Review the complete application and finalize “Are we there yet???”
You started this application journey months and months ago – maybe it's even been years. You took the GMAT. You wrote your essays. You revised your resume. You got your recommenders. Is the darn thing done yet?
Nope. Not yet. This is one of the most important steps in the entire process. If you skip this step, you might be completely jeopardizing your chances of getting in – no matter how great the essays are, how glowing the recs, how high the GMAT.
The part that you cannot take shortcuts on is the Final Application Review.
It's more than proofreading.
You surely appreciate the importance of proofreading your essays. Let us reinforce the importance of this:
The worst feeling in the world is discovering an error in an application that's already been submitted.
OK no, we take that back: The worst feeling is being rejected from bschool.
The worst worst feeling is being rejected from a school whose app you had discovered a typo in, after it was submitted.
This final phase stuff is important. We need to emphasize that it's really important.
You know that you can't just run spellcheck and call it a day – you need to be careful of those sneaky mistakes like typos that aren't typos because they're real words – like writing “project manger” which we see so often that it's not funny.Here's an article on some common word errors that spellcheck won't catch.
Remember that if you have words in ALL CAPS, such as the name of your company on your resume, spellcheck often will simply skip them. It's a feature in MS Word; you may want to disable it during this critical phase of your applications. We frequently notice typos in headers of resumes because of this setting (the most embarrassing is when an applicant misspelled his own name!).
Another problem is that your brain overcompensates. You're reading that same essay for the umpteenth time... You know what it's supposed to say. You don't notice that it's not actually saying it. It's all too easy for your mind to insert words onto the page that aren't actually there. Articles and prepositions are the most common culprits; they're often missing in a draft and never noticed. These can be hard for your brain to spot since you've been staring at the screen, reading the same words over and over, for days on end. But your adcom reader is likely to latch onto any instance of a missing word like an eagle onto a small varmint running across a field. You may not get rejected over such an error but it's not going to do you any favors in the bschool admissions game.
TIP: Do your proofreading in hardcopy. A good way to jolt the brain into paying closer attention the actual words on the page is to read them on the page. Don't just go over the same thing on your computer. Print it out and hold it in your hands. You might even try reading it out loud, word by word – better yet, do that standing up. You'll have to engage with the matter with fresh eyes. You may be surprised at how many errors you spot this way!
Give yourself time.
The best gift you can give yourself at the end of all the hard work you've put in on your applications is to get finished with all the pieces early enough that you have time to relax for this final process. You don't want to rush through your proofreading stage. It's requires extra attention and you will be cheating yourself if you try to cram it in after the end of a long essay development session.
Instead, carve out time in the week before your application is due to sit down with everything in sequence, when you're not feeling harried and exhausted.
TIP: Set aside time for final proofreads – separately. Do your essays in one session. Do your resume separately. Do the application dataset last. Don't do all of them back to back. Proofreading requires careful concentration, and you can easily burn out and start to cut corners mentally without even realizing it.
If you find yourself running up against the wall of the deadline, then at minimum, put everything aside and come back to it one last time in the morning. Don't submit an application if you haven't had the chance to do a fine-toothed comb review.
Cross-check and verify.
A proofreading step that people often skip is the data verification process. You've entered your information into the school's online application, and your resume also has captured it. Do those datasets match? Very frequently, we see people reporting one set of dates on their resume, with a different set on the application. This is bad news when it comes time for a background check. Again, this is an error that might not get you rejected from bschool, but it could raise uncomfortable questions at a critical juncture. Or, if the adcom reader notices it, they will simply assume that you lack attention to detail, and/or you don't really care about their program and didn't put in the time and effort.
Everything in your application needs to be PERFECT. You have no margin of error in this process. The way to draw attention to yourself is through unforced errors like typos and inconsistencies – and that's the type of attention you most definitely do not.
TIP: Don't just read for spelling errors. Cross-reference your dataset against itself. Make sure that you're presenting a single, cohesive view of yourself, and that there are no contradictions or conflicts in what you've reported.
Avoid the worst error of all.
We're saving this one for last – this is a mistake that, as ridiculous as it sounds, happens all the time.
Make sure that the name of the school in your essay is the school you intended to name.
If you took the shortcut of doing a Save-As to reuse an essay from one school to another, you'd better be certain that you excised all references of the original school name in the entirety of the document.
You have no idea how often the Stanford people read an essay saying “I want to go to Harvard because...” – or more often, “MIT”, based on the similarities of some of those two schools' essay questions.
Or Wharton → Columbia. And vice versa.
Be super careful, if you didn't write this essay for this school from scratch, that it's got all the instances of the other school's name replaced.
Can you imagine how irritating that must be to the adcoms?
TIP: Hopefully you didn't re-use essays. But if you did, don't be careless about it.
It's very tempting, once you get to the end of the road, to upload all your files and finally click that Submit button. This is a crucial time! Don't rush things. Take care, and make it shine.
That way – we hope! – when your adcom reader picks up your application, all she will do is smile.
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