TEN MOST COMMON MBA APPLICATION MISTAKES www.admissionado.com firstname.lastname@example.org
THE NEXT FORTY FIVE MINUTES… “You must unlearn… what you have learned.” - Master Yoda Why? Because everyone is an “expert.” Yet as you will see, much information out there is incorrect. Flavor Flav said it best: “Don’t believe the hype.” Flavor Flav Jon Frank
1. OVER-THINKING SCHOOL SELECTION(VIS. OVER-TAILORING THE APPLICATION)I am about to blow your minds. I’m thinking, I’m thinking...1) Clients and prospective clients ask us which school is right for them—what about this program, or that one.2) They will spend months researching schools, locations, reaching out to students, friends, really researching…everything.3) I am here to tell you that ALL of that is a waste of time. Why? (And this is the part that will blow your minds.)4) Because the following is the ONLY thing you need to know when considering which MBA program to attend: Go to the best school you can get into.5) What is the best school? • Reputation. (Connections with amazing classmates.) • Reputation. (Contact with awesome professors.) • Reputation. (The ability for you to get a JOB anywhere you want, later.) • Anyone who tells you differently “didn’t get into the program they had hoped to get into.” How do you judge reputation? Well that’s harder…
1. OVER-THINKING SCHOOL SELECTION(VIS. OVER-TAILORING THE APPLICATION) Wanna go into finance? Great! Go to the best school you can get into. Wanna go into Marketing? Cool! Go to the best school you can get into! Wanna return to China to take over the world? Sgt. Slaughter went to the school of Tai hao le! Go to the best school you can get into! hard knocks. Was that the best school he could get into? Did you get a big scholarship? Great! Ignore it. Have you found that one school has a really great program in your field of choice? You get the idea…
2. SCREWING UP (PROPOSING?) CAREER CHANGES.Never forget folks, it is BUSINESS school. No matter what else you do, if you’re career goals are screwy, you wont get into a top MBA program. What is a good career goal?YOU MUST CONNECT YOUR PAST EXPERIENCES TO YOUR FUTURE GOALS. An example of how it should work (real estate finance into real estate development, investment management into investment banking) An example of how it should not work (IT into non-profit, non profit into investment banking)
2. SCREWING UP (PROPOSING?) CAREER CHANGES.THE PERFECT MBA APP DOES THE FOLLOWING THREE THINGS: 1) Connects your past experiences to your future goals. 2) Connects your past experiences to your future goals. 3) Connects your past experiences to your future goals. Why? Well first of all, you need to get a JOB. Secondly, what if you don’t like your “new” career choice “If you like something else, why havent you…done it yet?” I am RICH folks. Very, very rich. Oh no! Sounds like we career changers are scrood eh? (Nope.) You just need to be credible…somehow. And it is possible to do. Complicated, but possible…
2. SCREWING UP (PROPOSING?) CAREER CHANGES.LET’S PLAY A GAME: MATCH THE SKILL TO THE CAREER Leadership. Investment Banker. Teamwork. Private Equity. Well connected. Management Consulting. Good managers. Marketing. Problem solving. Military. Jack of all trades. Non-Profit. Creativity. Farming. Hard working. Pro Athlete. Knowledge of Finance. Kiwi Harvester. Author…
2. SCREWING UP (PROPOSING?) CAREER CHANGES. If you’re doing it right, you can argue that IT’S ALL THE SAME. You don’t need to work as a consultant to solve problems for a living. You don’t need to work in marketing to be creative all day long Not only military guys know what it’s like to lead people for a living… You don’t need to be a general management guy to know what it takes to be a valuable teamwork machine… See what we mean folks? To pull off a career change, you need to prove that you already HAVE the EXACT skills you’ll need in your new career. Period. I don’t care how unusual your path is, you will need to get a job just like everyone else…
3. FOCUS ON “ESSAY QUESTIONS.” Honestly? Essay questions don’t REALLY matter. • “I am so stressed about my essays! Where do I even begin...” • Ignore essay questions. • The entire game is predicated on your putting your best foot forward. You have four stories that MUST be told. It doesn’t matter what the essay questions are— tell these four stories. At all costs. • Don’t let the wording of topic of any one question force you to use your seventh or eighth best story in an app… • The same is actually true with interviews. But we are getting ahead of ourselves… And don’t forget, go to the best school you can get into.
