At top B-schools, such as Stanford Graduate School of Business and Harvard Business School, acceptance rates can often fall well below 20%. Most of these top B-schools have similar criteria in the type of applicant they’re looking for: demonstrated leadership, strong soft skills, and good fit. Still, not everyone gets accepted. Fortune recently spoke to experts who highlighted some of the most popular reasons why applicants are rejected at top B-schools.
LOW TEST SCORES AND GPA
While test scores and GPA are only one component of your MBA application, they still play an important role. Quant deficiencies are the main reasons why applicants may get rejected from top B-schools. If you’re applying to a top B-school with below-average numbers, experts recommend offering admissions officers more context to your application.
“While getting a strong score on the GMAT or the GRE is helpful to demonstrating the strength of their candidacy, they have a lot more control over their story,” Kaneisha Grayson, who owns The Art of Applying, an MBA admissions consultancy, tells Fortune.
Experts say another reason why applicants get rejected is simply because they rush the application process or focus on one aspect of the application more than another. That in turn can often make for a poorly executed application or one that isn’t specialized to a B-school enough.
“It’s just a matter of allocating time to get to know the school in advance,” Shaifali Aggarwal, an HBS alum and founder and CEO of Ivy Groupe.
Customizing your application to a business school is important. At the end of the day, business schools are looking for a candidate who will fit their culture. And, experts say, applicants should view selecting a business school the same way.
“Sometimes applicants are attached to the name of a school, but they don’t actually know a lot about the school, or it’s not even a strong match for their career goals,” Grayson writes. “Sometimes it’s about letting go of a school or two to make time and space for a school that might be a better fit for them.”
NOT HAVING A UNIQUE STORY
A lot of times, B-schools reject applicants not because they aren’t qualified, but because they simply don’t seem different enough from other applicants. Having a unique story, experts say, matters in admissions.
“There’s no real theme. You’re doing good work, but again there are hundreds of other applicants in your same situation doing good work getting good reviews,” Mark Lellouch, an Admissionado consultant and Stanford University Graduate School of Business grad, tells Fortune. “It’s hard to distinguish oneself with a common background.”
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