Category Archives: Application Tips

3 Reasons for Rejection From a Dream MBA Program

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com If you’ve been feeling down since receiving a rejection letter from your dream business school, I want to offer some insight into why …

rejection MBA admissions

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com

If you’ve been feeling down since receiving a rejection letter from your dream business school, I want to offer some insight into why it happened, and remind you why you should keep your chin up.

First off, all of the top MBA programs are notoriously selective. It may be that out of every 100 people who submit materials, only seven to 12 are accepted. Harvard Business School – ranked No. 1 among MBA programs by U.S. News – rejected more than 8,000 applicants for its class of 2017. In other words, it’s very much a numbers game when you’re applying to such competitive programs. There are only so many spots for an overwhelming number of extremely talented candidates.

That may be hard to accept for people who have reached every goal they’ve ever gone after. So, here are three possible reasons why your target b-schools did not offer you admission.

Overrepresented demographic: Each program strives to put together a diverse class of impressive people. However, no one knows the magic formula that any given admissions committee uses to fill open spots.

The very elements that typically make up a strong candidate for business school – solid academic background, stellar test scores, work experience in investment banking, engineering or consulting – may not have strengthened your case because too many other candidates shared those exact same characteristics in this application cycle.

Everything from your gender to your industry to your nationality to your career aspirations, community service and personality comes into play when an admissions committee attempts to build a graduating class.

While you can’t do anything to change your basic profile, if you do apply again try to hone in on elements of your background, interests and experiences that set you apart. Even the most typical MBA candidate can find something that will enhance the experience of fellow classmates.

Lack of self-awareness: They say high self-awareness is the strongest predictor of overall success. Business schools love to admit applicants who appear dedicated to their personal development, which is why the “tell us about your greatest weakness” question is so popular in both essays and interviews.

There’s no such thing as a perfect MBA applicant, however. Everyone has weaknesses, and if you don’t acknowledge them, the admissions committee will make a judgement on how introspective and self-aware you are.

If your essays or interviews contain any excuses-making, passive-aggressive comments, outright bragging or rambling answers, they will question your maturity and fitness for their program. Any doubts will likely lead to a hard pass, so answer those questions honestly, but always with a positive tone focused on continual improvement and reflection.

Low stats with no explanation: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard members of the admissions committee express dismay over applicants who don’t make use of the optional essay to explain the common red flag of low quantitative stats or proof of quantitative proficiency. This isn’t the time to cross your fingers and hope for the best, no matter how many stories you’ve heard of applicants getting into the Stanford University Graduate School of Business with a 650 GMAT score.

If you plan on reapplying, you have a few options. The surest route is dedicating more time to studying so you can strengthen your score; then it won’t be an issue next time. If your stats still hover below the median at your target programs, take a college-level course in statistics or accounting and prove to the admissions committee that you know your way around a spreadsheet.

Yet another route requires more of that self-reflection I mentioned earlier. Make sure you’re targeting programs that line up well with your stats. Look at programs outside the top 15 and see if there’s a better fit with higher acceptance rates that will get you where you need to go, career-wise.

Once you’ve pulled together a strong application and submitted it, the process is out of your hands. You will never be able to do anything about who (or how many people) you were truly competing against for a spot, who read your application or what kind of mood they were in that day.

Developing resilience is incredibly important if you need to reapply, but it’s also essential in life. Even when you put your best out there, you might still fail. However, to be successful, you need to learn how to bounce back and try again.

Image credit: Flickr user Anne-Lise Heinrichs  (CC BY 2.0)

Posted in Application Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Evaluate Your Communication Skills When Applying to B-School

The so-called hard skills of financing, accounting, supply chain management are widely available at business schools across the board, but it seems the soft-set skills, such as the ability to work with and through others, …

working together

The so-called hard skills of financing, accounting, supply chain management are widely available at business schools across the board, but it seems the soft-set skills, such as the ability to work with and through others, need a boost.

Recruiters have noticed that even students from the best schools can’t always communicate well, or don’t know how to express their concerns in a frank but non-aggressive way during presentations.

Clear thinking and effective communication are closely linked, and a new article in the Washington Post by , senior associate dean at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, discusses the importance of having those strong communication skills that employers are looking for in their new hires.

“Communication skills are fundamental in reaching an audience, influencing them, and sharing your message,” noted Arne Sorenson, president and chief executive of Marriott International, in a recent talk given at the Smith School.

“If you’re a master at running a spreadsheet or a financial model, but really don’t have the ability to understand the assumptions that are in it, or debate the assumptions in it,” Sorenson said, “then you’re not going to go as far as you could go otherwise.”

If you’re applying to business school in the fall, you’ll impress the admissions committee right out of the gate if you can demonstrate that you already possess strong communication skills. But if you need to do some work in this area, don’t fret.

There are many ways you can improve your listening, speaking, and writing skills, so take a long at the original article for Russell’s tips.  Also, reach out to mentors or supervisors whose communication skills you admire and ask for advice on how they read their audience, navigate meetings, and how they have cultivated their own interpersonal abilities for business success.

Fortunately, opportunities to communicate present themselves on a daily basis, and it’s an area we can work to improve for our entire lives.

You may also be interested in:

Recruiters Seek Specialist MBAs with Soft Skills

Image credit: iComputer Denver  (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Posted in Application Tips | Tagged , , , ,

Choosing Among Multiple Offers of Admission

Round Two business school decisions have come pouring in and some MBA applicants face not just two, but three or more offers of admission from their target schools.  Despite the adage, “You can never have too much …

multiple admissions offers

Round Two business school decisions have come pouring in and some MBA applicants face not just two, but three or more offers of admission from their target schools.  Despite the adage, “You can never have too much of a good thing,” in reality, multiple b-school acceptances can produce a lot of anxiety in candidates.

If you find yourself with this enviable problem, consider the following when weighing multiple admissions offers. Forget about rankings and reputation and think long and hard about the other particulars of each school, such as size, academics or location

Does your desire to live in an urban setting outweigh a preference for a smaller class size? Is there a financial incentive that puts one school in the lead? Is the diversity of the student body important? Is the academic focus on case studies, or more experiential?

You might not have had a strong preference before, but you should tally up the different characteristics to see which way the wind really blows.

If you haven’t already visited the campus as part of your application process, now’s the time to do so. Sit in on a class, chat with students and professors, hang out on campus and generally soak up the atmosphere. This is where you’ll be spending the next two years of your life, so making sure the program is a good fit for you academically and socially is imperative.

Even if you have already toured the school, consider visiting again to attend events designed for admitted students so you can scope out your potential classmates. Fit is very important, and these people will become a part of your future network, so it makes sense to test drive your comfort level with them prior to committing. After all, if you just don’t  click with them now, how will you make those solid relationships that will serve you throughout your career?

Talking to alumni is another great way to guide your decision. Make sure the school graduates people who are working in your target industry, and who are excited about sharing their experiences and advice with current students.

The decision of where to pursue an MBA is a weighty one, so do your homework and understand the strengths and potential drawbacks of each of your options. But in the end keep in mind that there’s rarely a “wrong” choice to be made.

Posted in Application Tips, General | Tagged , , , , , ,