Although these phrases and strategies may seem like a good idea, they can damage your candidacy. Avoid the following MBA application mistakes.

  • Top Ranked School

It is never a good idea to say that you want to attend a school because they are highly ranked. The admissions committee selects candidates who are genuinely interested in their specific program, and who can articulate why it is a great fit. A generic desire to go to any top school is not compelling.

  • Network

Understandably, a big part of business school is making useful connections and building your network. However, it can sound too transactional to be overly direct about this dynamic. You want to convey your interest in having genuine relationships, and also in helping others. Instead of saying that you are going to school to build a network purely for your own benefit, it’s better to say that you look forward to learning from your classmates, and to forming reciprocal bonds.

  • Unique

Part of developing a strong candidacy is understanding what you bring to the class, and how you compare to the pool. In reality, no matter how fabulous your experience, there are probably other candidates with similar credentials. In order to avoid sounding grandiose, please don’t tell the committee that you are the only person they will meet with the same background or skills. It’s good to explain what you will contribute, but please do so with humility.

  • Ignoring Instructions

You may have heard about applicants who show up and demand to have an interview, even without an invitation. You may be considering submitting an additional recommendation, despite explicit guidelines to the contrary, or writing about a leadership example from your personal life, even though the prompt asks for a professional illustration. Ignoring the rules always hurts you. It does not make you seem like a motivated maverick, but sends the message that you do not respect the institution.

  • Playing it Cool

All programs, even the most elite, want to protect their yield. They also want students who are excited to be there, and who will be happy and engaged. Let your enthusiasm shine through, and when you have identified the right program, tell the school that it is your top choice.




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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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