Today’s post comes from Manhattan Review Italy, a well-known provider of test prep and MBA Admissions Consulting in Florence, Milan, Naples, and Rome for Top Business Schools.
Are you applying to business school? If so, you probably already know there’s scads of information about the admissions process out there. It can be overwhelming, but if you strategize and make a plan, you should find yourself ahead of the curve. But where should an application begin? It can be hard to sort through the junk and get to what you need. Here’s a list of five myths about the admissions process along with our advice on how to prepare for success.
I’ll prepare for the interview after I submit my application!
This is a bad call. Interviewing is a lifelong skill, and you can’t “cram” to learn interview techniques at the last minute. If you’re serious about business (and business school), you owe it to yourself to build your interviewing skills.
How? Set aside an hour a week to focus on interview skills. Make a list of probable b-school admissions questions and answer them in writing, then practice saying your responses in a natural way. Ask a friend to ask you questions. Remember to smile, make eye contact, and lift the end of your sentences. Have you ever acted? Take an acting lesson. Seriously. It will improve your diction and confidence. And try this: videotape yourself responding to question, and try to see yourself objectively. Would you admit you to the program if you were in charge? If not, why? Keep practicing.
I have a great recommendation from a VIP, C-level exec of alum! Wahoo! I’m made!
You and everyone else. Practically every serious candidate will have a high quality recommendation. What matters as much if not more than the letterhead and name of the recommender is what the recommender has to say, so while you might be tempted to get mom or dad to call in a favor from Senator Jones, Professor Allen (who actually knows you and your work) may be the better bet. The admissions committee wants to get an idea of who you are as a candidate, and recommendations are a clear way for them to learn about who you are (and not just how well-connected you appear to be on paper).
If I don’t have blue-chip experience, I won’t get into a top ten program!
Happy to report this is another myth. In fact, if your background is unorthodox, it might help you stand out. Don’t be shy when explaining your background, especially if you got to where you are in an atypical way. Are you a serial entrepreneur who started your first business at sixteen? This is fascinating, even if your used golf ball business failed and nearly got you arrested. Admissions panels are looking for candidates who made the most of the opportunities they had and who made opportunities of their own. Initiative, drive, consistency, leadership, and ambition don’t belong solely to blue-chip elite.
My essay is so wildly different I am definitely going to stand out!
Sorry, this isn’t true. Think about how many thousands of applicants these committees have poured over during their tenure. They’ve seen it all. And if they haven’t, is it really worth risking your admission on a clever, unusual letter? "Look, I created my own Elvish alphabet based on the lost letters of Tolkein and wrote my letter using it! Here’s a key."
Just write a well-crafted letter that explains your qualifications and why you want to attend the program. Some practical tips: read the letter aloud, ask a friend to review it, edit it on your computer and on paper, read it aloud again, and have a friend check it one last time for typos.
The GMAT’s a big deal – AWA not so much…
This is another big myth! Whether you’re a native English speaker or not you need to pay attention to the AWA (Analytical Writing Assessment). Admissions committees will use this as both a measure of your ability to communicate and your academic seriousness. Any low or middling score in your application could give cause to the committee to offer someone else the slot that would otherwise belong to you. Don’t take that chance.
So what’s the take-away? In every part of your application, take no half-measures! At least then if you don’t get in, you can sleep at night knowing you did your best.
If you are just beginning your MBA application, check out our free interactive MBA Admissions Webinars, where you’ll gain lots of useful insight into the MBA Admissions process from Manhattan Review’s Director of Admissions Consulting, who has been a member for the Wharton Admissions Committee for many years. The session will reveal many secrets of the admissions process and definitely increase your chances of success. Don’t miss this opportunity to have your questions answered and get an inside perspective from an expert!