Category Archives: MBA Admissions

Key points of advice for MBA admissions applicants, including some surprises

Continuing the process of moving stuff off the static site to this new blog format, this in an interview I did with About.com . The questions allowed me to say some perhaps slightly less-than-usual things. The original is here.
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How soon should potential MBA students start preparing for the admissions process?
About 9 months to a year prior to submission deadline – giving time to research the process, research schools, line up recommenders, do the GMAT etc. Earlier start good, but it’s not a simple case of the earlier the better…
the candidate needs to get immersed in the application process. Certainly s/he doesn’t want to dilute the process over years and years. That’s a recipe for a lukewarm application. Generally applicants should be wary of spending too much time on their application research and production – some do – at the risk of having their career stall and missing the key workplace award or promotion that would help them shine in front of Adcom.

Should prospective MBA students submit applications to several schools or are they better of concentrating their efforts on one or two favorites?
Both really. Favorites should be carefully targeted, no holds-barred. But the applicant should also be street-smart in recognizing that competition for top schools is intense, and any one favorite school acceptance may not emerge. In my experience the ideal number of applications is 4-5. Less means the randomness of random dings is not taken out the equation. More starts to dilute the energy of the applicant and recommender, and take too much time (ref answer above).

In your book, MBA Admissions Strategy, you mention that nearly everyone under 35 with respectable undergraduate transcripts and a good professional record has a realistic chance of getting into the finest business schools. Some prospective students don’t share this optimistic view. I get a large number of emails from individuals who feel that poor GMAT scores or attendance at a less prestigious undergraduate school can hurt their chances during the admissions process. What advice can you offer these students?
In my experience a less prestigious U/G school is a very minor factor, and is entirely a non-factor if there is some concrete reason (normally funding) why the applicant went to “Buckwheat State” and not Harvard College. What counts more is how the applicant performed academically at whatever institution they were at. But even more than that, business schools heavily weigh what a candidate has done between college graduation and MBA application. A good professional record trumps college level branding. (This is different to Grad & Law & Med schools, where applicants apply younger and with less or zero work experience, so college brand is all adcoms have to go on.)

As to GMAT, yes, it is true a minimum threshold GMAT is necessary. If one is not in the high 600s, an application to a top-10 school will stall. But the GMAT works on a threshold principle – the applicant needs a high enough score to relax Adcom about his or her academic ability. After that they start asking other questions – about leadership, team skills, career arc, etc.

Footnote to this is that, believe it or not, a GMAT score can be “too good” – anything above about 760 is problematic. This is because the applicant starts to look like a genius and questions will be asked about whether that person will make a good manager and leader. B-school is a professional place with the aim of turning out people who will survive and thrive in the cut & thrust of real world business. That’s what recruiters want. So Adcom looks carefully at apparent geniuses and dings them if it appears they may be better suited to PhD program and research career.

What are four attributes every admissions committee wants to see in an MBA student?
See my book, chapter 2 “Attributes that Count” for a list of 22 such attributes. It’s hard to say which 4 count the most. I think a clear success record is definitely up there; along with personal integrity; being a team player that mixes well; and leadership experience and potential. But there’s no privileged four. I strongly believe in all 22.

How important is it for applicants to show that they possess these attributes?
The key here is “show”. So many applicants claim they possess attributes. That’s worth nothing. The attributes have to be shown by telling proof stories – that is, anecdotes of the candidate in action, acquiring or living the attribute.

What are the three most common mistakes that an MBA applicant can make, and how can these mistakes be avoided?
1. Trying to be a typical MBA applicant – leading to a generic and therefore low-value application.
2. Inability to see what is precious and valuable in their past activities, from Adcom’s point of view.
3. Wasting precious essay space with sentences and paragraphs that do not deliver or prove profile value.

Is there any additional advice that you can offer students who are trying to develop an MBA admissions strategy?
Candidates should balance their energy between the major blocks of an application, which are: (a)GMAT (b)File essay questions & long essays (c) Recommendations (d) Interview. (I assume their college record is set). In having helped hundreds of applicants get into top schools, the application strategy weakness I see most is candidates who are willing to spend an unbelievable amount of time and energy, not to mention money, trying to get their GMAT score up one notch, while neglecting the rest.

As mentioned, the GMAT operates on a threshold principle – more is better up to a certain point – then more is irrelevant. And the balanced good application beats the unbalanced excellent/patchy application (and remember, they don’t want brainiacs). They are looking for people who appear good on all fronts. Someone who looks like they will continue to be good on all fronts. This is what I call the “CEO-in-Waiting” image.

