It’s time to talk about MBA application mistakes. This week Angela Guido talks about the top 3 MBA mistakes to avoid and some general tips on MBA application “don’ts”, drawing on over a decade of MBA application advice to successful MBA applicants to help you craft your perfect application.
Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:
I'm Angela Guido. Welcome to MBA Monday.
Today, I'm going to tell you about the top three MBA mistakes that I see applicants make. Bear with me, because probably if you're thinking about applying to business school, you have made one or more of these common MBA application mistakes at some point on your journey.
1. Make Sure You’re Aiming Correctly
OK, MBA mistake number one, bad aim. Most people don't have a very accurate sense of how competitive they are with schools. So I see on the one hand, candidates who only want to apply to Harvard and Stanford, even though their statistics, their GPA, their GMAT, their career experience are not well aligned with the historical class mix of Harvard and Stanford.
The second mistake I see people make with respect to aim is aiming too low. So many times, I'll do consultation calls with clients who say, “Well, I'm only aiming for the bottom of the top 10” or “I’m aiming for a top 20 school”. And when I dig into their stories and their experiences, I find details and facts that actually make them a pretty compelling candidate for a top 10 or even the top 5 school. It's very hard to be objective about your own qualifications.
So, the first thing I always recommend is that you get a consultation. If you want an honest assessment of how competitive you are, you can talk to me directly. Just go to the link for a free MBA consultation and I'll give you a sense of which schools you stack up against competitively and which schools are aiming high naming low. You can also check out our awesome MBA Admission Calculator, MBAmo, to see which schools are a match, a reach or a safety!
2. Don’t Pander to Schools
The second big mistake that I see candidates make is pandering to schools. This is a really insidious and pervasive one. If you've ever found yourself asking “What does Harvard want to hear so that I can get into Harvard?” or “I know Wharton is a finance school, so what do I need to say to make myself an attractive candidate for Wharton?”, and so forth and so on. It relates to imagining that you're trying to manipulate or convince the schools into accepting you. And so you need to find the exact right cocktail of things to say to convince them that you're good enough. This is what we call pandering, and it is a huge mistake. Not only does it lead to boring essays, keep in mind these people reading thousands and thousands of essays and most people are pandering. So you're not going to be able to stand out from the crowd if you're pandering. But it also is a total blow to your ego. If you enter business school or even go through the process not believing in yourself and what you have to offer and putting that out there for the schools to accept or say no to, then you're not going about it the right way and you're not starting the rest of your career on a solid footing.
3. Don’t Get Defensive
The third mistake I see people make – and again, this is a pretty subtle one – is being defensive. This relates to weakness thinking. So, again, when I do consultation calls, a lot of people ask me “What are my biggest weaknesses, how do I address my weaknesses?”. And while this attitude is not in itself bad, it leads you to feel in some way like you need to defend your choices. Like maybe you left a big firm to start your own business, or maybe you changed majors in the middle of school or even changed schools during undergraduate. Maybe you haven't had any time to do community service. And so instead you run marathons or have just gotten really good at collaging. For the most part, schools are not judging your choices. They understand that everyone is motivated by a different set of values and they don't even really care what those are. They just want to know what they are. So ultimately, you don't ever have anything to defend. You don't have to explain the choices you made imagining that you're defending yourself against some sort of attack. And in fact, if you do approach your essays with this angle, you're going to come off sounding defensive or arrogant, which is exactly the opposite of what you want.
Go Forth, Successful MBA Applicants!
So instead of having bad aim, pandering or being defensive in your MBA applications, I recommend that you do your best just to be yourself. I know that's horrible advice because it's impossible to implement, but if you come back next week, I'm going to tell you on MBA Monday how to be yourself in your MBA applications. It's really easy. It's tactical. I'll show you how.