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Top 6 Mistakes Applicants Make in MBA Application

There are many ways to crack the top B-schools in any country. Be it Harvard or INSEAD, LBS or IESE, there are no straightforward ways to get through. However, there are certain aspects of your application that will ensure that you DON’T MAKE IT!

Yes, there are mistakes you can make in your application. While many questions in an MBA application are generally quite broad and open-ended, there are certain lacks that the AdCom will look out for. And if you happen to portray those lacks, then you can expect to go home empty handed no matter how good your application is.

So, what are these mistakes? How can you avoid them? And most importantly, how can you make your application stand out? All these questions will be answered right here – keep reading! 

MBA Application Mistake 1: Speaking in a general manner only

This is actually one of the most common mistakes made by MBA applicants. Many tend to write global narratives about climate crisis, poverty, and other social evils in their essays. These issues are important, but what is more important to the AdCom is how unique your viewpoint is towards these issues. If you are simply explaining the issue and not going a step beyond that then you are not really explaining yourself, and that is what the application is meant for!

Always keep in mind that your application is going to be scrutinized with a sharp human mind, and any tall-tales you try to spin about heartfelt issues will not really work. Rather, if you actually put yourself along with your weaknesses in the story you are presenting it will come across as more human and probably raise your chances of getting an admit.

Bottom line’ don’t turn your MBA application into a writing contest!

MBA Application Mistake 2: Keeping it to examples only

There will be many questions in your application that will ask you to describe a situation or a period of your life. For example – a time when you overcame failure or when you had to work with a difficult team member, etc. These questions hold a lot of weight and you need to present a story that is true from your past. However, presenting the story is never enough!

If you are just describing a failure situation in your life and not following it up with how you were able to overcome that failure the AdCom will not consider you as a wholesome candidate. Similarly, if you only explain the difficulties you faced with a team member but not how you dealt with it, the AdCom is likely to think that you are incapable of dealing with a tough situation. 

Never make your answer come across as a ‘fill in the blank’ question. Always make sure that any situation or example you provide is tied to your growth story and explain in detail about how it influenced you as a person.

MBA Application Mistake 3: Poor English 

Your MBA application is not a test of how good your English is. But, if you think about it, you are going into this degree expecting to have managerial positions offered to you by the end of it. Can you imagine a top-tier MNC hiring a manager who cannot communicate in English clearly?

You may possess every skill and trait that is required of an MBA candidate, but if your communication skills are poor you are going to have an extremely tough time. Misplaced punctuations or spelling errors in your application will not earn you a dismissal straight away; however they will definitely come across as a negative marker. 

Candidates are given plenty of time to prepare their applications. So, if you are leaving grammatical errors in your essays expect it to work against you. And overall, keep the language simple and clear. Nobody wants Shakespeare applying to a B-school!

MBA Application Mistake 4: Missing the logical bridge

An important part of your application essays is explaining your long-term and short-term goals. Even if it is not asked directly it is expected that your various answers will outline your career trajectory. Now, this is where a lot of applicants goof up. It is okay to dream big, but you need to ensure that your dreams are grounded somewhere in your past work experience.

Sure, you can jump from the IT industry to being a consultant through a well placed MBA degree. But, if your short term goal is to join a leading consulting industry at a senior position while coming from an IT company where you have worked for 3-5 years – it is unrealistic!

The career plan you present to the AdCom has to be laid out well (but not in minute detail), and there should be a certain logic to it. Use the MBA degree as a means to an end, but mention an end that is actually achievable with hard work. Explain the skills you will learn and not simply the goals you seek, explain the pathway and not just the destination.

MBA Application Mistake 5: Only concentrating on certain parts

It is a bit obvious to think that the essays and references of your application carry the most weight. But, does this mean the other parts are not scrutinized at all? That is not the case! The rest of your application is the best way to support the central narrative present in your essays and resume. Try to use the smaller segments as pieces of the puzzle that is your essay. 

Something to keep in mind here is whether the overall application is repeating the central themes of your essays and references. For example, the successes you mention in your application should also be reflected in your recommendation letters. In other words, make sure that your entire application is being given its due importance.

MBA Application Mistake 6: Describing volunteer work

This is somewhat connected to the first point in this article. When you are being asked to describe your volunteer experience the AdCom doesn’t really care how many poor people you helped at an NGO, or how many dogs you could take to a shelter, etc. What they want to hear is how this impacted your persona and what you learn from the experience.

If you simply describe your role as a volunteer and not the impact it had upon you, they will either think that you are a shallow person or they might also think you are making up stories. So, make sure that you are stressing upon yourself as the centre of the narrative and not just the work done by you. Another aspect you should outline if possible is any leadership aspects in your volunteer work.

Most Important Mistake – Lack of Research

The 6 mistakes mentioned above are quite common when it comes to those applying without much prior knowledge. However, there is another primary mistake that almost every second applicant makes. And this is not doing enough research about the B-schools they are applying to!

This mistake can be twofold. Firstly, it can manifest as a wrong choice. For example, someone may decide that they want to apply to only the top 5 schools and nothing else. Sure, if you believe your profile to be that strong, go right ahead. But chances are that you will be losing out to the competition. So, doing some research and broadening out your target schools will definitely help you. 

Don’t know how you can do that? Watch this video below for a quick lesson in shortlisting B-schools!

The second way someone can commit this mistake is to go through the website of a B-school and think it is adequate research. It is not! You should be reading blogs, student testimonials, connecting with alumni, attending pre-admission webinars, etc. And if possible, always do a school visit. The more you know about a certain B-school, the better your chances will be at cracking it. You will even learn certain aspects that the AdCom might be looking out for, and this will definitely strengthen your essay narrative.

What you need to understand is that every resource available will ultimately help you in one way or another. So, put your best effort into the research process and you will gain multiple pointers that will help create a strong application. The final goal is to create a relevant application and stand out at the same time. 

Keep these pointers in mind and best of luck!

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For over 15+ years as an Entrepreneur, and India’s Top Educationist, Jatin has led a range of initiatives in the Education Industry. In this role, he has created many successful educational services and products geared towards generating success for professionals aspiring to join IVY League and global Top Tier Universities for MBA Programs, Masters Programs, and undergraduate courses. He is the Founder and CEO of PythaGURUS Education, and has been recognized as a thought leader in the Higher education sector. Economic Times, Hindustan Times, Times of India, India Today, Business Today, Tribune, and many other national newspapers have recognized his work, and have given him numerous opportunities to be a regular columnist. He has also served as a panelist for NDTV, and other national news channels.

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