10 Common MBA Application Mistakes of Finance Professionals-Part 1

application mistakes finance professionals makeSurprised to hear that MBA applicants from finance make up the largest percentage of the incoming classes at many of the top business schools? I didn’t think so. Several firms require the MBA for top-level positions, and finance industries feed heavily into the most competitive programs.

At the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, for example, 45% of the Class of 2018 has previously worked in finance, followed by 36% of the entering class at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and 27% at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

While other applicants will have to work hard to demonstrate that they can handle classes such as finance, accounting and statistics, if you hail from finance, this box is already checked without question.  The admissions committee is quite confident that you can excel in the core classes. Consider it one less thing you have to worry about!

Because applicants from finance are overrepresented in the admissions pool, your goal is to stand out as much as possible from peers with similar backgrounds. However, there’s a right way and a wrong way to attract the admission committee’s attention, so make sure to avoid these 10 common MBA application mistakes made by finance professionals.

Mistake #1: Failing to develop an overall strategy

Applicants with a highly typical career background face one of the largest hurdles to admission. You need to develop a comprehensive application strategy that sets you apart from equally impressive peers. No matter how remarkable your pedigree, business schools don’t want a class filled with individuals of the same profile.

The MBA journey begins with considerable self-reflection to crystalize your life and professional goals, and find the right schools that fit and align with those aspirations. From your resume to your essays to your letters of recommendation to your interview, you’ll need to differentiate yourself through stories and examples that highlight both your analytical expertise and personal pursuits to add another dimension to your MBA application.

Mistake #2: Not filling in the “white spaces”

When strong finance applicants don’t get in, much of the time it’s not because they are unqualified or didn’t deliver when it comes to their GMAT, but because they erroneously believed that a perfect score or having Morgan Stanley on their resume was enough to make them the perfect candidate. With such fierce competition, you have to realize you are not just your resume. You are the white spaces in between.

MBA programs seek to attract applicants who show curiosity about the wider world, whether through academic, extracurricular or life experiences. You never know if those years on the college water polo team, the minor in game design or those articles you published in the school newspaper are just the ticket to creating a standout application.

Mistake #3: underwhelming recommendation letters

As an evaluation from an independent observer, letters of recommendation are a secret weapon for your application success. Your recommenders will be asked to evaluate you against your peers, and may even be writing letters for your peers, so you need to ensure that your recommenders consider you the top-ranked employee in their area.

Don’t leave them to their own devices. Make sure your recommenders share specific examples of your excellent work. To help them out, you may want to provide a bulleted list of projects you worked on together, especially if you were praised for the results. Sometimes a performance review or meeting can be a useful source for specific compliments if you are unsure how to steer your recommenders.


We’ll have more common mistakes that finance applicants need to avoid ready for you soon. Until then, please follow SBC in social media and sign up for the SBC newsletter, where you’ll receive expert advice on all aspects of the MBA application process delivered straight in your inbox each week.


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