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Answers to Key Questions MBA Applicants Have

In the twenty years I have been in the admissions business I have come across many interesting questions from applicants. I’m sometimes struck by the wrong perception applicants have and I’ll highlight some of the important ones that I believe serious business school applicants should know the answer to before they apply to their dream schools.

The questions include the following:

– Do I really need to know why I want the MBA?

Yes, you do. You may not have all the details figured out but you need to have a general sense of what is missing in your current work life that you feel you can get from an MBA. Failure to think critically about this and to address it in the application can put you at a huge disadvantage.

– Am I hurting my admissions chances by not visiting the schools?

Yes and No. It depends on the school and on where you live. If you live in the same city and you never took time to visit, that can count against you. If you are international candidate and are unable to visit, that is less of an issue. Also, some schools care more than others. You need to do your research to figure out how your school feels about visiting.

– Am I competitive enough?

One thing to keep in mind is that you don’t know what the applicant pool looks like. You may have a few friends who are applying. But that doesn’t mean you know who you are being compared against in the overall pool. Assuming you are strong or weak based on stats alone is not the complete picture. You can look at averages. But to hedge your bet, make sure you have some less competitive schools on your list if going to business school is critical for you. You don’t want to be surprised when all your schools come back with a “No”.

– Will getting an exceptional score on my GMAT/GRE help me get admitted?

It’s not as simply as having near perfect scores. It depends on how strong other parts of your application are. You can have exceptional test scores but if your GPA was very low (below a 3.0 GPA) or if you lack leadership or a strong work trajectory, you may still not get admitted.

– What if I don’t have an alum to write my recommendation, will I be at a disadvantage?

You don’t need to have alumni write your recommendation. A supervisor who can attest to your excellent leadership can provide a compelling recommendation if he/she can show how you have impacted the organization and can back up the recommendation with lots of concrete examples that show your leadership achievements.

– What if I am too old or too young to apply?

This question comes up a lot. There is a lot of confusion surrounding this issue because it’s not a simple one. Look at the average age for students at your target school. Then figure out how you compare. If you are much older or much younger then you need to have three things to help offset that.

  1. You have to have a very compelling reason why NOW is the right time for you to apply as opposed to a few years before or a few years in the future.
  2. Your achievements must be significant. Average achievements will not cut it when you are viewed as an outlier.
  3. Make a strong case to show your unique viewpoint and contribution you will be able to make in the MBA program.

– Should I address any major problems or weaknesses in my application?

I think it’s important to address glaring problems because failure to do so can leave the adcom imagining all sorts of worse case scenarios. Be short and to the point. Take full responsibility and then move on.

– Is there an advantage to interviewing with an adcom on campus or should I go with an alumni interview?

I personally believe that going on campus to interview never hurts. At a minimum it can give you the chance to visit a class, interact with current students and learn more about the school before your interview. So, you should interview on campus if you are able to. However, if this option doesn’t work for you, don’t worry, you can still get the most from your interview with an alum. You will need to do your homework by researching the school thoroughly and finding out as much as you can about the alum interviewing you to be well prepared.

Feel free to contact us if you have any additional questions.