3 Major Red Flags For Admissions Officers

There are a variety of caution signs that can ultimately result in a business school rejection—from weak essays to poor test scores. But some red flags are more subjective than others. Kim, an MBA admissions consultant at Stacy Blackman Consulting and former senior associate director of admissions at Chicago Booth School of Business, recently discussed which red flags are most commonly deal-breakers for MBA admissions.


What you don’t know can hurt you. Admissions officers tend to prefer applicants who can clearly convey their goals with an MBA and how they hope to achieve those goals.

“A common mistake we tend to see is applicants having unrealistic goals,” Kim says. “Another frequent trouble spot is when applicants have a writing/essay style that comes across as inauthentic—or worse, arrogant or privileged. Be humble and acknowledge your weaknesses in your application essays.”


Experts recommend applicants to do thorough research when applying and find B-schools that align with their career goals and interests.

“Pick your schools carefully and demonstrate self-awareness by explaining how their program can help you reach your specific career goals,” Kim says.

After you’ve done your research on a business school, you’ll want to explain how their MBA program will help you reach your goals.

“As an applicant, you need to show them that you are excited and interested in their program and that you did your homework,” Kim says. “Thorough research is the key.  Attend virtual or in-person events and interact and outreach with current students/alumni. Visit the campus to see if you can envision yourself studying there.  Also, make sure to show your fit within that school’s culture.”


Recommendation letters are only strong if the recommender has what they need to properly write a compelling letter. Thus, Kim says, it’s important for applicants to spend the time to properly brief their recommenders.

“It’s crucial to practice your story with someone who knows your work capabilities inside and out,” Kim says. “That way, they can expand on relevant examples of both your strengths and development areas. This introspective conversation and exercise will significantly help you and your recommenders.”

It can be helpful, experts say, to walk your recommenders through the process and emphasize key details and anecdotes.

“This doesn’t mean telling them what to write – you want your recommender’s voice and authenticity to lead,” Jessica Chung, an expert coach at Fortuna Admissions and former associate director of admissions for UCLA Anderson, writes. “But coach them by connecting personally to guide them through your resume and refreshing them on your accomplishments and ways you’ve demonstrated excellence.”

Sources: Stacy Blackman Consulting, Fortuna Admissions

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.