Friends Can Help Review Your Application Materials—If They Limit Well-Meaning Advice
As Round 1 deadlines near, you’ll probably think about asking a trusted friend or family member to review your application materials. At some point, you’ll have read your responses so many times that errors will no longer jump out at you.
In this case, a friend or family member’s assistance may come in handy. Someone new looking at your essays and data forms may more easily spot a typo, missing word or that extra period at the end of a sentence.
A fresh set of eyes looking over your work has obvious benefits. But we have to point out a few drawbacks as well. For example, it’s really tough for someone to review your application materials without giving “advice.” Humans are full of opinions, after all. Anyone close to you would just want to help.
Herein lies the problem. If you’ve already planned out your application strategy—especially if you’ve worked on that strategy with an admissions consultant—it would be a shame to derail your progress just because a well-meaning friend made you doubt yourself.
Well-intended but still, not helpful
This also holds true if that someone reviewing your materials has an MBA themselves. They may incorrectly assume that since they went to business school, their approach to certain essay questions will guarantee your path to admission.
Or, maybe your parents attended business school decades ago and want to give you advice. That can be problematic on many fronts. The programs themselves—not to mention the qualities adcoms look for in candidates—have changed pretty dramatically over the years.
Problems also arise when you enlist someone who’s completely unfamiliar with the business school application process. When they review your application materials, they may get confused if you included personal stories. They may not understand why your personality comes through in your essays.
There’s a stereotype that MBAs need to be all business, all the time. This leads to an expectation of essays filled with lists of achievements, not-so-subtle bragging, and loads of buzzwords.
That’s why you should consider: 1) limiting the people review your application materials to no more than two. And 2) telling those reviewers up front that they would be helping you most if they could focus solely on spelling, grammar, or other obvious mistakes when they do their read-through.
They’ll probably still give you unsolicited advice. And you can always listen politely and share any concerns you may have with your admissions consultant. Just keep in mind that it’s hardly ever a good idea to switch things up at the last minute. Especially if you have already put significant effort into your positioning.
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This post originally published in 2016. It has been updated.