3. FOCUS ON “ESSAY QUESTIONS.” How many Bob Marley songs can you name? Golly, is Georgia Lucky dog, lucky doing what I dog. I’m a lucky think she’s dog… doing?The answer is…most likely “the ones on the Legend album.” To that we say “Well done, Bob Marley.” The Significance of Bob Marley, Legend• It actually doesn’t matter what questions adcoms ask you, whether in applications or interviews.• All that DOES matter is that you tell your best stories. If you have 5 AMAZING stories to tell in the past 3-5 years, you must tell ALL of them. I don’t care what the questions asked happen to be.• That work can start now. Start your lists today my friends. A simple Excel chart takes 20 minutes …
4. SCREW UP THE TIMING, ENDING UP RUSHED.THERE ARE MANY EXCUSES TO WAIT ON WRITING APPS…1) Essay questions change from year to year. Georgia the Bulldog2) Most schools haven’t even released their apps yet.3) My application and background are preeeetty much set already. How much can I realistically do now?4) Even if I hit Round 1 or Early Decision, how long can this process take…really? “Can’t I just lie here til August?” I hate to burst everyone’s bubble here (least of all Georgia the dog), but…all these reasons are patently false. Don’t believe or subscribe to any of em. Here’s why...
4. SCREW UP THE TIMING, ENDING UP RUSHED.PS. THE REASONS TO DELAY STARTING YOUR APPS ALL SUCK.1) “Essay questions change from year to year.” • Meh. Not really—80% or so will remain the same • And even the ones that do change will borrow from the same general set of themes.2) “Most schools haven’t yet released their applications yet.” • True—but again, we know what the apps will entail. They haven’t really changed at all over the past 10 years…3) “My application and background are preeeetty much set already.” • Mostly, this is true. But there is still PLENTY to do in the meanwhile. Like what? Well that’s why we’re here today, but promotions, ECs, and addressing app weaknesses for starters…4) “To hit Round 1 or Early Decision, how long can this process take…really?” • Here is my (sad, sad) promise to everyone on this call: NONE of you will submit all your apps during Round 1, even though you all think you will. Not one. We have done 12,000 applications and NEVER has anyone successfully done this. I promise, you will be rushed.
4. SCREWING UP THE TIMING, END UP RUSHED. Round 3 Fun Fact: Round three should never be an option. After all, “If he is so serious about an MBA, why is he applying so late in the game?” Round 2 Fun Fact: If you are applying in Round 2 and you are an international candidate, you are doing yourself a great disservice. Round 1 Fun Fact: Lately, folks have been saying that “the level of applicants is best in R1—should I game it, and apply in Round 2? Great example “Looks like I picked the wrong day of how to NOT listen to “Experts.” Besides, the to stop sniffing glue…” best applicants will be accepted R3, don’t you think…
5. APPLICANTS FOCUS ONLY ON THE GOOD…AND DON’T ADDRESS THE BAD Are you on the old side? Are you on the young side? Do you have no international experience? Are you a career changer? Did you do poorly on your test scores, or in school? (HBS class of 1979) Are you applying in Round Three? YOU MUST ADDRESS THESE THINGS. Yet do so subtly… (HBS class of 2005) (HBS class of 1975)
6. OVERLOOKING EUROPEAN (“INTERNATIONAL”) MBA PROGRAMS It’s all about ROI people. Let me explain.• Are you older?• Do you want to spend less money?• Do you want to spend less time without a job?• Do you want the same results as your friends at US schools?• Did you miss your deadlines, or not get in? Yaron Dahan Sloan MBA: INSEAD MBA: Admissionado Head Consultant Tuition and Expenses Year 1 $83,000 Tuition and Expenses Year 1 $76,000 Tuition and Expenses Year 2 $83,000 Opportunity Costs Salary Year 1 $60,000 Opportunity Costs Salary Year 1 $60,000 Total Real cost of Program $136,000 Opportunity Costs Salary Year 2 $60,000 Total Real cost of Program $286,000 Yet Post-MBA Salaries are $147,974 at INSEAD and $158,353 at Sloan…
6. OVERLOOKING EUROPEAN (“INTERNATIONAL”) MBA PROGRAMS Where students come from… Harvard: INSEAD: Africa: 2 % Africa: 4 % Asia: 13 % Asia: 32 % Europe: 10 % Europe: 41 % North America: 70 % North America: 15 % Latin America and the Caribbean: 4 % Latin America and the Caribbean: 6 % Oceania: 1 % Oceania: 2 % Where grads go to work… Harvard: INSEAD: Africa: 1 % Africa: 3 % Asia: 9 % Asia: 28 % Europe: 7 % Europe: 53 % North America: 80 % North America: 8 % Oceania: 0 % Oceania: 2 % Latin America and the Caribbean: 2 % Latin America and the Caribbean: 6 %
6. OVERLOOKING EUROPEAN (“INTERNATIONAL”) MBA PROGRAMS INSEAD: Harvard: International Students: 92% International Students: 34% International Faculty: 90% International Faculty: 37% International Board: 80% International Board: 21% “Finally, I have beaten HBS in a contest of MBAdom…”
7. PICK A CRAPPY CONSULTANT.(GRATUITOUS AND ONLY ADVERTISEMENT SLIDE…) We will not claim that we are the only credible consultant. Others may have done 12,000 applications too Others may combine business + creative focus Others may care about what they do as much as we do (are not angry, disinterested, etc.) But do yourselves a favor, since there are NO barriers to entry. SCREEN your consultants people: Years of experience Passion for what they do More than one set of eyes. An approach, a style, an opinion (whatever it is.) And above all else, 1000% transparency.
