, or notify you that your application is incomplete and give you a chance to fix it. However, there are definitely programs that will kick your application to the next round. I suggest that you ask your recommenders to submit a week in advance.


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.