Admissions Myths Destroyed: The AdCom Wants a “Type”

by on October 26th, 2009

Many MBA candidates believe that admissions committees have narrowed down their criteria for selecting applicants over the years and that each school has one distinct “type” that it is looking for. So, in this world of stereotypes, HBS is only looking for leaders, Kellogg is only looking for marketing students, Chicago is only looking for finance students and in some extreme cases people actually believe that MIT is only looking for “eggheads.”

Of course, these stereotypes are not accurate.

Chicago wants far more than one-dimensional finance students in its class and it provides far more to these students (including, to the surprise of many, an excellent marketing program).  HBS is not only a school for Generals; among its 950 students, HBS has all sorts of personalities, including some excellent foot soldiers. So, at mbaMission, we constantly strive to educate MBA candidates with the hope that they will eschew these stereotypes, which can sink applications, if students pander to them.

By way of example, imagine that you are an individual who worked in operations at a widget manufacturer. You have had profound experience managing and motivating dozens of different people, at different levels, throughout your career in both good economic times and bad. Even though you have had minimal exposure to finance, you erroneously determine that you need to be a “finance guy” in order to get into NYU. So, you tell your best, but nonetheless weak finance stories, and now you are competing against elite finance candidates who have far more impressive stories in comparison. What if you had told your unique operations/management story instead and stood out from others, instead of competing in the school’s most over-represented pool?

We think that it is just common sense to attempt to defy stereotypes and truly be yourself – to try to standout from all others and not be easily categorized. Of course, if you are still not convinced, you might ask Stanford’s Director of Admissions, Derrick Bolton, who wrote on his admissions website,

“Because we want to discover who you are, resist the urge to ‘package’ yourself in order to come across in a way you think Stanford wants. Such attempts simply blur our understanding of who you are and what you can accomplish. We want to hear your genuine voice throughout the essays that you write and this is the time to think carefully about your values, your passions, your hopes and dreams.”

Kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?


  • yes it does Jeremy. While applying for GMAT, I was thinking what would I write in the essay but now I know what I have to . I have to be myself and tell who I am .. thanks a lot for the article "Admissions Myths Destroyed" - all the posts under this topic are simply awesome ..thanks again

  • Great to hear.

    Candidates put way too much pressure on themselves and over think the process. It is a cliche but it is true: your best chance lies in being yourself.

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