8. BOTCHED LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION Corroborate Your Stories. Are you telling the truth? Is there more to the stories you have told? Add NEW Stories. The 70-30 Rule. Is there NEW ground to cover? Judge Your Judgment. Nothing says “this person has bad judgment” better than a luke warm (or even cold?) LOR. Or a LOR that was clearly written by YOU, and not by your recommender…
8. BOTCHED LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATIONWHOM SHOULD I ASK TO WRITE MY LORS? It’s an age-old question: should I get the LOR from the CEO, or from a lower-level guy who knows me better? No brainer…the lower-level guy. Why? He will write better stories. He will try harder, this will reflect in you. He likely knows you better. Please don’t ask this guy. Please do NOT make the following mistakes: Asking peers for a LOR Relying on academic LORs Specifics are the name of the game. There are only so many adjectives, and most botched LORs will use all of em. A lot. Do NOT give your recommenders too much info, too much guidance, and do NOT micromanage them. This ALWAYS leads to luke warm LORs, and you begin to lose that 30%.
9. MISHANDLED INTERNATIONAL-NESSWHAT DO AMERICANS THINK THEY KNOW ABOUT CHINA EG.? The Awakening Dragon. China is SCARY. It is FOREIGN. And if the adcom feels you’re too foreign they won’t feel like they connect, or go to bat for you. Why scary? People (so many). Politics (we don’t understand). Economy (China is buying the US and that is scary). Ask any US citizen, what do you think about China. They will say, “China is taking over.” And that of course is what WE are trying to do at Admissionado... Why is this significant? Not because it is or isn’t true—but because a good app needs to make the adcom feel like you are NOT too foreign. You are NOT scary. You are not “trying to take over the US.” You are simply chasing your dream, just like any American would…
9. MISHANDLED INTERNATIONAL-NESSWHAT DO AMERICANS THINK THEY KNOW ABOUT INDIA EG? Outsourcing. High Tech. Poor. Foreign. DIFFERENT! BUT ON THE RISE! Ask any US citizen, what do you think about India. They will say, “India and China are taking over!” And that’s just fine with us at PE... Why is this significant? Again, not because any of this is true. But instead, because now you know what the adcom is thinking about you. Make them feel like you are NOT too foreign. You CAN do more than IT. You’re capable of BIG picture stuff. Too many Indian applicants ignore these preconceptions…
10. GIVE ADCOMS TOO MUCH CREDIT Your adcom member is NOT a smart 60 y/o MBA retiree. He is in his 20’s. Liberal arts major, now in an HR capacity. Often significant other to MBA student… What’s the significance? They do not know ANYTHING about business. So we propose some tests. . Would Tyra understand what you do? . .
IN CONCLUSION Scary Fact: Much of what we discussed today is the OPPOSITE the “advice” currently out there: “Avoid round 1, “try to get some VIP to write you a LOR, “go to Wisconsin if you are REALLY serious about real estate,” etc.) Redeeming/Inspiring Fact: The advice we’ve given is all simply common sense: Go to the best school you can get into, don’t over think “fit.” Pretend you’re in the adcom, and think about what your WEAKNESSES are. The problem with career changes is that you aren’t putting your best foot forward (The airplane test, etc.) Everyone on this call is WAY ahead of the game. Early. So be smart, get your apps in early, be thoughtful, and if you are EVER confused, just use simple common sense. There are no shortcuts; just research, honest hard work, and execution. And as always, let’s answer some questions…
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