16 Reasons to Choose the MBA Admissions Studio as your MBA application partner

These are the reasons to choose us for your MBA applications support and admissions coaching:

Verified past successes: Our admission rate for all applicants to all schools is close to perfect (over 96%). On average our clients tell us we improved their prospects by 3x. But don’t just take our word for it – where they’ve given permission we’re happy to let you talk to them.

Leaders in the field since 2002: We are not beginners. We’re experts in MBA admissions, have authored published books, and/or contribute regularly to print and Web media in this field. We understand Adcoms, how the admission system words, know the terrain, and can lead you through it.

Undiluted focus on the MBA: We’re specialists in MBA admissions and we stick to our knitting. Compare this with the jack-of-all-trades admissions shops: a bit of Med School here, a bit of PhD there… With us, there’s no chance your application will be touched by anyone who’s not an MBA specialist. It’s all we do.

Value guarantee: Our prices are the lowest among credible players in the industry, and our unique pick-and-choose service structure means you can take what you need when you need it and not pay more: no extras, no hidden costs. We will beat any quote.

Flexibility: Our modular system means there is no system that locks you in, and no minimum spend. It’s designed to be totally flexible and client-friendly. We think it’s the perfect system for the empowered, savvy, business buyer. We don’t ask you for thousands upfront. Be suspicious of any company that does.

A rigorous, comprehensive process: Our candidate profile development system (see services) has worked for applicants to top-20 schools year after year. We never just rush to put a pretty face on a weak proposal. First we build up your value proposition, then we make sure it comes across in your essays, interviews, and references.

Superior communications: Avi Gordon and anyone else who touches your copy is a qualified, proven English editor with a strong writing background. These are people whose professional job it is to construct persuasive messages, create unique, memorable stories, and edit copy for grammar and stylistic polish.

Clear, structured, thorough feedback: Some will take a stab at your copy and leave you to pick up the pieces. We give you a structure to write to, and then a line-by-line, easy-to-follow review and clear next-steps as to how to add ideas or address problems. We don’t just say “fix-it,” we lead you through the process.

Real personal attention: Beware of essay supermarkets. The MBA Admissions Studio is not one of them. We believe that to do MBA admission right we have to build relationships where we actually get to know you and think about your case. And, hey, you can call us anytime and actually speak to a live person!

Unlimited access: Some admissions shops limit the number of times or the number of days during which you can access your consultant. What’s with that!? At the MBA Admission Studio you have unlimited e-mail/ phone access to us.

Balance of capacity and clients: We have enough capacity to give each client 100% attention all the way through the process. If we can’t, we’ll turn work away. Beware of providers who you suddenly find “impossible to reach” when you need them the most – as deadline day draws near.

Genuine SOS service: We’ve done this before so we know (sigh) that some applicants write their essays days before the deadline. No problem. We’ll flip your text back to you over the weekend or inside one working day, if you are up against it. Sometimes this costs more, but it’s there: dawn patrol, midnight fixes, whatever it takes…

Genuine quality assurance: All admissions strategy and all editing passes through quality assurance supervision you can rely on. If we mess up (it can happen, we’re human!) we make it right or your money back.

Real international applications experience: We don’t just claim to be able to help international applicants. We have also lived in cross-cultural situations and experienced every key issue international candidates face. Some of our most memorable successes have involved Americans going abroad, or foreigners to the US.

Verified integrity and standing: We’re an accountable, minority-friendly, foreigner-friendly company with seniority you can rely on. We’ve been independently verified by media and industry partners and have been the official admissions partner to the World MBA Tour. We’re not a bunch of Internet jocks out for a joyride.

Confidentiality and security: We will never disclose your name, email, or anything you say or write, to any person, company, school, or institution. We never sell essays on. Payments are handled by a third party and we never see your card number.

The MBA Admissions Studio goes blogging

Were still in the testing phase, but time has come for MBA Studio to become a blog site – and twitterer – in keeping with the times. Since 2002, MBA Studio, run by Avi Gordon has helped thousands of applicants get admitted to competitive business schools for MBA and EMBA programs. Avi is the author of “MBA Admissions Strategy: From Profile Building to Essay Writing (McGraw Hill / Open University Press) which has been very handsomely reviewed by readers – see Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

MBA Admissions support is more than just editing essays. It is advice and coaching. In most cases it involves carefully getting to know clients, and helping them explore and really figure out their their competitive value: what their story is, what will make them noticeable and memorable to Adcom. And then helping them say it as powerfully as possible, via admissions essays, interviews and the rest of the application process. Over seven years, client feedback has been amazing and gratifying. See other parts of this and accompanying pages for a flavor of it. (All client feedback is verifiable.)

This blog will be my way to keep resources to applicants flowing, both from my writing – essays, advice columns, book excerpts – and bringing you the best from the broader b-school media and blogger community. -Avi