Owning Up to Mistakes on Your Application

Explaining past transgressions, academic or otherwise, on your B-school application may be awkward and uncomfortable, but being up front about your mistakes can definitely go a long way toward minimizing the damage and maintaining  your shot at admission into a top program.

Stacy Blackman, interviewed by Francesca Di Meglio of BusinessWeek for her recent piece, Explaining Blemishes on the B-School Application, says, “If you handle it right, it can boost your application.”

Blackman shared with BW the case of one client who earned acceptance at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School despite an incident involving plagiarism during his undergraduate education. He owned up to it, says Blackman, and showed what he had learned from the experience and how he had changed as evidenced by his participation in student government.

How to handle the explanation of a questionable issue? Short and sweet should be your goal, the experts say. “Provide basic information and do a good job of showing what you’ve learned,” says Jim Holmen, director of admissions and financial aid at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. “Offer proof that this is not an indicator of your potential.”

Lastly, don’t forget to brief your recommenders, who may inadvertently bring up the issue in a letter of recommendation. To avoid this, Di Meglio counsels, tell your recommenders how you approached the subject in the application and share an outline of how you’ve resolved the problem and changed. Ideally, your recommenders will be validating what you’ve already written to the business schools.

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