5 MBA Application Deal-Breakers

MBA application deal-breakersSBC’s expert MBA admissions consultant Kim, formerly the Senior Associate Director of Admissions at Chicago Booth School of Business, shares some major red flags.

The consulting team at Stacy Blackman is second to none. In fact, we’re the only MBA admissions consulting firm with a complete panel of former Admissions Officers from every M7 program and the elite European MBA programs. Naturally, we like to tap the expertise of this elite group now and again to share their wisdom with readers. Today, we’re asking Kim to discuss some of the MBA application deal-breakers she encountered during her tenure leading admissions at Booth.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

Deal-Breaker #1: Lack of Self-Awareness in Career Goals and Essays 

A common mistake we tend to see is applicants having unrealistic goals. Another frequent trouble spot is when applicants have a writing/essay style that comes across as inauthentic—or worse, arrogant or privileged. Be humble and acknowledge your weaknesses in your application essays.

Also, it’s essential to research and apply to schools that match your objectives and goals. Pick your schools carefully and demonstrate self-awareness by explaining how their program can help you reach your specific career goals.

Deal-Breaker #2: Lack of Genuine Interest in the MBA Program 

Admission committees know that candidates apply to several schools. But they need some form of proof that you will yield at their school. As an applicant, you need to show them that you are excited and interested in their program and that you did your homework.

Thorough research is the key.  Attend virtual or in-person events and interact and outreach with current students/alumni. Visit the campus to see if you can envision yourself studying there.  Also, make sure to show your fit within that school’s culture.

Deal-Breaker #3: Not Briefing Your Recommenders

It’s VERY important to sit down with your recommenders from the outset. Talk to them about your goals and why this particular MBA program is going to help you reach them.

It’s crucial to practice your story with someone who knows your work capabilities inside and out. That way, they can expand on relevant examples of both your strengths and development areas. This introspective conversation and exercise will significantly help you and your recommenders.

Deal-Breaker #4 Not Answering the Essay Question/Re-Using Another Essay

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve read essays that didn’t answer the question or prompt asked. Applicants tend to get caught up in writing what they think we want to hear. Or worse, they sub in an essay from another MBA program—and then they forget to remove the other school’s name! A lot of applicants try to take the easy way out, and it is very apparent on the other side.

Also, many applicants fail to spell-check their application. We often saw the wrong spelling of words, which can get awkward. Think illicit feedback, which is not the same as elicit feedback!

Deal-Breaker #5: Not Calling Out the Elephant in the Room

We know that applicants hate calling attention to their flaws. But members of the admissions team have done this job long enough to spot inconsistencies and omissions quickly. We’re talking things like glaring work gaps or job-hopping. Also common, failing or incomplete grades.

In these cases, whoever reviews your application will likely jump to the worst possible conclusion. Make sure to address things like this directly to avoid adverse inferences.

Oh, Those Zany MBA Applicants!

Now that we’ve addressed some of the common MBA application deal-breakers, it’s time for the juicy stuff! We asked Kim to dish on some of the strangest things she witnessed during her time in admissions at Chicago Booth. Here’s what she had to say.

We saw some crazy things from applicants on the waitlist. For instance, someone once submitted their additional essay on a cake. Oh, and we’ve received essays about bowel movements (ew!). Then we’ve seen people dressing as characters and in themes for the additional video essay.  Actually, we have a lot of people who make diary submissions for the essay, talking to their future selves.

Next, we have the people who contact adcom every day with updates on what they are doing at work and in their personal lives and how they’ve improved since their application. Additionally, some applicants share very private information—especially as an excuse to explain why they didn’t do well in undergrad or a specific course.

Also, we see applicants flat-out lying about where they work. Or about starting a company. Or about where they went to school. Or about how much they make. It seems they don’t realize we can easily verify all of this through Google searches and background checks.


Thanks so much, Kim for sharing your insights with our blog readers! If you’re interested in applying to business school and want to avoid making MBA application deal-breakers like these, we can help! Contact us today to set up a complimentary analysis of your MBA candidacy.

Stacy Blackman

SBC’s star-studded consultant team is unparalleled. Our clients benefit from current intelligence that we receive from the former MBA Admissions Officers from Kellogg, Booth 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 Beth who held the position of Director of Admissions for Kellogg’s Full Time MBA program selecting candidates for the 2-year, 1-year, MMM and JD MBA programs.

Meet Kim, who was an Senior Associate Director of Admissions at Chicago Booth.

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

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