At the Kaplan Business Insider MBA Fair last night, a panel of admissions officers from leading business schools gave prospective students the lowdown on MBA admissions. The panelists were Deirdre Kane from MIT Sloan, Lauren Levine from NYU Stern, Cassandra Pittman from INSEAD, Randall Sawyer from Cornell's Johnson School, and Jackie Zavitz from the Wharton School. Although they were unable to take questions from the crowd, the panelists did discuss some do's and don'ts for your application.
Biggest Pitfalls of Applications
These mistakes will always bring up red flags for admissions officers and, in some cases, send your application straight to the rejection pile.
Do not put another school name in your application. If you are applying to Wharton, make sure that it doesn't say HBS anywhere on your application. Describing how much you really want to go to School A in your essay will earn you an automatic rejection at School B.
Do not lie on your application. You want the admissions office to accept you, not someone else. Be authentic and realistic. Not everyone has a sob story about an alcoholic uncle, so don't feel that you need to make one up.
Don't wait until after you apply to visit a school. It's for you, not for the admissions office. If you make the trek to the school, you'll have a better idea for why you want to be there, which will make your application that much stronger.
Do not, under any circumstances, let your parents call the admissions office on your behalf. Just...don't.
Biggest Advice for Applicants
Now that you know what not to do, how can you make sure you put your best foot forward? Here are some things you may not have thought of to create the best possible application.
Start early. Take the GMAT the minute you start thinking about an MBA, as the score will be valid for five years. Figure out your short list and start writing before fall sets in.
Be authentic throughout the entire process. In the words of MIT Sloan's Deirdre Kane, "the race is only against yourself." Not being authentic is a huge no-no, and being honest is as important on the other end.
Look beyond the rankings. Every school has something that will add value to your experience and your career. As Cassandra Pittman of INSEAD points out, if you don't want to get an international business education, INSEAD may not be right for you despite its prestige.
Talk to current students, alumni and other applicants. They'll give you a better idea of what it’s like in the MBA trenches. Plus, if you wouldn't want to be in class with the people you talk to, you probably won't like the school.
Research, research, research. The admissions panelists said this again and again. Start researching and learning about schools early and upfront. By doing your research, you'll know where you want to go and be better able to prove that you should go there in your application.
Be honest with admissions and with yourself. Along the same lines as being authentic in your application, if you're honest with yourself you'll be able to make the best B-school decision, and so will admissions. Listen to yourself. Just because you get into HBS, doesn't mean it's the best place for you. If you're not honest with yourself about business school, you may make a $100,000 mistake.
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