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5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Applying to B-School (by an HBS Grad)

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Ivy Groupe Admissions Consulting Representative
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5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Applying to B-School (by an HBS Grad) [#permalink]

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Contact us at www.ivygroupe.com/contact or info@ivygroupe.com to schedule a free 30-minute consultation with Shaifali, Ivy Groupe's Founder/CEO who is an HBS grad and MBA admissions expert!

5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Applying to Business School

After having spent 5+ years formally coaching clients through the business school application process and time before that informally coaching friends and colleagues, there are common mistakes that many applicants make that I have come across.

Here are five mistakes to avoid when you are applying to business school so that your applications stand out from the competition:

Not crafting authentic applications

Many candidates are tempted to craft business school applications according to what they believe Admissions Committees want to see and/or according to what may have worked for a friend/colleague in the past. However, members of Admissions Committees have read thousands of applications over the years and can easily detect whether a candidate is being genuine or is just trying to curry favor with them. Do not try to be someone you’re not in the application. I cannot stress this enough – authenticity is really the key to a successful application (please read my blog here on this topic)! The most successful applications are those where candidates are true to themselves by drawing upon their unique experiences and perspectives.

Having generic Post-MBA goals

A key aspect of the business school application and interview is expressing what you would like to pursue professionally post-MBA. Therefore, it is important to formulate post-MBA goals that are specific, ambitious, and credible. However, often times I see applicants stating goals that are very generic; for example, they say that they would like to start a company (without specifying what kind of a company) or that they want to make a transition from their current industry to another one (without specifying the role that they want to take on in the new industry). Take the time to really think about your post-MBA goals; career goals that are not well thought out or credible are often red flags for Admissions Committees that a candidate has not reflected deeply enough about the future and why an MBA is important for him/her.

Underestimating the importance of extracurricular activities

Business schools assess whether or not you will contribute to campus life through your extracurricular activities and the impact that you have had. And this latter point is extremely important: the impact you have had. The reality is that practically every candidate who applies to business school has volunteered in some capacity, but it’s important to get involved in extracurricular activities that will provide you with opportunities to positively change organizations and/or positively influence people. Don’t make the mistake of getting involved in multiple extracurricular activities at a superficial level. It is much better to participate in fewer extracurricular activities at a deeper level through which you can demonstrate impact.

Copying and pasting the same essay(s) in multiple applications

Many applicants think that they can recycle the same essay(s) across different applications. This is a huge mistake! Each business school has different essays, and therefore, it is extremely important that you take the time to thoughtfully answer each question. While you may be able to leverage some material from one application to another, it is extremely important that you tailor that material according to the question being asked. This is true not only for essays, but also for the short questions that are asked in the data forms.

Choosing recommenders based on title

There is a belief that the more senior a recommender is, as indicated by title, the better it will be for you as an applicant; however, this could not be further from the truth! Admissions Committees want to understand how you interact with others and perform in a professional environment. Therefore, asking a supervisor who knows your work well (even if the title is more junior, such as Associate or Vice President) will take you much further along in the process than approaching a recommender with a senior title who has not worked closely with you and cannot directly comment on your accomplishments.

While there are a lot of moving pieces in the business school application process, you have much more control than may be evident at first glance. By avoiding these mistakes, you will be in a position to put your best foot forward.
_________________

Ivy Groupe, Founder/CEO
Boutique MBA Admissions Consulting

Website: https://www.ivygroupe.com
Blog: https://www.ivygroupe.com/blog
Email: info@ivygroupe.com
Phone: 646.801.5190

Click here for GMAT Club Reviews!

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Expert Post
Ivy Groupe Admissions Consulting Representative
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Status: Boutique MBA Admissions Consulting from a Harvard Business School graduate and MBA admissions expert
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Re: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Applying to B-School (by an HBS Grad) [#permalink]

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New post 21 Nov 2017, 19:13
One more common mistake that candidates make is focusing too much on tasks/responsibilities in their resume, instead of focusing on achievements and impact. Ivy Groupe's blog, "How to Approach the Business School Resume," provides tips on how a candidate should approach the resume.
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Ivy Groupe, Founder/CEO
Boutique MBA Admissions Consulting

Website: https://www.ivygroupe.com
Blog: https://www.ivygroupe.com/blog
Email: info@ivygroupe.com
Phone: 646.801.5190

Click here for GMAT Club Reviews!

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Re: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Applying to B-School (by an HBS Grad) [#permalink]

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New post 22 Nov 2017, 01:15
Thank you for a very compelling review of common mistakes. It is a very useful article. However, some people might have question regarding the post-mba goals and it would be great if you could elaborate on this.

