10 Common MBA Application Mistakes of Finance Professionals-Part 1

finance professionals

Are you surprised to hear that MBA applicants from financial services, private equity, and VC make up the largest percentage of the incoming classes at many of the top business schools? We didn’t think so. Several firms require finance professionals to have an MBA for top-level positions, and finance industries feed heavily into the most competitive programs.

At Harvard Business School, for example, 27% of the Class of 2025 has previously worked in finance, followed by 26% of the entering class at Chicago Booth School of Business and 24% at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Other applicants may have to work hard to demonstrate that they can handle finance, accounting, and statistics classes. But for finance professionals, this box is already checked without question. The admissions committee is confident that you can excel in the core classes. Consider it one less thing you have to worry about!

If you come from this particular applicant pool, your goal is to stand out as much as possible from peers with similar backgrounds. However, there’s a right and wrong way to attract the admission committee’s attention. So, avoid these common MBA application mistakes made by finance professionals.

Are you curious about your admissions odds as an applicant from an overrepresented industry? Contact us to talk strategy with a free 15-minute advising session with an SBC Principal Consultant.

MBA reapplication

Mistake #1: Failing to develop an overall strategy

Applicants with a typical career background face one of the most significant hurdles to admission. You must develop a comprehensive application strategy that distinguishes you from equally impressive peers. No matter how remarkable your pedigree is, 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 highlighting your analytical expertise and personal pursuits to add another dimension to your MBA application.

At the same time, be sure to lean into your so-called soft skills. Soft skills are an essential set of personal attributes that enhance interactions, job performance, and career prospects. They are also a cornerstone of a winning MBA application strategy. EQ is vital, and successful future leaders will be those who can foster engaging and meaningful dialogue.

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

When strong finance applicants don’t get in, often it’s not because they are unqualified or didn’t deliver when it comes to their GMAT. Rather, it’s because they falsely believed that an impressive test score or having Morgan Stanley on their resume was enough to make them the ideal candidate. With such fierce competition, you must realize you are not just your resume. You are the white spaces in between.

MBA programs seek to attract applicants who are curious about the broader world through academic, extracurricular, or life experiences. You never know if your passion for kitesurfing, 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 finance professionals’ application success. Your recommenders will have to evaluate you against your peers and may even write letters for them, too. So, ensure that your recommenders consider you the top-ranked employee in their area.

Please don’t leave them to their own devices. Even a recommender with the best intentions might end up writing a weak appraisal if it does not dovetail with the “Brand You” that is woven into your essays. 

Make sure your recommenders share specific examples of your excellent work. To help orient them, provide a bulleted list of projects you worked on together, especially if they praised you for the results. Give very specific anecdotes, like “Remember the time on the XYZ negotiation where you said the deal structure I proposed saved the company $10 million?”

Some of these anecdotes can be topics you also raise in the essays, while others might be fresh material that only the recommender employs.  Often, a performance review or meeting can be a valuable source for specific compliments if you need help steering your recommenders.

Finally, aim for a good “spread” among your recommenders, so they can write about you from various angles. The more well-rounded finance professionals can paint themselves, the better for MBA admissions success.

We’ll have more common mistakes that finance professionals need to avoid ready for you next week, so stay tuned!


Stacy Blackman Consulting offers multiple services to meet your MBA application needs. From our All-In Partnership to interview prep, essay editing, resume review, and much more, we’ve got you covered. Contact us today for a free 15-minute advising session to talk strategy with a Principal SBC consultant.

Here’s a snapshot of the caliber of expertise on our SBC team.

SBC’s star-studded consultant team is unparalleled. Our clients benefit from current intelligence that we receive from the former MBA Admissions Officers from Harvard HBS, Wharton and every elite business program in the US and Europe.  These MBA Admissions Officers have chosen to work exclusively with SBC.

Just two of the many superstars on the SBC team:
Meet Anthony, who served as the Associate Director of MBA Admissions at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he dedicated over 10 years of expertise.

Meet Andrea, who served as the Associate Director of MBA Admissions Marketing at Harvard Business School (HBS) for over five years.

Tap into this inside knowledge for your MBA applications by requesting a consultation.


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