With Round One application deadlines quickly approaching for most b-schools, applicants can surely use some last minute tips straight from admissions committee members. After years in the Admissions business, I’ve seen many students make mistakes in the application process, almost all of which are completely avoidable. Below are a few things to think about as you prepare your applications, and a few more you’ll want to consider before you hit the submit button.
Get to know your schools. This goes beyond perusing our websites! Attend local information sessions to get a better feel of each school’s culture, and what they’re each looking for in their applicants. This will help you in your essay writing, as you strive to convince the committee that you’re a great match for their institution. Be sure that you have articulated what value you will gain from the MBA experience, and why the school’s culture fits with what you are trying to accomplish.
Make sure your application is the most accurate representation of who you are. Consider whether each piece of the application is as strong as it could be and whether the components of your application present a clear, holistic picture of you, your self-awareness, and your reasons for pursuing the MBA.
Answer the questions. We encourage you to take the time to read each essay question closely. For instance, the Chicago GSB essay questions may seem similar to other essays you've encountered, but in order to clearly answer the questions that are posed, you must pay close attention to exactly what you're being asked. Don’t assume that you can take a “one size fits all” approach to your essays.
Be creative and consider taking risks. There is no right or wrong way to show us who you are. We’re always impressed when a student uses the application in a strategic way to best articulate her strengths, personality and unique characteristics.
Recommenders; choose wisely! By now, you should have given some serious thought about who will write your letters of recommendation. Your choice is as important as the content of the letter itself. While you may think we’ll be impressed with a letter from an important political figure or the CEO, if that person doesn’t know you well, it’s a poor choice. Your recommenders should be people who know you and your work well, and they should be able to offer specific examples of your performance and contributions to the organization.
Have someone read your essays. Did they feel your answers really captured the question you were asked? If not, you may want to take additional time to re-work your essay(s). This is also a great chance to have someone else proofread! Sloppy mistakes are unnecessary and will leave a bad impression with the committee. Be thorough in your review before submitting your application.
Do not wait until the absolute last minute to submit your application online. Given the volume of applications most schools receive, you may experience significant delays or timeouts if you submit at the last minute. While there’s a thrill for some people (not me!) in submitting at the last minute, technological glitches are a reality of our lives. Give yourself time to submit your applications and get confirmation that they have been received.
Celebrate! Relax! Once your application is submitted, remind yourself that you've worked hard and submitted your best effort. Congratulate yourself for completing this difficult and stressful task! Then, go out and celebrate this enormous accomplishment!
Good luck with your applications. Don't forget that you can always call or email Admissions staff members for questions or concerns; that’s what we’re here for!
Joanne Legler, Associate Director of Admissions, Chicago GSB