From Our Consultants: The Most Important Thing MBA Applicants Should Know

From application essays to LORs to the infamous MBA interview, there’s a LOT that goes into getting into b-school. And that means there are a lot of application Do’s and Don’ts.

DO write a compelling essay. DO NOT use industry jargon.
DO choose the recommender that knows you best. DO NOT write your own LOR.
DO prepare questions for your interviewer. DO NOT spend 15 minutes summarizing your resume for your interviewer….

Yeah, it can get pretty overwhelming. So what is the most important thing you should know as you approach those MBA applications? We asked our team of rockstar consultants for their best advice/greatest nuggets of b-school wisdom/opinion on the one thing you should keep in mind as you work on your apps.

And here is what they had to say:

Don’t tell the adcoms what you THINK they wanna hear; that just triggers their B.S. detectors. Do the opposite: SHOW them what you’re about. And win their hearts.

The easiest way to get rejected is to be identified as a “manufactured” applicant who is simply trying too hard to look good. Be authentic and true to who you are within your applications. You’ll naturally put in more passion and enthusiasm into your essays and that WILL help you to stand out from the pack.

There are plenty of high-achievers applying for MBAs.  In your app, be clear about what you’ve accomplished, but don’t forget:  it’s often the PERSONAL aspect of your story that makes you stand out, and helps contextualize your goals. Help the Adcom get to know YOU, not just your resume.  This is the time to be introspective about the experiences that have made you who you are, as well as the interpersonal, human angles of the stories you are telling.

Sometimes a person applies to business school not because he or she really wants an MBA, but because of some other reason — to move to another country, to be in the same city as a loved one, or even to stall for time as true motivations are revealed. All these reasons are as VALID as getting the opportunity to join Goldman Sachs or McKinsey, so long as the applicant is truthful to him or herself. So my best piece of advice: know EXACTLY why you applying and you won’t go too wrong.

Spend the time to do your own research on each of the schools – and provide detailed, specific reasons why you want to go there.  What clubs will you be involved in?  Which classes do you want to take?  Which entrepreneurs in residence do you want to meet with?  Prove that you know the school inside and out, and show how you’ll hit the ground running on day 1!

Be open-minded about your choices of MBA programs!

Remember that the MBA is not your end-station. I’ve seen candidates often limit their choices of MBA programs by World Rankings, although they haven’t visited the school, done research into the program, and have even arbitrarily chosen a ranking system. Your goals are not to “get an MBA from the highest ranked program,” but rather to go the program that will enrich you the most, teach you the most, and give you the best possible opportunities to reach your goals and dreams.

Don’t be afraid of adding dramatic flare to your essays, folks.  At the end of the day, an AdCom is reading HUNDREDS of essays day in and day out and you need someway to stand out, someway of getting the AdCom to talk about you during their coffee break.  In truth, many of you have super impressive accomplishments so unless you single-handedly developed the marketing plan for the iPhone 5, it’ll be tough to stand out on nothing more than your accomplishments.  What I encourage you to do is to paint a narrative, give the reader some vivid context which puts them in your shoes and thus, truly appreciate the gravity of the situation.  Make the reader bite their nails when you’re talking about how stressful your greatest challenge was; make them cheer for you when you go into your greatest failure.

Not many of us are gifted writers so it might be tough to write such flowing narratives, however, you have an advantage – unlike fiction, you actually lived the moments you are writing about.  You saw, smelled, felt, heard, and in some ways, tasted the moment, so all of the material for this is locked into that awesome brain of yours.  For some help in writing, follow the greats!  Look at some of your favorite novels and go back to the best parts and see what the authors did to convey that feeling.  Even movies with great scripts, V for Vendetta for instance, are wonderful examples of fantastic use of emotive narratives.

Be yourself. Be honest. Be specific. Be bold.
That’s the kind of stuff that will get you into b-school.