Preparing a strong MBA application package is not easy. It requires time, commitment, and a personal approach even from the very best business school applicants. And although nobody is perfect, we set about investigating the most common mistakes that people could easily avoid in their applications.
Let us first outline what a typical B-school application looks like. It consists of several types of documents that should be prepared well in advance. These usually include formal proof of language proficiency (such as TOEFL or IELTS for programmes in English), admissions test score (such as GMAT or GRE), CV/resume, statement of purpose, and letters of recommendation. However, keep in mind that the application procedure and required documentation will differ for each business school and programme. For example, some schools do not have rigid requirements for the submission of GMAT or GRE scores, especially when it comes to Master’s studies. Others will have detailed instructions regarding the essay or statement of purpose you need to submit – its topic, length, and format.
With so many details to take care of, it is not difficult to imagine a few mistakes here and there. But what should applicants stay aware of so that they do not fall into a familiar trap? Fortunately for readers, PrepAdviser met the admissions directors of some of the world’s leading business schools to learn what common mistakes they usually encounter in applications.
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Here is what Rebekah Melville who is Director of Financial Aid at Yale School of Management (US) shared:
The truth is it’s really hard to put together a perfect application. Everyone makes a few mistakes and that’s fine. Very often people don’t describe as much of their values as they should in their application documentation. The candidates should build a case for themselves on why there’s a spot for them in the programme they have chosen. The only way to do that in such a limited framework is by not repeating yourself and being individual.
Yulia Koroleva, Associate Director of Admissions at ESADE Business School (Spain), weighed in with a piece of advice that is increasingly relevant in the competitive world of business education. According to her, B-school applicants often rush to submit an application package which is either not complete, suitable or personalised enough for that particular programme.
I would say that probably the biggest mistake is not taking enough time to prepare the application. Knowing the real motivation behind a candidate’s application is very important for us. We want to understand if the candidate would be a good fit for our programme. So, take some time working on the application and also make sure the time is right for taking the entrance exams. It’s also important to make sure that your application is ready on time.
The importance of submitting a personalised and unique application was also echoed by Lauranne Bardin who is Admissions Director at HEC Paris (France):
It’s really important to write a very personalised application. We need to know that the candidate is really motivated to apply to that school in particular. We need to understand that the candidate really knows about the programme and has done research about the school. It shouldn’t be just copy and paste from another business school application. I think it’s also very important for candidates to tell us their professional objectives. They should be careful with that and shouldn’t just mention that they want to do an MBA just because it’s an idea that they had. They need to have some kind of career plan and it’s really important to make sure that we would be able to help them achieve their goals after the MBA.
Very often MBA and Master’s applicants can be so focused on polishing the structure and completeness of their application that they happen to overlook simple mistakes. Whether you are applying to business school, sending in a job application or maintaining correspondence with a business partner, the piece of advice offered from Anna Pauwels, International Recruitment Manager at Emlyon Business School (France), is a universal one:
The biggest mistake that I find is the fact that there are spelling mistakes in the essays. This is something very simple but you need to take the time to check. Use Microsoft Word and spellcheck to make sure there are no spelling mistakes. This may seem very insignificant but when we’re reading hundreds of essays and we see someone making spelling mistakes, it just shows that you are unprofessional and that you do not check your work.
Finally, a common mistake that should be easily avoided by applicants has to do with the focus of their CV/resume. Claire McKeown who is Recruitment Manager at Warwick Business School (UK) explains:
Personally, I see a lot of applications from candidates who have submitted CVs/resumes that they’ve used for job applications in the past. Often the CV/resume can be quite technical or descriptive of what their job entails on a day-to-day basis rather than giving us an overall view of the kind of career progression that they’ve made and the managerial responsibilities they’ve had. We’re looking for evidence of their leadership skills and we want to see their strategic thinking, business planning, and decision making rather than hearing about their job-specific skills.
Whether you are an MBA or a Master’s applicant, it is important that you do not feel overwhelmed if these aspects of the application procedure seem difficult or unfamiliar at first. After putting some time and effort in figuring out the process, it will all be much easier to comprehend and compile.
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