11 Questions from our ’10 Biggest Application Mistakes’ Webinar

By - Jul 2, 10:06 AM Comments [0]

As many of you know (since over 250 people registered!), we held quite the webinar last week right here on GMAT Club: The 10 Biggest Application Mistakes. We talked LORs, resumes, school selection, career goals and more. And, naturally, attendees asked a LOT of questions. GREAT questions.

We weren't able to get to all of 'em during the session and we know that there are so many other applicants out there with the same questions, so we wanted to answer them here. On this very blog. So everyone can see.

Hope it's all helpful, folks:

1. You say to apply in Round 1 if you can because the competition gets fiercer and fiercer with each round. But what about this year when the GMAT has changed and people who rushed to take the GMAT before the change will apply in the first round? Won’t the first round be more difficult this year?

You make a very interesting point. And you may be right. But here we are dealing with trying to “prophesize” the future, and neither I nor anybody else actually knows how this specific element will change things. Although what you say makes total sense, keep in mind two things:

1. R1 is still likely to be easier as the school has more places, more money to give out, etc.

2. Yes, this year is different, but from what I’ve seen, people’s habits don’t change aaaaall that much. And what I’ve seen happen every year (for many years) is that R2 has more applicants. Why? Probably because many people just wait ‘til the last minute to do GMAT, etc. Soooo, even if this year is different than all other years, your strategy should still remain the same: apply as early as you can. Especially if you're an international applicant.

2. What’s the best way to address a low GMAT score in an application?

With all of your other elements. You can’t directly “address” a low GMAT, in the sense that you can’t write an essay about it, because it would just sound like making excuses. IF, however, you can prove that you are academically capable (through your GPA, other standardized tests, etc.) plus successful (through your work experience and leadership) then you CAN overcome being on the low range of the average GMAT. Plus, very good essays help a LOT.

3. Is it possible to address "Not enough social service/leadership experience outside of school/work" in ANY way in time for R1? If yes, how? Also, would doing so appear insincere?

If you start NOW, it’s maybe a bit too late to have any real effect. After all, the adcom is going to see right through the fact that you joined the board of an organization exactly 3 months before you submitted your application to HBS. However, if you have some idea for a one-time event which could have a measurable achievement at the end - say, for example, organizing a fundraiser for your church and gathering $100,000 - then that can be awesome. And look verrry good for ya in that app.

4. I have a 3.0 GPA from a top 25 liberal arts school.  Got a 730 GMAT (48Q, 42V). Should I invest the time and money in building an alternative transcript this summer?

I don’t think that this strategy of “alternative transcript” really helps all that much. Your GPA is your GPA, and there may be better ways to deal with it (like kicking the heck out of the GMAT… which you did awesomely, by the way). I would invest my time other ways – like on the essays and application. You will have enough work there (trust me), and the advances you make in the application will likely bear more fruit than taking an extra course you don't really need or want to take.

5. Can a peer write your 3rd LOR if he is the co-founder of a start-up with you?

They CAN. But will it be effective? No. The thing is that your “co-founder” is probably a good friend, or at any rate is not someone who would really have the opportunity to write anything bad about you… It’s sort of like getting a letter of praise from your best friend. I mean, obviously he’s gonna like you, otherwise he wouldn’t be your best friend. Same thing here. You need to find recommendations from folks who don’t owe you anything; who can have a real and critical regard on what you have done.

6. For the essay, the word limit is often pretty tight – should we describe one thing very specifically, or touch on many attributes but with less detail?

DETAIL is CAPITAL! Without detail - particularly concrete detail and especially concrete results - what you have is very flimsy and subjective. You CAN get in all the detail necessary for each and every story, I assure you! (We’ve been doing it for years!!!). Sometimes it is hard to figure out how to, I admit, but that’s the challenge of the essays.

End of the day, though, quality over quantity, my friend. Every. single. time.

7. You recommend applying to 7 schools, and including a range of reach programs and safer options. How can you determine my 'safety school'? Is a gap of four or five schools (in rankings) a big enough gap?

A very good question. Safety is two things:

1. The number of schools you apply to, and

2. The schools you apply to in which you are at an advantage or well “above average.”

What does that mean? It means that if you add 10 schools and you’re applying with a GMAT of 640 to the top 10, you don’t yet have a safety, because all the schools you are applying to are stretches. If, however, you have a 750 and apply to a school where the average is 680, you are at a distinct advantage.

Please note that I don’t mean to say that the GMAT determines safety alone. It’s only to illustrate. Actually, to evaluate what your range is, it's best to talk to an expert who can dig into your profile and details and figure out - based on his or her experience - what your chances might be.

8. How long of an employment gap is too long? When should it be addressed in an optional essay?

There is no single answer here. It depends on you. On your profile. On what you did in that time. In general, I would say gaps of 2, 3, even 4 months between one job and another while job searching don’t really have to be addressed, cause it’s pretty standard. Anything longer might have to be addressed.

9. When is an appropriate time to use the optional essay? If I got a C in Stats class, is that low enough to address?

A C in one class is not something you would address in the optional essay. And maybe you are asking the wrong question. The question is not “Do I address the C?” but “How can I best make use of this optional essay, in function of all the other stories and elements in my application? How can I maximize the impact of this essay to best boost my profile in the eyes of the AdCom?” THAT is the question to ask!

10. Do adcoms really care about an unbalance GMAT score (e.g. 700 combined score with 66th percentile quant and 95th percentile verbal)?

Sometimes. If your quant is very low such as in this case, they WILL notice it. To address this issue, what you can do is take a few quant-related courses at a community college (and CRUSH THEM) to prove to the adcom that you've got the chops to handle the quant courses that will be coming at you in b-school.

11. Should your recommendations be from different aspects of your life, or can a client and manager give you the recommendations if you have been in the same company? For example, if they are describing the same experiences?

It’s a very good question, but I don’t have a simple answer for you. There are many, many considerations for selecting your recommenders, one of which is - as you mentioned - diversity. But there are other things as well, such as how well they know you, how excited they would be, what (specifically) they can say about you, etc. etc. etc. And you need to evaluate all those elements to figure out who's going to write you the most compelling and effective recommendations. If you think these two people are the best ones for the job and they're gonna go to bat for you, then go for it.

If you have any more application questions or would like a copy of our webinar PPT, drop us a line.

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