Common MBA Application Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Common Mistakes

You’ve written the perfect essay. You stayed up all night studying for the GMATs. You have a resume packed full with professional experience. And yet you were rejected from every top-tier MBA program you applied to.

Where do you go from here?

Although feeling frustrated and disappointed are understandable, it’s important to know that rejection doesn’t necessarily signal the end of your MBA career.

According to Graham Richmond, co-founder of Clear Admit/MetroMBA, some schools reject more than 90% of all applicants. “It is perfectly natural for one to feel the sting of rejection for a period of time. It can take time to accept the result and clear your head before immediately plotting a set of next steps.”

Graham Richmond

Graham Richmond is a co-founder of Clear Admit. He holds an MBA from Wharton.

Richmond, who graduated with his MBA from The Wharton School in 2001, was rejected from all of the top tier schools he applied to the first time around.

After graduation, he worked as an admissions counselor at Wharton and co-founded an admissions consulting firm, often working one-on-one with applicants and witnessing the process from a new perspective.

If you’ve been rejected from a top tier school, the first step Richmond recommends is to consider your options for this admissions cycle. If you have received offers from other schools, though not your top choice, it is worthwhile to weigh these options against reapplying to business school and even against abandoning the MBA pursuit entirely. If it still seems possible to achieve your career goals with a degree from one of these schools, it may be worth it not to wait.

If you do choose to wait for the next admissions cycle, it does seem that reapplicants have a high rate of success. Just one year after a slew of rejections from schools like Harvard, Wharton and Columbia, Richmond was admitted to every one. So what changed? According to Richmond, “[a]s a part of the reapplication process it is vital to take stock of your previous application(s) and really understand what may have gone wrong.”

Even if your essay was perfect and your resume jam-packed, there are still a number of mistakes even an incredibly qualified applicant can make. Whether you are starting the application process for an MBA, or you’ve been rejected from your top choice schools, below are some of the reasons why you might be getting rejected and ways to fix these issues the next time around.

Common MBA Application Mistakes

Get Your Story Straight

According to Richmond, one of the biggest reasons an applicant could be rejected from their top choice school is the lack of a clear professional narrative.

“I think that inconsistent messaging across the written application materials can often spell serious trouble.  Applicants that fail to effectively or consistently demonstrate a coherent narrative to their past (or with regards to their future plans) will often raise red flags with the admissions reader,” he said. “On a related note, I should also mention that the last thing on earth an admissions officer wants to do is ‘play detective’ and try to piece together gaps in a story or holes in a resume.”

Not only can the lack of a clear narrative confuse admissions officers, but it can only create problems with other application materials across the board. No matter how well written your essay is, a lack of clarity and consistency in your personal narrative can make your writing sound confused and without direction.

Even if your resume seems jam-packed with experience, a lack of cohesion among that experience might be a reason you are still getting rejected.

As you prepare for the next round of admissions, consider your experience up to this point as well as future career goals. Understanding how your past experience contributes to your current goals could be key in creating a clear and cohesive professional narrative.

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About the Author

Alanna Shaffer

Staff Writer, covering MetroMBA's news beat for Atlanta, Houston, and Dallas.

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