Four Types of BS That Won’t Work in an MBA Application

Putting the finishing touches on those Round 1 applications? Finally sitting down to get started on your apps for Round 2? Great!


Before you send those things off or get too deep into your work, take a moment and make sure you’re not committing one of the 4 cardinal sins of b-school applications.

1)  Writing all your own LORs…in a hurry.

Yes, we know, in some cases you will have no choice but to write one of your LORs (and hopefully not more than one) for your recommenders.  They are too busy, they aren’t great writers, blablabla. But if you ARE forced to write your own LOR, do yourself a favor: take your TIME.  Sloooow down the process, and make SURE that you have someone else’s voice in there. Make sure that you aren’t just rehashing all the same examples that your recommender is.  This is very hard to do, and it can NOT be done in 35 minutes.  Work HARD to make it seem as though someone else at least THOUGHT of the ideas, even if he or she didn’t write it…

2) Repeating your resume. Verbatim.

I am a real estate guy, and this colors everything I do.  I see business school apps the same way.  That is, you are given only a certain amount of real estate to play with.  So do yourself a favor, and use the resume to talk about some DIFFERENT items than what you write about in your essays, LORs, etc.  It is to be expected that your recommender will bring some NEW stuff to the table.  And he should!  The same thing goes for your essays. Nothing marks a bigger waste of an opportunity than simply repeating your resume, first in your essays, and then in your LORs.  Take advantage of all your real estate, my friends, and highlight something new, something different, something else that will wow the adcoms.

3) Talking about the meaning of life, your process, etc.  And not, you know, talking about the fact that you are applying to business school…

We see this problem all the time.  Folks like to talk about what they have been through, the sadness of life, their misfortune, their process, and all the things that makes them, well, them.  And that is great!  But let’s not lose sight of one simple fact my friends: this is BUSINESS school!  You need to paint yourself first and foremost as a BUSINESS person, destined to succeed in the world of business.  This isn’t “meaning of life’ school, this is BUSINESS school.  So while your background is important, and your hopes and dreams (and the fact that they were dashed when your YYY was diagnosed with ZZZ) are important, they are ONLY important as they make you into a better BUSINESS person.

4) Cutting and pasting essays from elsewhere.

Yes, a lot of business school applications ask similar questions… and business school applications take a lot of time. So why not save some time and use the same essay to answer the same questions on different apps? Of course it is okay in some instances, especially when it comes to the career goals essay. But if you are cutting and pasting, be sure to at least tweak the language in your response. If the question is asking “about a RISK you took,” and you write about the time “you took advantage of an opportunity,” you COULD be just fine.  After all, the answer may well be the same! But the context is different…and you need to work that into your answer. Don’t be foolish—make sure to reword the answer so that you are borrowing, specifically, from the NEW question. Reword it so that nobody would EVER think that you simply cut and pasted, even though sometimes it is perfectly appropriate.


The Tuesday Q&A: Round 1 or Round 2?