7 MBA Application Myths to Ignore

by Knewton, Aug 9, 2011

Heard any of the following application myths before?

If youre over 27, you should have the word director in your title.

If you went to Harvard for undergrad, youre in everywhere.

If you broke 750, you dont need any work experience.

Dont even bother applying Round 3.

If youre intimidated or galvanized by any of the above statements, heres a hard, reality-restoring look at resume embellishments, sexy companies, application rounds, and what your exotic work experience will really do for you.

1. 30 is too old

Some people have a negative outlook or believe that instilling fear in others is the best way to get attention or qualify themselves as experts. There will always be some authority out there who sets an arbitrary cut-off specification for anything career or life-progression related. You will always be too young, too old, or too inexperienced in the eyes of naysayers for whatever it is you want.

As you probably know deep inside, there is no cut-off. You will find people who are 37 or even 40 in MBA programs; the adcom simply wants to see that you have made the most out of your working life. For every year that you are out of college, you need to demonstrate increased responsibility and achievement. Ultimately, its up to you to decide what you want and whether you are willing to make the necessary sacrifices to get it.

2. If you didnt break 700, you dont stand a chance at a top school

Forget 700; some people will tell you that if you didnt break 750, you dont stand a chance. The fact remains that there are a good number of applicants who didn't break 700 accepted to Harvard and Stanford each year. Just check out Sanford Kreisbergs post for one persons take on the matter. If you work for a company like Google or Apple, have a 3.8 from Yale, and scored a 680 on the GMAT, you could definitely be admitted to a top 5 or even top 3 school over someone with a spottier work history and a 750 GMAT score.

3. Its much, much easier in Round 1

Rumor has it that your odds of admission go up if you apply Round 1: more spaces available and thus, a higher probability you will snag a slot. As spaces fill, admissions officers are more discriminating, or so experts say.

All this said, apply when youre ready. Round 1 applicants tend to be very prepared and self-aware, so it makes sense their applications would be more successful (it doesnt necessarily mean any special luck is on their side). Unless youre dealing with rolling admissions and are told otherwise, you dont get bonus points for submitting your app early. Since standards dont fluctuate much, the adcom will have a sense of where your app stacks up against the rest before they even see what the tide brings in. Dont turn in an app that is less than your best - remember that you may reapply should this year not work out, and your app will be on file for years to come.

4. If you have exotic work experience, youre in everywhere

As admissions consultant Sandy Kreisberg has said, there is a small pot for certain kinds of cream at HBS. That said, the pot is indeed smaller for certain categories of applicants. As a result, the admissions process is always more conservative than people expect it to be. Stories of non-traditional applicants tend to travel faster; everyone hears about poets, opera singers, and fashion designers who somehow land seats at the nations powerhouse programs. While successful applicants of this nature exist, they dont make up the majority of acceptances. Theres no way around it: work experience, GMAT scores, and GPAs are generally what get people in.

For admissions tips for non-traditional applicants, check out my blog post on the subject.

5. The interview doesnt matter

To determine exactly how much the interview matters in quantifiable terms, simply look at the numbers. If every admitted student must interview, you know you cant get in without an invite. If only a small portion are invited to interview and over 60% of those invited students are admitted, the interview itself is probably a less decisive factor (its more crucial, for instance, that you survive the cut-off to begin with). If, however, 70% of applicants are invited to interview and only 30% of those are admitted, then it becomes paramount that you perform well during the interview. Its less of a box to check and more of a contest.

6. Certain companies are sexy and others arent

While its true that brands like Google and Apple can turn a resume into gold, the length of time for which you worked at a company also matters, as does your title there and any indication of career progression. Wherever you work, you need to demonstrate that you can rise to the top of your peer group and distinguish yourself.

Keep in mind that if you do not work for a sexy company, you can add sparkle to your resume through your GMAT and GPA and other stats as well as extracurricular activities and community involvement. Thus, it is unlikely that a single isolated aspect of your profile will get you in or keep you out.

7. Your GPA doesnt matter

Every year, some applicants do gain admission to HBS, Wharton and other top programs with 3.2 GPAs and even 2.9s. However, this is not the norm. And remember that if you dont work for a brand name company or have an outta-the-ballpark GMAT score, high grades from a respectable institution will boost your application profile. Otherwise, youre asking the adcom to take a big risk when admitting you. At the very least, strive to avoid raising any red flags with your undergraduate performance.