MBA Application Tips: Common Errors That You Can Avoid

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The process of applying to an MBA program can be a stressful one, and there is no underestimating the fact that it requires plenty of diligence and patience. There are some simple steps you can take to remove some of the difficulty of completing your application. Here are some ways to avoid common mistakes that applicants make.

Get Solid Recommendations

A leading reason that future MBAs don’t get into their chosen programs is that they’ve received a lukewarm or impersonal recommendation. Choose a colleague or mentor who knows you well and who has faith in your abilities, and with whom you’ve worked recently. A big mistake many candidates make is to choose a recommender who is in a position of clout, but who doesn’t necessarily know them very well.

Test Smart

Even if your history proves that you test well, it’s just as important to test smart. Prepare as much as possible for the GMAT. Taking a prep class will make you aware of what you can expect. Avoid cramming and take practice tests. Also, if you don’t score well on your first try, try and try again. If you don’t score well on the GMAT, consider taking the GRE, which focuses more on writing skills.

interviewBe Prepared

When you’ve made it past the testing stage and into the interview, do your homework. Practice aloud, and remember to steer the conversation as opposed to letting the interviewer do most of the talking. Come equipped with questions of your own, and remember that MBA admissions interviews are not job interviews. You must connect on a personal level.

Make Your Essay Unique

A common error that applicants make is submitting the same essay to multiple schools. It’s helpful to view your essays as personal sales pitches, and no two schools have the same idea of what it is that they want to ‘buy’. Even if different applications have similar questions, be sure to cater each response uniquely. Reviewers want an interesting story rather than a list of your achievements.

Be Honest

Even if there are things in your academic past such as poor grades or low test scores, it’s important to remember that there are ways to address these things without exaggerating them. You’ll round out your profile for the reviewer by pointing out the circumstances behind what happened, and also how you redeemed yourself.

View Your Application Holistically

MBA applications aren’t a series of distinct pieces, but a whole package and it is helpful to view it as such. Essays, as we mentioned earlier, should tell a story as opposed to simply re-listing your accomplishments and activities. Have someone with experience proofread the whole application to ensure that it paints a full portrait of you, personally and professionally.

Focus on Leadership in Extracurricular Activities

Admissions boards don’t simply want to see endless lists of volunteer efforts, despite how impressive they might be. It’s important to engage in activities that illustrate initiative and leadership, and your ability to manage tasks and to follow through.

Applying to MBA programs is of course a highly competitive and challenging process, but avoiding some of these common mistakes can make it less daunting. For more tips on the admissions process, visit here.

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About the Author

Maggie Boccella

Maggie Boccella, a lifelong resident of Philadelphia, is a freelance writer, artist and photographer. She has consulted on various film and multimedia projects, and she also serves as a juror for the city's annual LGBTQIA Film Festival.


  1. Avatar

    I have completed my post graduation and I am searching for some courses that I can opt for in the field of business and management. I would be obliged if I could get a little guidelines as to how can I start looking for the criteria for applying in different business and management schools to study abroad.

    • Avatar

      Hi Simer,

      First and foremost, you should define your post-MBA career goals, as this will help you decide on where you’d like your concentration to lie and thus which type of program you’d like to pursue. This will also help you in your search to locate any specific faculty that would be good mentors. I’d also review school employment records to see which schools produce high numbers of graduates working in your desired industry.

      To begin narrowing down the pool of possible schools in which to apply, you should assess your GMAT/GRE scores and work experience. Check out the program websites and see what their average GMAT/GRE scores are and gauge whether or not you fall in line. Also check their minimum required work experience.

      If you are opting not to take the GMAT/GRE, here is a list of programs that do not require scores:
      If you have limited work experience or are applying straight from undergrad, here is a list of programs that do not require work experience:

      Once you have a pool of schools in which to apply, I would study up on the admissions process:

      Hope this helps get you started! Good luck!

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