by Omer Cheema, Ph.D. MBA, DreamMBA Inc., Poets & QuantsAuthor July, 2014
Myth#1: School selection: ”Harvard specializes in general management”, “Wharton, Columbia and Booth are finance schools”, “Kellogg is all about marketing”, “MIT Sloan is about technology”.
Reality#1: Above statements are very strong. Certain schools have their strengths and weaknesses in terms of the profiles of their faculty members, course offering and recruiting numbers. Wharton places more candidates in finance as compared to MIT, but that doesn’t mean an MIT grad has no chance getting into IB. A brief look at employment report is enough to show that both schools place a decent percentage of their students into finance. But it seems like stereotypes are usually too difficult to overcome.
Myth#2: My ultimate goal is to get into a top business school.
Reality#2: No. Getting into a top business school is just the first milestone. It is the start of a very long journey. It is essentially the investment phase. You will see the return on investment later in your career. Focus on your long term career goals and consider getting into the right business school as the first step in the right direction.
Myth#3: One year programs are not a good fit for career changers.
Reality#3: Wrong. With an exception of investment banking, there is no difference if you are changing function or industry or both. If you want to get into investment banking and you have zero prior exposure to it, go for a two year MBA. Otherwise, one year MBA is fine for changing career.
Myth#4: The admission committee wants a specific profile. I should fix my story to look like that profile.
Reality#4: Wrong. Most valuable MBA experience comes from the diversity of the class. Admission committees are always trying to make the class more diverse in terms of professional and personal profiles, nationalities, geographies and life experiences. Be yourself and show the admission committee that you are different and hence you will bring significant value to the class.
Your chances are actually higher if you have a profile opposite to the business school stereotypes. Consider for example, MIT. Most techies want to apply at Sloan assuming that MIT Sloan is looking for people with technical background. Obviously, competition for getting into MIT for techies will be higher. On the other hand someone with a non-tech background will have lower competition hence higher chances of getting into the school.
Myth#5: MBA is for extroverts. I should portray myself as an extrovert.
Reality#5: No. Being an introvert or extrovert doesn’t play a major role in your success as a business leader. You will see hundreds of successful introverts doing very well in their post-MBA careers. If you falsely portray yourself as an extrovert, you will risk sounding fake in your interviews. Your essays and your interviews would contradict each other and would result in a less compelling overall case. Be yourself.
Myth#6: Writing essay for one school and plugging them in other school’s essays is perfectly fine.
Reality#6: No. It is totally absolutely not fine. From a high level, it would sound as if business schools are asking the same question. But if you get into details, you will see that their expectations for the answers are quite different. For example, one school wants you to focus more on why do you want an MBA while other school would like to know why are you applying to that school specifically. Another example, one school would like you to focus on describing a success or failure while the other school will require you to focus on what you learnt from that success or failure.
Don’t fit your stories forcefully in the essays. Look at the whole application package and see if a certain story fits in the application well or not.
Myth#7: My weakness is that I am too good.
Reality#7: No. Admission committee is not stupid. They know when you are pretending and when you are making up stories. Don’t try to fool them.
You should however be careful not to mention very strong weaknesses that can’t be fixed. For example, never say that you are too lazy and you don’t know how to fix yourself. (OK, I know you will never say such things)
Myth#8: There is a magic formula behind admission process.
Reality#8: Don’t believe in magic. Don’t believe in formulae. Business school application is not science, it is an art.. Formulae like “GMAT score of 760 + an undergrad GPA of 3.8 from a top 5 school + great extra-curricular + good references = A guaranteed admit at a top school” don’t exist for two reasons:
First, admission process is holistic in nature. Admission committee looks at your application as a whole in order to assess if you would be a good fit for their school or not. It is more about overall feeling that your application package provides to the reviewers.
Second, there are uncertainties in admission process. These uncertainties can be introduced in the process at any stage of your admissions. Admission committee members and interviewers are human beings who analyze you subjectively. Subjective evaluation might favor the lucky candidates and hurt the chances of unlucky ones.
So, how to fix this problem of subjectivity? Never apply to a single school only and never take single rejection as a personal failure. Be concerned, however, if you get multiple rejections and zero acceptances. Reach out to admission process experts if you face this kind of a situation. There might be fundamental issues with your application strategy and you probably need some help to identify and fix the problems.
Feel free to reach out to us if you have any follow up questions. We would be happy to assist you.
Good luck with your MBA application process.
Guest blog post written by Dr. Omer Cheema from DreamMBA Inc.
Dream MBA is a premium MBA admission consulting firm specializing in providing consulting services for MBA applicants to top 20 business schools worldwide. Our consultants have MBA degrees from top business schools and have successfully placed hundreds of MBA applicants to their dream business schools Please visit our website for more details.