Four Pitfalls to Avoid When Applying to an MBA Program

When you are applying to an MBA program, you have likely taken all parts of this process seriously: researching where you’d like to apply, studying for the GMAT, and even perfecting multiple drafts of the optional essay. To honor all of this effort you’ve made, make sure you avoid these four pitfalls when you apply to your top choices.

1. Submitting a boilerplate application: 

Tailor your application to each MBA program. If you’re drawn to a particular MBA program because you admire one of their successful graduates or because you follow one of their professors’ research, by all means, mention it. Demonstrate that you’ve done your due diligence and have a genuine interest in the program​. Be authentic.​

2. Downplaying your uniqueness:

Admissions staffers have the unique challenge of reading thousands of applications and working to put together an accomplished,​ diverse, interesting, promising​ MBA class each year. You should present your most competitive application possible—and it’s good to stand out from the crowd. If you majored in English or biology while pursuing your bachelor’s degree, don’t see your non-business undergraduate background as a liability. By contrast, your application will stand out. Tell your story! How have your prior work experiences and outside interests (travel, languages, service to community, etc.) and passions made you a good candidate? What unique qualities or accomplishments serve to enhance your potential to succeed in the program and your post-MBA career?

3. Settling for “famous” but flat recommendation letters:

While it might be tempting to ask for letters of recommendation from ​the president of your company or your very successful fourth cousin who was just elected governor, you may wish to ​reconsider. Instead, opt for recommendations from managers who know you well, and who can speak specifically about your talents and your ability,​ and your ambition to become a leader and make your mark.

4. Failing to answer the essay question:

Ask friends or colleagues who know you well to review​ your application. In addition to proofreading (we all know the experience of having become so familiar with a written document that typographical errors become essentially invisible to the eye), they can give you feedback on whether you’ve communicated the full range of your strengths and whether your application has any areas for improvement. Do your essays answer the questions? Are they succinct? Are they authentic?​

For more advice on applying to MBA programs, and to explore whether you should custom-tailor an application for the Boston College Carroll School of Management, connect with us. We’re here to help.