As for me, I have already stated and refined my post-mba goals in entrepreneurship since I already have couple of businesses and would like to develop them and create new related ventures. But assume that I did not want to pursue entrepreneurship path. Actually, couple of years ago, before I opened 2 of my businesses, I was considering a financial career after MBA. I was a professional athlete. How on earth can such person define his goals or even choose company if he never worked in office. Even in small company. How to be in this case for a career switcher? There is no information or guides on how to switch career from sports to consulting for instance. And if I had such dream, I would just mention that I have a dream to work as a consultant. Without MBA this dream won't come true for sure. And to just imagine the goals seems a bit strange for me. And of course the ad coms won't believe in such imaginary goals.

Any ideas or insights for career switchers and how to define goals?

In my case, I was lucky to open businesses and I now love this career and want to continue this path. But what if I didn't? A good question without an answer.

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Expert Post
Ivy Groupe Admissions Consulting Representative
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Status: Boutique MBA Admissions Consulting from a Harvard Business School graduate and MBA admissions expert
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Re: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Applying to B-School (by an HBS Grad) [#permalink]

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New post 24 Nov 2017, 07:46
Hi there,

Thanks for your question - unfortunately, there is no easy answer. It is really important to be able to "connect the dots" in one's story and to find the threads to show how what you have done in the past relates to what you would like to do in the future (even if there is a personal/extracurricular connection). Often, this requires a lot of introspection. In the example that you laid out about being a professional athlete moving into finance, as someone evaluating your application, I would be looking for evidence of interest in finance through your personal/extracurricular endeavors to find that link. So, in other words, I would suggest looking beyond just the direct, professional link.

I hope that makes sense and helps to clarify!

Best,
Shaifali
_________________

Ivy Groupe, Founder/CEO
Boutique MBA Admissions Consulting

Website: https://www.ivygroupe.com
Blog: https://www.ivygroupe.com/blog
Email: info@ivygroupe.com
Phone: 646.801.5190

Click here for GMAT Club Reviews!

Kudos [?]: 12 [0], given: 0

Expert Post
Ivy Groupe Admissions Consulting Representative
User avatar
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Status: Boutique MBA Admissions Consulting from a Harvard Business School graduate and MBA admissions expert
Affiliations: Harvard, Princeton
Joined: 02 Feb 2017
Posts: 122

Kudos [?]: 12 [0], given: 0

Re: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Applying to B-School (by an HBS Grad) [#permalink]

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New post 26 Nov 2017, 19:09
Also, it's much better to position your post-MBA goals as a career transition, instead of an outright career switch, so finding the links in your story is extremely important.
_________________

Ivy Groupe, Founder/CEO
Boutique MBA Admissions Consulting

Website: https://www.ivygroupe.com
Blog: https://www.ivygroupe.com/blog
Email: info@ivygroupe.com
Phone: 646.801.5190

Click here for GMAT Club Reviews!

Kudos [?]: 12 [0], given: 0

Expert Post
Ivy Groupe Admissions Consulting Representative
User avatar
B
Status: Boutique MBA Admissions Consulting from a Harvard Business School graduate and MBA admissions expert
Affiliations: Harvard, Princeton
Joined: 02 Feb 2017
Posts: 122

Kudos [?]: 12 [0], given: 0

Re: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Applying to B-School (by an HBS Grad) [#permalink]

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New post 01 Dec 2017, 12:58
With Round 2 applications just around the corner, I want to reiterate the importance of being authentic in your applications! Try not to compare yourself to others - instead, focus on your unique story.

If we can help, please feel free to reach out at http://www.ivygroupe.com/contact or info@ivygroupe.com to schedule a free 30-minute consultation with me (Shaifali) - Ivy Groupe's Founder/CEO, an HBS grad, and an MBA admissions expert!
_________________

Ivy Groupe, Founder/CEO
Boutique MBA Admissions Consulting

Website: https://www.ivygroupe.com
Blog: https://www.ivygroupe.com/blog
Email: info@ivygroupe.com
Phone: 646.801.5190

Click here for GMAT Club Reviews!

Kudos [?]: 12 [0], given: 0

Expert Post
Ivy Groupe Admissions Consulting Representative
User avatar
B
Status: Boutique MBA Admissions Consulting from a Harvard Business School graduate and MBA admissions expert
Affiliations: Harvard, Princeton
Joined: 02 Feb 2017
Posts: 122

Kudos [?]: 12 [0], given: 0

Re: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Applying to B-School (by an HBS Grad) [#permalink]

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New post 16 Dec 2017, 12:16
With Round 2 deadlines right around the corner, I am hoping that you will find this article to be helpful!
_________________

Ivy Groupe, Founder/CEO
Boutique MBA Admissions Consulting

Website: https://www.ivygroupe.com
Blog: https://www.ivygroupe.com/blog
Email: info@ivygroupe.com
Phone: 646.801.5190

Click here for GMAT Club Reviews!

Kudos [?]: 12 [0], given: 0

Re: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Applying to B-School (by an HBS Grad)   [#permalink] 16 Dec 2017, 12:16
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