Several week ago we posted Part 1 of our “MBA Admissions Mind Control” feature, in which we described how MBA admissions officers tend to form impressions of an applicant within seconds of picking up an application. While this may seem unfair, remember that admissions officers are only human, and they can’t help but be influenced by the hundreds or thousands of applications that they’ve previously read.
Whether or not they’re thinking about it consciously, the question that runs through MBA admissions officers’ minds essentially boils down to this: “How much time should I devote to this application?” Give off all the obvious signs of an applicant who will never fit with the school — e.g., by having a very low GMAT score or presenting a confused, lackluster career path — and you’ll make an admissions officer’s decision easy (and not in a good way).
How Searching for Keys Is Like MBA Admissions
If you’ve ever had to find a lost set of keys, you quickly made decisions about where to look and not look: “No, it’s not in the couch. I wasn’t sitting on the couch.” / “Hmmm… I was rolling around in the yard with the dog. I’d better go outside and look in the grass again.” / “Maybe I left them in my jeans when I changed my clothes. I’ll take a look there.” / “It’s not in my jacket. I never put my keys in my jacket.” In every instance you made a decision about where to invest your time. And admissions officers are constantly making those same decisions as they move from one application to the next, trying to find the best ones to recommend for further evaluation.
Finding great applicants in the pile of applications is not the hard part — it’s finding the best ones that is the challenge. And the more time that the admissions officer spends on a bad one, the more he has to make up for it later (either by hurrying up with another application or working even longer hours).
Ask Yourself These Six Questions
While it can be hard to be completely objective and strategic about your application, this is what is required at the planning stage. (And it’s also what MBA admissions consultants like those at Veritas Prep help applicants do every day!) Ask yourself these six things:
- Will your work experience look impressive or bland?
- Will your GMAT and GPA seem like assets or liabilities (or will they offset one another)?
- Do you seem like someone on an upward trajectory, or someone who’s stagnating in his or her career?
- Is there anything in your application that will make the admissions officer want you over the other people who have very similar professional/ethnic backgrounds?
- What personality comes through? That of a somber, boring, immature, excuse-making, or challenge-seeking person?
- What about your application will the reader remember 15 minutes after reading it???
Again, objectivity is key here, particularly when asking yourself why an admissions officer might want to choose you over someone else who looks very similar to you on paper. This is also where another pair of eyes can help, ideally from someone who doesn’t know you too well. (Your friends and family are biased… They think you’re amazing, but they’ve known you forever! An MBA admissions officer doesn’t have such an advantage.)
In the final part of this series, we will explore specific ways in which an applicant can give off signals that say, “This application is worth more of your time!” and we’ll contrast those approaches to some ways that tell an admissions officer, “Don’t worry, nothing to see here. You can safely put me in the ‘ding’ pile.” Look for that in a few weeks.