Go to a better blog!

You can find a better version of my blog at http://www.adammarkus.com/blog/.

Be sure to read my Key Posts on the admissions process. Topics include essay analysis, resumes, recommendations, rankings, and more.

December 15, 2007

MBA First Round Blues: Learn from Failure

Situation: You applied first round and were rejected by one or more Business Schools for Fall 2008 admission. Alternatively you applied first round, but have been put on the waitlist. In any event, your first round MBA applications have been less than a success, if not an outright failure.

This is a common enough situation that many applicants encounter. Actually the 1st rejection version of it is better than the full re-applicant version because at least this way you don't have to lose a year. The great advantage of 1st round rejection is you still have a chance to get into other schools in the 2nd or 3rd round. Of course if you applied everywhere you wanted to go in the 1st round, you will have to think about either some more schools or your re-application strategy for Fall 2009. That said, my remarks below are principally designed for those who still plan to begin in Fall 2008, but also applicable to re-applicants and anyone who needs an application self-diagnostic checklist.

Doing the same thing you did first round in the second round would be really stupid. The main thing you need to ask yourself is "WHY DID YOU FAIL?" Only if you begin to know that will you get yourself on the pathway to future success.
(Obviously things like GPA, TOEFL, and GMAT might be reasons for your failure, but there is probably not much you can do about them now unless you are still working on test preparation. If you are still doing test prep, see my comments below and also please read this post.)

Here are some suggestions designed to help you figure out the reasons why you are getting rejected.

1. Did you really know about the programs you applied to? How was that reflected in your essays? Did you merely restate obvious information about the school or did you show exactly what aspects of it will meet your academic and professional goals? Did you demonstrate a clear connection to the program? Did you even think about fit? Stating unremarkable things based simply on reading the web site or brochure is not enough, you need to show why a specific program really fits your personality and goals. If you had an interview, how effective were you at establishing fit?

2. Was there a problem with the way you expressed your desire for an MBA or your goals? I have often found this to be a major problem with many failed applications that I have seen when clients ask me to review them. Actually almost every re-applicant I have worked with had a serious problem clearly articulating their goals. If you think your goals might be the problem, read this and complete the table you can find there. Were your goals based on any research? Are they interesting?

3. Did your essays fully demonstrate your potential as a student and a professional? The way you write about who you are and what you have done is a major way that admissions evaluates this. More specifically: Could you clearly express selling points about yourself in your essays? Did you provide sufficient details about what you did combined with a sufficient explanation for why? Are your essays about you or just about what you have done? Are your essays mere extensions of bullet points on your resume or do they tell effective stories about you? Do you really understand the essay questions? How effective were in writing about such common topics as contributions, leadership, and/or failure?

4. Did you put a sufficient amount of time into writing your essays? Writing great essays usually takes time and multiple drafts. Did you write multiple drafts of your essays? Were your essays quickly written? Did a significant amount of thought go into them?

4. Did you resume (CV) present your professional, academic, and extracurricular experience effectively? A great MBA resume requires effective presentation of your past experience so that an admissions committee can gain insight into your potential to succeed in the MBA program and in your future career. A great resume is also an effective agenda setting device for an interview. Did your resume contain clear statements about your accomplishments? Did your resume honestly and effectively represent the full range of your experience?

5. Did you really address any potential concerns that an admissions committee may have about your suitability as a candidate? Even though there is always an optional question available for this purpose, did you make use of it? If there was something you wanted to avoid discussing, maybe you should consider doing so.

6. How were your interviews? If you did interview, were you well-prepared? How do you judge your own performance? Did you practice enough? Are you good at interviewing? For non-native speakers: Are you good at interviewing in your own language? I believe that the only effective way to prepare for interviews is to be over-prepared: You need to appear relaxed and comfortable talking with the interviewer, to be ready to address the hardest questions, to be comfortable with your own selling points and the stories that support them, and have to have enough knowledge about the school to show a passion for it.

