10 Really Stupid Things that MBA Admissions Applicants Do:
1. Have someone else write their essays for them. You will be able to get away with it if you have someone who can perfectly capture your voice without turning your essay into something obviously written by a hack journalist moonlighting as an admissions consultant, generic content that an unimaginative ghost writing drone produces, or an essay obviously written by a native English speaker when you are not (as demonstrated by TOEFL, IELTS, GMAT and/or background).
2. Ignoring admissions data when selecting schools. While you are not reducible to a set of statistics, you had better use that benchmark to get a sense of the realism of proceeding with application to any particular school. Knowing what level of competition you face will best help you gauge the difficulty of admission. Taking calculated risks is necessary skill for any successful investor in anything, so do your research. For a risk portfolio approach to select schools, please see here.
3. Going only by statistics when selecting schools. For US schools, 10% of all admitted applicants are below the school's reported 80% range for admits in terms of GMAT, GPA, or experience. In my experience, applicants can certainly get admitted if they have other aspects to their application that outweigh mere numbers. While the number of exceptions to the rule is limited, the chance for admission still exists. You need to think carefully about how much risk you want to take, but don't merely settle for where you seem to statistically fit if you want to try and gain admission to what you would consider to be a better program. For a risk portfolio approach to select schools, please see here.
4. Treat all MBA programs as the same. Some applicants fail to really look into the really huge differences between programs and as a result cannot ever demonstrate fit in their essays. Learn about fit here.
5. Don't take recommendations seriously. Some ways applicants don't take recommendations seriously include: Providing limited or zero guidance to recommenders who might not actually be familiar with the unique aspects of MBA program recommendations, providing so much information to recommenders that their recommenders essentially paraphrase the applicants essays to the point where it appears the applicant wrote the recommendation(s) and providing obviously forged recommendations. To get around these problems, please see here and here.
6. Provide a user unfriendly resume. The resume is a such key piece of most MBA applications, but some applicants submit resumes that are too technical, only focused on professional experience, provide too little detail, provide too much detail about the wrong things, don't conform to standard resume formats, or otherwise fail as an effective advertising device for the applicant.
7. Don't prepare for interviews. Don't even get me started, it will make me sick to my stomach. Every year I work with clients who get invited to great schools for interviews and some of them simply think they can go in unprepared because they do better that way or that it is not a big deal. Usually interviews are a big deal. Start here.
8. Don't send timely thank you notes to interviewers. I don't care whether you send an actual physical note by mail or by an email, but send a note! It is the sort of minimal politeness that tells an interviewer and an admissions committee should be able to expect.
9. Spend too much time reading online applicant forums. There is nothing more mentally crippling than wasting too much time on online applicants forums, which often have the function of being urban myth producing echo chambers. Don't get me wrong, you should most certainly read them, but if it becomes an excuse (LIKE FACEBOOK) to actually not work on your applications or test preparation, you need to chill out.
10. Fail to network with alumni and current students. One of things that is truly awesome about most MBA programs is the willingness of current students and many alumni to share their experience and inform applicants. Take full advantage of this. If you are too shy to network, an MBA is not for you. Have you considered a career as a blogger?
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