4 ‘Seemingly Obvious’ Application Mistakes

by on December 1st, 2017

Over the past 10 years, I have seen some mistakes time and time again. While they may seem obvious, they are also extremely common. Find out if you are one of the many applicants making these errors in their MBA essays.

1. Using over-the-top language

There is no need to add multiple flowery adjectives to your essay. This is particularly true if you are using them to describe your accomplishments or praise the school. You do not need to tell the schools that you developed a fabulously unique program or that the school has incredibly famous and talented staff. Instead, describe the program that you created and show them what makes it unique and fabulous. Similarly, discuss particular staff or organizations on campus you are most interested in and how you will take advantage of them. Your word count is limited in nearly all essays so choose them wisely.

2. Being ‘cocky’

There is a fine line between being proud of your accomplishments and being conceited. Business schools are looking for accomplished professionals, but they are also looking for compassionate students who will make thoughtful peers and colleagues. They want candidates that one would want to live, study and work with. There is a well-known airport test in the consulting industry when an interviewer considers whether she would want to be stuck in an airport for hours with a prospective candidate. If the answer is no, that candidate has a slim chance of receiving an offer. Think about this as you read through your essays and be sure to remain proud yet humble.

3. Pointing out a mistake that wasn’t asked for

Not being cocky does not necessarily mean you need to volunteer your flaws, however. There are some questions that specifically ask for an example of a failure or a weakness. Unless this is the case, there is no need to point out your mistakes or volunteer negative information about yourself. Your essays provide a very limited opportunity to sell yourself so focus on your strengths and your specific accomplishments.

4. Not answering the question

This is the most obvious flaw that I see time and time again. While you often need to read between the lines and dig a bit below the surface of the question, you still need to answer the question. If a question asked for implications and learnings, include them. If a question asks for personal and professional goals, include both! Adding a bit about the situation for context is ok, but in an essay that should be focused on goals, do not recount your entire resume. These are just three of many examples we see every day from candidates who are not answering the question asked!

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