As a former Tuck Admissions Officer and the Founder and President of North Star Admissions Consulting, I know that it can be hard to separate fact from fiction when it comes to MBA admissions. There is no shortage of damaging misinformation out there – here is the truth about 5 of the most pervasive rumors.

  • Fact or Fiction: You should only take the GMAT once.

Unless you get a 750 (or so) you should plan to take the GMAT more than once. If you get a 700 or 720 on your first attempt schools will assume that you can do better and wonder why you didn’t try again. (They would rather admit you with higher scores, even if they love your candidacy.) If your scores are below the average for your target schools the programs will also wonder why you didn’t try again. Lack of interest? Delusion? Last minute plan to apply to business school? It IS true that taking the test too many times is a bad plan – but more than once is preferred in most situations. FICTION.

  • Fact or Fiction: You might be on the courtesy waitlist.

The courtesy waitlist is real. If you are super connected – your godmother is the Chair of the Board of Trustees, your family name is on the library, etc., and you find yourself on the wait list you might well be a special interest candidate. If not for your connections you were probably destined for the deny pile, but the admissions office was told to retain you to avoid angering the people you are connected to.  Does this mean that you won’t get in? Not necessarily, there are many factors that influence special interest admits, and also lots of dynamics in flux with the wait list. FACT.

  • Fact or Fiction: You need to go to a “name brand” college to get into a top school.

Absolutely false. It is helpful to go to a rigorous undergraduate institution, but business schools look for diversity. They don’t want everyone to come from the same 10 colleges – that type of homogeneity stifles the academic and community atmosphere. Plus, the MBA admissions committee knows that brilliant people go to all sorts of colleges, not just “name brand” ones. FICTION.

  • Fact or Fiction: You can’t get into a top school with a low GPA.

You totally can. I have worked with many clients with low GPA’s who have matriculated to the top schools, some even with scholarships to schools including Wharton, Sloan, Booth, Tuck, etc. The key is to demonstrate that you can handle the work, and also to convince the school that you, personally are worth the numeric hit – so let your personality shine and cast a wide net. FICTION.

  • Fact or Fiction: You should avoid talking about political or religious activities.

Speaking of letting your personality shine, please don’t hide activities that you think are too polarizing. MBA admissions officers are not partisan – even if they voted for the other candidate or can’t personally relate to your religious beliefs, they will still respect your viewpoint and commitment. Furthermore, overly generic candidates tend not to get in, since they don’t stand out in the pool and it’s unclear what they will contribute. Finally, would you really want to go to a school that doesn’t support you as an individual? Go ahead and talk about your true passions. FICTION.

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Karen Marks

Karen has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Wharton, MIT, Tuck, Columbia, Kellogg, Booth, Haas, Duke, Johnson, Ross, NYU, UNC, UCLA, Georgetown and more. Clients have been awarded more than $70 million dollars in scholarships, and more than 98% have gotten into one of their top choice schools.
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