Elite MBA Programs Slim Down Class of '17 Applications

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It's a gift and a curse. Some of the top programs out there such as Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, and Booth continue to shrink their applications and slash previous required essays. For applicants that have strong GMAT scores, solid GPAs, and unique or prestigious work experience, there's not much to worry about. If that's you, you're probably ecstatic about these changes! More time for kicking back and binge watching Breaking Bad.

For everyone else, you have the right to hit the panic button.

What are the implications of having fewer essays to write? Well, for one, the reduction in essay requirements means a decrease in application time and a likely increase in applicants applying to each of these schools. This move benefits these elite programs because it decreases their acceptance rate to make the schools appear more exclusive. That, in turn, translates into a bump in their US News rankings (check out how MBA rankings work here), which keeps their alumni and recruiters happy. It also means those applicants with borderline stats and gaps in their application will be challenged to tell their stories and demonstrate why they belong at these top programs as they struggle with reduced real estate. There will be little room to let your personality shine. Differentiating yourself outside the numbers ain't going to be a cakewalk!

So does that mean it's game over and you should just give up? OF COURSE NOT! It means you need to buckle down and get to work. Here are some things you need to focus on:

1) Make sure you have very strong recommendations from your recommenders. Some schools have even cut down the number of recommenders you can use (*cough* we're lookin' at you, Ross) but use what you have strategically. Recommendations are a great way to convey key aspects of your profile that you don't have the ability to do in your written application. Making sure your recommenders understand how they play is critical!

2) Go on a soul searching journey to find the most compelling examples to answer each of these questions. Find examples that touch upon a variety of key themes at once. Ones that go deep. Think of things you have done that get to the very heart of who you are and how you work.

3) Be flawless in executing the remaining essay(s). Yeah - easier said than done. We know. But it is absolutely imperative your essays be rock solid. This means answering the question at hand in a crisp and compelling manner. Be engaging. Be memorable. But be you.

4) Make every effort to show the admissions committee your interest in the program. This means attending informational events, visiting campus, and signing up for alumni chats. You want the admissions committee to your name...in a good way of course. If you're international, really try to engage with the school. Not all of you can buy a $1,500 ticket, but these schools make the global rounds so buy a $400 one instead and visit them in a city or country close to you. Show your passion and enthusiasm for their program!

If you find yourself struggling to answer these essay questions, do yourself a favor and [reach out to us here at Critical Square]. No matter where you are in the process, we can take the stress and anxiety out of an intimidating process so that you're able to focus on telling your story.

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Good luck!
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