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Why You Shouldn’t Oversell Yourself in MBA Applications

When you’re applying to top business schools, you may feel increased competition to oversell yourself in your application. Yet, experts say an honest and genuine MBA application is stronger than one that oversells.

Ilana Kowarski, a reporter for US News, spoke to some experts on what admissions officers look for in MBA applications.

“Authenticity allows you to find the right school and that school to find you,” Carrie Marcinkevage, MBA managing director at the Smeal College of Business at Pennsylvania State University—University Park, tells US News. “Allow them the chance to find the real you.”

Overselling Yourself is a Recipe for Failure

Experts say admissions consultants tend to know when you’re overselling yourself in an application.

“Application readers are savvy,” Dan Bauer, CEO of The MBA Exchange admissions consulting firm, tells US News. “By reviewing hundreds, if not thousands, of applications they get clear sense of what achievements, experiences and responsibilities are reasonable for applicants.”

Linda Abraham, Founder Of Accepted Admissions Consulting, tells P&Q that while applicants may feel increased pressure to craft themselves as the perfect applicant, it isn’t a wise idea. In fact, admissions officers know the perfect applicant doesn’t exist.

“All adcoms are looking for the best students for their programs, but know that the perfect candidate doesn’t exist,” she says. “Trying to make yourself perfect when you’re not will end in not being accepted to a program.”

Part of being authentic is acknowledging mistakes

Experts say being authentic means showing both your good and bad.

“We all have blemishes in our past,” Jesse Mejia, founder and CEO of the MBA Catalyst admissions consulting firm, tells US News. “The way to explain these mistakes is to be upfront and candid.”

Often, these past mistakes can lead to inspiring moments of growth – which should be highlighted in your application.

“Be honest with yourself and know that your setbacks made you the successful person you are today,” Mejia tells US News.

Rather than simply highlighting the positive of yourself, it’s important to take the time to understand what kind of person you are and how business school will be a crucial experience to your life.

Stephanie Marr, a 2016 MBA graduate of Harvard Business School, says authenticity takes time and understanding.

“I spent time reflecting on what really motivates me and what is most important to me,” she says in an HBS post. “It may sound straight-forward, but I think it’s really important to have clear direction on what you want to do and how the HBS experience will help you get there.”

Sources: US News, Harvard Business School, Poets & Quants