Stanford GSB Debunks MBA Admissions Myths

The Stanford MBA Admission Blog has published a trio of posts this month designed to dispel some of the misleading myths that continue to confound applicants. From interview questions to recommendation letter queries to work experience concerns, the admissions team at Stanford Graduate School of Business once again attempts to set the record straight and, with any luck, helps calm the nerves of worried b-school hopefuls.

Here, in one place for ease of viewing, is a condensed version of the myths addressed in all three posts—and the corrections—the admissions team would like applicants to know.

MYTH: The interview has a lot of weight so if I blow the interview, I have blown my chances of being admitted.
THE TRUTH: There is no specific weight assigned to the interview; the interview is one part of a comprehensive process. A positive interview does not guarantee admission, while a less than favorable interview does not, by itself, preclude admission. The written application, including the essays and letters of reference, is a critical part of the evaluation process. The interview is a key source of supplemental information.

MYTH: I received my interview invitation early in the round so it must mean I have a better chance of getting admitted.
THE TRUTH: The timing of your interview invitation reflects only the order in which your application was reviewed (and the order in which your application was reviewed doesn’t mean anything, honest!). Applications are not reviewed in any particular order, and applicants are not ranked.

MYTH: Visiting campus before or after I’ve submitted my application is an important way to demonstrate my interest in Stanford and increase my chances of being admitted.
THE TRUTH: Visiting campus does not affect your chances of admission whatsoever. You may wish to visit if it’s helpful to your research and decision-making process about schools. If you have only one chance to visit, save your time and money and come after you’ve been admitted for Admit Weekend, where you’ll meet students, alumni, faculty, and your future classmates.

MYTH: If I work in a family business, am self-employed, or can’t tell my boss that I’m applying, I will be at a disadvantage since I cannot get a recommendation from a current direct supervisor.
THE TRUTH: Rest assured that you are not the only applicant in this situation. You just need to be a little more creative in terms of where you get your recommendation. You could ask anyone who is in a position to evaluate your work: a previous supervisor, a client, or a member of your board of directors.

MYTH: It is okay to submit more than three recommendations. In fact, more is better!
THE TRUTH: We discourage you from sending additional letters. More is not better. In fact, it can have the opposite of the intended effect as it adds an additional burden to our staff who review literally thousands and thousands of pages over the application season. When we receive additional letters of reference either before or after the application deadline, we do add them to your application file, but there’s no guarantee that they will be reviewed.

MYTH: It is better to get my recommendations from three different sources to highlight different aspects of my professional and personal background.
THE TRUTH: It’s your decision how to present yourself in your application, what to highlight and what to focus on. There is no one right way. When choosing a recommender, our best advice is to (1) choose someone who knows you really well and can provide the detail, examples, and specifics that support his/her assertions; and (2) choose someone who is truly enthused to write a recommendation for you and will spend sufficient time writing a thoughtful letter.

MYTH: Recommendations must be written in English.
THE TRUTH: Recommendations must be submitted in English. However, if you and your recommenders think that their English is not sufficient to convey complex ideas, it may be to your advantage to have them write in their native language and then get it translated. The translation does not need to be from a paid service unless that is the only option available to the recommender. The translation is the responsibility of the recommender; the translator cannot be the applicant or a friend or family member of the applicant.

MYTH: It’s OK to provide a letter of recommendation from a professor as long as I did really well in the class.
THE TRUTH: We love professors – we are a school, after all – but faculty members typically are not the best choices for MBA recommendations. We find that they often ignore the questions we ask of recommenders, and instead, focus on how well you did in their classes (which we already know from your academic transcripts). If you are applying as a college senior and do not have much professional experience, there may be cases when a recommendation from a faculty member would be appropriate.

For example, if you worked with a faculty member outside the classroom, perhaps as a teaching assistant or on an independent research opportunity, then that professor might be in a position to write a helpful recommendation. Still, you need to think carefully about whether that person can address the questions we ask in the recommendation form.

MYTH: If I worked full-time during or before college, I can count those months as “full-time work experience.”
THE TRUTH: We value all work experience, including jobs or military service you’ve had before graduating college. We ask that in the box for “months of full-time work experience,” you include only the months of full-time work experience SINCE you graduated from your undergraduate university, calculating the number of months from your college graduation until September 1, 2014.

Since the application form doesn’t fit every person’s situation, we ask that applicants who have worked full-time before graduating college report that in the Part-Time Employment section and indicate 40 hours in the “hours/week” box. We will connect the dots that you were working before or throughout college. Also, the resume we ask you to submit will show us your career path.

MYTH: If my application doesn’t meet certain criteria, the admissions office won’t even look at it.
THE TRUTH: We review each and every application to understand your background, aspirations, and potential. While scores and grades command attention in the blogosphere, each of you is more than a combination of statistics; we are building a community as well as a class. Real people are getting to know you through your application. This is not an automated process; it’s a very human process that takes time and deliberation.

MYTH: Even though Stanford GSB accepts either the GMAT or GRE, it’s better to submit GMAT scores.
THE TRUTH: Nope. We don’t have a preference either way; and if we did, we’d tell you. Do what makes sense for you.



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