In my book MBA Admissions Strategy I offer the following advice: “Proofread to show your hunger” (that is, hunger for MBA admission, a real desire to be selected.)
Typographic or other careless errors in your text immediately clues Adcom in as to how (un)careful you were with your text, and this tells them not only how organized and detail-oriented you are but also how much you actually really care about your application to their particular school.
It also tells them whether you are a closer and finisher who nails things exactly, or a “glancing-blow” kind of guy.
In this sense MBA admissions works just like a resume you send out for a job. If there’s one error in it, eyebrows will be raised. Two errors and you’ve written yourself out of a job.
The longstanding ‘pet peeve’ across all Adcom readers is that the wrong school name often appears in the text. That is, Stanford GSB Adcom gets essays that say: “I would contribute to the peer learning environment at Wharton by …” Ouch.
The spellchecker will help you a bit, but is not foolproof. It will happily let you say your first mentor was your high school principle. It will not replace Booth with Tuck. Nor does it know that Haas is a business school while Hass is an avocado.
The tricky thing is that you, the essay-writing applicant, will battle to proofread your own work. Obvious errors will slip by undetected because your eyes will be focused (rightly) on content and message value delivery.
The MBA Admissions Studio does not offer a proofing service either, for the same reason. Proofreading should be done by someone who is seeing the essays for the first time, and who is tasked specifically with looking for errors, not reading for content or value.
A client recently sent me this handy new utility from GMAC, purveyors of the GMAT, which allows test-takers to rate their score with reference to their cohort filtered by intended degree, age, gender, country, and so on.
If you try it you will be able to see how you stack up against the sub-group you are really competing against.
You may also take heart that the median is much lower than you think. True, this doesn’t help “GMAT paranoia” when you look at your elite school and find it has an average accepted GMAT of 720 and your score is 680…
For that you need to absorb what the schools keep telling us — once again here in a recent WSJ interview with Derrick Bolton Director of MBA Admissions at Stanford GSB — which is that the GMAT is only one among many factors that determine admission.
WSJ: “Do you check out the GMAT score and if it’s below a certain number, put that application aside?”
Bolton: “That would rob us of a lot of talent. The GMAT is helpful in terms of understanding how someone can perform in the first year, but that’s one small piece of the overall M.B.A.”
What would be nice, for the next iteration of this GMAC utility, would be the ability to check a box that shows the GMAT arc of accepted students at Stanford, or Harvard, or Tuck, etc. That arc would by definition show the 50% below the incoming median score, and how low incoming scores can be, and that would be reassuring to the many hundreds of applicants who will get into elite schools despite not being “GMAT geniuses.”
MBA Podcaster’s MBA Pod TV provides this 10-min take-out from Q&A at a recent Forte Foundation-hosted MBA Admission Directors Panel:
In the video, Pat Harrison refers to one of the key mistakes applicants make in MBA admissions: they leave Adcom to make connections and assumptions in joining the dots (as to their prior education choices, career path decisions, reasons for wanting an MBA, etc.) Doing this leaves applicants open to clumsy misinterpretation. As Harrison puts it: Adcom will “guess wrong!”
The solution is not just to be clear. That’s obviously good, but just first base. They key way to get beyond the problem is to consciously take care to provide insight into the reasoning and decision-making behind each important past (and planned future) choice in your life and career.
Other topics covered in the video segment are: how to strengthen an MBA interview; who to get letters of recommendations from; appropriate use of the optional essay; and managing “over-sharing” of personal information.
The panel is Pat Harrison, Associate Director of Admissions, Tuck School of Business; Sharon Thompson, Director of Diversity Initiatives, Duke Fuqua School of Business; Analilia Silva, Associate Director of Admission Kelley School of Business, Indiana University; and Erin Nickelsburg, Director of Admissions and Recruitment, Wisconsin School of Business.