7. How were your recommendations? Did your recommendations honestly and effectively endorse you? Did they contain sufficient detail to help an admissions committee understand your selling points? Did your recommendations really evaluate both your strengths and weaknesses? Were your recommendations authentic or is there any possibility that an admissions would be concerned about their authorship?

8. How good was the advice you received from other people about your application(s)? In addition to yourself, who read and advised you on your essays, resume, interview(s), and/or other aspects of your application process? Alums, mentors, admissions consultants or counselors, editors, and/or ghostwriters? While I would not suggest blaming those who advised you, you may want to seek out new or additional advisers. Of course if they told you that your essays, resume, or some other aspect of your application were weak and you did not address it, they are providing good advice. Additionally if they expressed concerns about your likelihood for admission, there advice might be good (beware of those who always hedge their bets).

If you relied extensively on an editor or paid a ghostwriter and seem to be getting dinged really quickly, you have discovered the pitfalls of those highly dubious strategies. Consider writing your own stuff and discover the potential of your voice.

If you used an admissions counselor or consultant and did not get any good results and they told you that your applications were good, it is time to decide whether their advice is really effective. If your counselor has limited experience, this is pretty much an indicator that you should have gone with someone experienced. If your counselor seems exhausted or rushed, you also have a problem because this person is unlikely to be able to be devoted to helping you enough. If you purchased a counseling service and not the services of a particular counselor, I would not be surprised if you encountered someone overworked. After all, one critical difference between counselors who work for themselves and those that work for someone else is the amount they make for the work performed. Those that work for someone else make considerably less per hour and often have to work more and under higher pressure than those that work for themselves. This is not to say that highly experienced counselors employed by counseling services can't be excellent, but based on my experience there are pitfalls to such services. On the other hand if they have high quality control standards, they can be just as effective. That said, the issue will always come down to the specific advice you are being given, which means the particular person you are working with. In addition to contacting me, one good resource for finding a new counselor is through the Association of International Admissions Consultants where you find a directory of my colleagues around the world who are committed to providing high level service to their clients.

9. Was your GMAT within the school's 80% range? This is a fairly obvious issue. If your score was within the 80% range, this was not likely to have been the reason for rejection. If it was below the 80% range for one or more schools, you should consider whether you are willing to apply at school where your GMAT is within the range or whether you want to continue taking greater risk. Obviously if your score is below the 80% range, you should assume your chances for admissions are less than the stated admissions rate. I am not saying to only apply to schools where you are within the range (see my earlier post on this issue), but I would suggest taking account of the risk in terms of (1) school selection, (2) the number of programs you need to apply to, and (3) expectations for success.

10. Was your GPA equal to, above, or below the average reported GPA for the school? If it was below, this may have been a factor against you. If you score is significantly below the average GPA and your GMAT is equal to or above the average score, did you write an optional essay? Did you highlight your academic potential in some way to counter the issue of your GPA?

11. Did your TOEFL meet the school's minimum stated requirement? If your score was below the minimum, did you discuss this in the optional or some other essay to make the case for your English abilities? If you think you can improve your score, take the test again.

If your score on TOEFL is really weak, have you considered taking IELTS? Some applicants actually will do better on this test than on ibt TOEFL. It is no easy thing to prepare for a new test, but I think it might be a viable strategy for some of those who are applying to schools with late deadlines.

12. Were you realistic about school selection? I have discussed this issue in other posts, but it certainly one worth considering.

13. Were you honest about the way you presented yourself in your whole application? As a strong advocate for honesty, I have a bias for this particular approach to the process. That said, if you are getting dinged after misrepresenting one or more aspects of your experience, you might want to consider that it is the job of admissions officers to eliminate liars. They get through anyway, but not all of them. Anyway, the truth will set you free to succeed. If you have over-marketed yourself, you may also have come across as less than authentic.

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to.

-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス
MBA留学 ビジネススクール カウンセリング コンサルティング エッセイ
Real Time Web Analytics