Applying to an MBA program is an intensive process. You need a strong GPA, high GMAT/GRE score, and impressive work experience. Attending one of these programs takes commitments of finances and time. So why are so many candidates, with seemingly excellent credentials, rejected from MBA programs?
Let’s examine eight reasons admissions directors site for rejection.
From the outset, MBA candidates must be truthful in all aspects of the application process. Falsifying or plagiarizing any information is grounds for immediate rejection. This can mean anything from not being honest about your transcript or job title, to not revealing that you have a criminal conviction. As unbelievable as it may seem, it has been known to happen that applicants have sent someone in their place to take their GMAT/GRE or TOEFL, or even to their interview! Obviously, not taking your own exams or participating in your own interview will lead to your rejection from the program.
Acting in a rude or offensive manner towards any staff member is another red flag. Adcoms are looking for future leaders, and this is not leadership behavior. Rudeness can be interpreted as having bad character, or it can be a sign that the candidate is really not interested in the MBA program. In either case, rude students will be rejected, despite their academic or work credentials.
Your MBA admissions interview should be viewed as a conversation, with give and take on both sides. Many schools conduct group interviews as well. Not being a polite conversationalist – not allowing others the chance to express themselves in the conversation – is looked down on by adcoms.
During campus visits or on interview days, candidates are often given the opportunity to interact in social situations with current students. Any report of inappropriate behavior – speaking or acting offensively – will show the adcom that you aren’t a fit for their school.
Candidates to top MBA programs are used to being considered the best – top undergrad school with high GPA, exceptional test scores, employment at Fortune 500 companies, etc. This often leads to arrogant behavior. Schools are looking for candidates who are team players and know how to value the contributions of others. Having students who consider themselves better than their peers and look down on them is toxic to this cooperative environment, and admissions committees will refuse to admit them.
3. Overselling yourself
You are always encouraged to present yourself in the best light possible both on your application and in your interview. However, there’s a narrow line between selling yourself and going overboard. All adcoms are looking for the best students for their programs, but know that the perfect candidate doesn’t exist. Trying to make yourself perfect when you’re not will end in not being accepted to a program.
4. Not being committed to the program
Whether you’re interviewing at your first choice or your sixth, each interviewer wants to see the motivation behind applying to their program. Many students apply to multiple programs hoping to increase their odds of being accepted to one, without considering their fit to the program. Every b-school is different in terms of focus, teaching style, environment, etc. You need to look at each aspect of the program and see if it fits your goals. This lack of fit will become apparent during your interview, and won’t encourage the adcom to offer you a space in their program. Business schools look for candidates with strong decision-making skills and insight. Blindly picking programs shows that you have not developed these important skills.\
5. Lack of cultural awareness
Today’s global marketplace means that even if your job is in the US, you may be interacting with colleagues from other countries. Cultural awareness is a requirement in this business environment, as are a strong command of the English language, with additional language skills an added plus. Successful MBA candidates are being called on more frequently to have these skills.
6. Excessive contact with the admissions office
There is an appropriate level of contact expected with your target program’s office. However, a candidate can make too many phone calls, send too many emails, or make too many requests for private meetings. B-schools want to know that you’re sincerely interested in being part of their program, but don’t become a stalker!
7. Letters of recommendation
These letters, written by professors, supervisors, or mentors, are a vital part of your MBA application. Some students see these as so important that they write their own letters! Remember that schools follow up after your interview and will discover that your glowing recommendation was not written by the person whose signature is supposedly on the bottom of it. This is cause for immediate rejection. This is obvious lying and evidence of poor judgment. These behaviors are deemed unacceptable by admissions directors.
8. Your Social Media presence
Schools frequently follow up on candidates after their interviews, especially if something does not ring true. Background checks can reveal criminal allegations, but so can Googling people. Posts on social media, while usually fun and harmless, can sometimes reveal things about potential students that are not compatible with a school’s mission or vision.
MBA admissions committees don’t actively look for reasons to reject students. Their goal is to find candidates who have the right fit for their school. They look for proof that applicants will positively impact their school, and will be good role models as alumni.
Have you been rejected by business schools? Check out Accepted’s Rejection Services and have an expert admissions consultant review your rejected application(s) and advise you on what went wrong so you can reapply successfully.
Linda Abraham is the founder of Accepted, the premier admissions consultancy. She has coached MBA applicants to acceptance for over 20 years. The Wall Street Journal, US News, and Poets&Quants are among the media outlets that seek her admissions expertise.