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10 Myths That Can Destroy Your MBA Application

January 13, 2016 :: Claudia Nelson


As a future, or current business school applicant, getting an MBA is one of the most important things you’ll ever do.

And like anything worth doing, it’s a lot of work. Every day, our team meets people from all over the world who have chosen, or are choosing, to put in the time and effort it takes to get into a top program. When people get started with us, there are lots of misconceptions about the process of applying to B-School, from cost, to value, school selection and beyond.

Based on our experience, here are 10 of the most common myths about business school that can absolutely crush a hopeful MBA applicant’s dreams of getting into their top choices.

MBA Admissions Myth #1:

“Admissionado can get me into B-school because Jon Frank (Admissionado CEO) has an HBS MBA.”

Admissionado (or any MBA admissions consulting company) is more than one person (even if it’s a really important person ☺). We are a TEAM – of editors, consultants, researchers, and administrators. And let’s not forget the most important person… YOU.

We can help you get into business school because we know how B-School applications work, and because we know how to help you to tell your best stories. But if YOU actually want to get accepted into B-School you will have to put in the time and effort. It’s HARD work.

MBA Admissions Myth #2

“I am going to learn a lot in my classes at business school.”

Sure, you will l earn plenty in your classes. But B-School is about a lot more than what you will learn in class. It’s about what you will learn about yourself by going out and DOING. It’s also about what you will learn from the guy or gal sitting next to you in class. It’s about gaining a different perspective, a Western/American experience (if you’re an international student), good career and recruitment options, taking time off to reflect, building your network, etc. And let’s not forget – B-School can (and will) be FUN too.

MBA Admissions Myth #3

“Fit is important, when considering schools. I like finance—so I should likely go to CBS.”

The Admissionado Golden Rule is simple: Go to the best school you can get into. Nothing will make a Tier II school as good as a Top 10 school, for you or for ANYONE. Fit can matter when you’re looking outside Top 15 programs and/or you have a very specific geography or industry that you’re targeting, but mostly, just keep that Golden Rule in mind.

MBA Admissions Myth #4

“Schools want me to change the world.”

My friends, what top MBA programs want from their students is simply for them to GET A JOB after they graduate. And a good one at that. As an applicant, it’s your job to show the admissions committee that you have a solid plan for getting there.

CONNECT your experiences both personally and professionally to your goals, and show the adcoms that your plan to snag a great job is plausible, realistic and ambitious (not to mention, made possible by attending that specific program). If you end up changing the world at the same time, that’s even better!

MBA Admissions Myth #5

“I need to fit as many stories as possible into my app to show EVERYTHING I’ve EVER done.”

Actually, you’re better off diving deep into ONE story and showcasing what happened, than shallowly telling the admissions committee many stories. Plain and simple. Stick to the big ones, your “greatest hits.”

MBA Admissions Myth #6

“Essay questions matter.”

Ignore the essay questions for now. The entire MBA application game is predicated on you putting your best foot forward. You have three or four AMAZING stories that NEED to be told. It doesn’t matter what the essay questions are — focus on telling these four stories at all costs.

MBA Admissions Myth #7

“There is no place for storytelling and drama in MBA applications.”

Storytelling is the secret sauce, the magic, the mojo that makes your essays work. Without great storytelling your essays are just a bunch of loose facts, maybe no more or less interesting than anyone’s else’s. But with good storytelling, you move people, make them laugh, make them cry, make them care, or make them understand. An application without great storytelling is like soup without salt.

MBA Admissions Myth #8

“The guy with the best accomplishments has the best chance of getting in.”

Accomplishments are great and important and fantastic and wonderful… but to soar, they need context. WHERE are you getting these accomplishments done? And with whom? How big and important is the accomplishment? And how many people are you leading to get it done? And with what school or company is it done? It’s not just accomplishments, but also the story and situation (and struggle?) around those accomplishments.

MBA Admissions Myth #9

“Beyond my essays, there isn’t really THAT much I can do to improve my application.”

Oh, there is SO much you can do. From recommendations to your resume to the application form itself, not to mention your interview and extra materials. Every little bit matters, and the more you work on every little bit, the stronger your chances become. It’s about choosing your best recommenders and making sure they are excited about you, and know you very, very well. It’s making sure that your resume is perfectly formatted and highlights your impact. And, most importantly, it’s that you know your story inside out.

There’s also a lot to be said for not having to rush. If there’s one thing we know after eight years and over 25,000 applications, it’s that applicants who start planning for their MBA early (1-2 years ahead) are the most successful.

MBA Admissions Myth #10

“$200K, and Jon’s saying I may not even learn anything there? Maybe it’s not worth it…”

It IS worth it. And totally worth it, I might add. With my MBA I have gotten SO much done that I never could have gotten done before:

  • Made some of the best, closest friends of my life
  • Learned from my peers about different ways of seeing the world
  • Earned the credibility to get ALL of my jobs post-MBA, get investors to buy my buildings, and launch Admissionado.

In a way, I was my most important investor, and that investment came in the form of my MBA, because I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. Simple as that.