MBA Applicant Reality Check

MBA Applicant reality check

When it comes to making mistakes on a business school application, there are many places where candidates can run afoul and ruin their chances at admission. The road to an MBA contains countless potential pitfalls.

You might input the wrong school name or otherwise failing to proofread. You could have generic essays designed to impress rather than reveal. Applicants often err by choosing recommenders based on their titles, not their relationship with them.

However, there are also more process-oriented mistakes students make – and ways to avoid them. Time for an MBA applicant reality-check to help you sidestep the most common blunders.

MBA Applicant Reality Check #1: Unrealistic School Selection

There’s a lot of hype around the top b-school brands.  Of course, most applicants dream of earning their MBA at Harvard Business School or Stanford Graduate School of Business. But the cold, hard truth is that these schools admit a small fraction of applicants each cycle.

According to acceptance data shared by Poets & Quants, HBS admitted 12% of applicants in 2020. Stanford’s acceptance rates were around 7%. percent. The MIT Sloan School of Management and UC Berkeley Haas School of Business became (temporarily?) less competitive in 2020, with acceptance rates of about 22% and 23.3%, respectively.

This doesn’t mean you should abandon all hope of attending one of the world’s best business schools. If you have strong stats and varied leadership examples and extracurriculars, go for it. But, should you fall in the camp of the other 85% of applicants, then having appropriate back-up schools is a must.

Not all programs are the same. Applicants should do a lot of research and soul-searching before the school selection process. Be realistic about your profile. Aligning yourself with programs that mesh with your academic and professional background is the surest recipe for success.

MBA Applicant Reality Check #2: Scores Affect Selection

As we’ve talked about in this space before, preparing early for the entrance exam is critical. Then, you can focus on compelling application essays or cultivating extra leadership opportunities.

The truth is, your GMAT or GRE score will influence your school selection process. Sure, each year we hear of that miracle case where someone gets into Harvard with a 550. But that person likely had an extraordinary profile in every other way, so it offsets the low score.

Use your GMAT or GRE score as a barometer to determine a comfortable range of schools to target. You can go for the “reach school” as well despite a middling test score. But make sure you incorporate the fact that you have a low score into your overall strategy.

MBA Applicant Reality Check #3: You’re Not Ready for B-School—Yet

A huge mistake is applying to business school before you are really ready. It is true MBA admissions skew younger these days. Now it’s common to accept applicants with five or fewer years of work experience. But that means candidates need to be even more amazing in less time.

Have you had enough life experiences to provide an interesting perspective to a class? Will your recommenders act as champions for your cause?

Or is your relationship with a supervisor still new and untested? Can you devote time to improving your test score to expand your portfolio of program options? Would taking another year to strengthen your profile make more sense and yield better results?

Making 100% sure that an MBA is the right step now is a crucial part of soul-searching. Once you can answer in the affirmative, you can embark on the challenging but rewarding journey toward an MBA.

Image by Kristian Bjornard (CC BY-SA 2.0)
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