9 Application Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make

In this business, I’ve seen applicants attempt to pull off just about any trick under the sun to gain a seat at the MBA program of their dreams. Let me share with you nine mistakes—big and small—that will doom your chances with the admissions committee. No matter how confident of your embellishing abilities you may be, I urge you to heed the errors of those who have walked before you!

1. The applicant who lied on her application AND got caught.  This woman breathed a sigh of relief when she got accepted to her top school and figured those lies on her application would never be found out. WRONG. Not only did the school she was supposed to attend find out she was telling tall tales, she was escorted out of school.  So not worth it.

2. The application for Harvard that began with, “Since I was a child, I’ve dreamt of attending Stanford Graduate School of Business.”  It’s like calling your boyfriend by the wrong name. Sure, he could forget it, but he probably won’t.  Make sure you have the right name with the right application.

3. The application that read like a re-shuffled resume.  If you’re giving the admissions committee information they can already get from your resume, you’re not giving them information.

4. The applicant who stalked his admissions contacts.  If your contacts have to change their phone number, you’ve called too much.  Needy doesn’t = Acceptance Letter.

5. The applicant who filled his application with big words. To quote Forrest Gump (kinda), “Smarter is as smarter does.” If you want to appear smart, be as well informed as possible.  If you want to appear to be trying too hard, fill your application with words you don’t actually know how to define without using a dictionary.

6. The applicant who didn’t practice for the interviews.  Everyone from the president to your local priest practices for speeches and interviews.  You should, too. Unless you think “boring” and “rambling” are the keys to a good interview.

7. The applicant who went on and on about her parents.  Even if you’re Malia Obama, it’s best to talk about yourself in your interview rather than focusing on your parents like this applicant did.  Unless your parents are planning on attending B-school with you, they don’t need to be the focus of your application and interview.

8. The applicant who thought rules didn’t apply to him. Red flag alert: The applicant who can’t follow the rules is the employee who can’t follow the rules.  Cut it out, rules are rules. They apply to you, no matter what you’ve been told before.

9. The applicant who grandstanded during info sessions. Be a nice person and a team player. Don’t hog the airtime or you come off like a hog. There’s only one reason to ask a question: because you want to know the answer. Otherwise, give everyone else a chance to ask the same question over and over again.


This post originally appeared as the second installment of a new series B-School Admissions Tips You Can’t Live Without on the MBA website Poets & Quants.


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