3 Common Mistakes MBA Applicants Make Choosing Essay Topics

Law School Applicant SurveyOne of the most undervalued steps in the business school essay-writing process is to make sure it the essay ties in with each component of the MBA application – the essays, CV, letters of recommendation, transcripts, and GMAT scores. In the process and stress of making the major life decision of attending business school, many applicants often anchor their essays by one of the common factors below, and thus, lose out on presenting a stronger overall profile.

Let’s examine these mistakes one by one:

Professional Domain
A candidate’s pre-MBA industry, company, and job function are all important, so it is understandable that these may become top of mind when brainstorming for examples and highlights to include in your essay. When it comes to the MBA essay, however, it is always best to consider mixing in different elements of your life experiences – ones that would help complement your resume and not just elaborate on what the reader will already glean from it.

Extracurricular activities, especially those that are not related to your profession, help show a multidimensional personality, so it would be wise to discuss the ones you are involved with in your essays. For instance, an accomplished banker with excellent academics may be better off sharing leadership experiences with his mountain hiking group rather than detailing how he was able to do well in the CFA exams. In this case, valuable space in the essays can be better used to show additional dimensions to the applicant’s profile.

Most Performed Activity
Another common error, especially when creating your resume and even preparing for your interview, is to focus on the activities you perform most frequently. As critical as operational and maintenance tasks are, it would be better to play up more attention-grabbing tasks. For example, it would be better to showcase how you led the financial review for your company’s new distribution model or new product lines than to describe the regular payroll disbursements you assist with.

In short, when asked to describe what you do, it is not always best to prioritize your activities by the number of hours you spend on them. Instead, choose the ones that would be the most exciting to discuss, and the ones that will highlight more of your strengths.

Technical Accomplishments
Applicants from technical fields typically want to share their most technically challenging work. Sharing complexity does demonstrate deep expertise, and that your company trusts you to take on tremendous responsibilities, however you must also consider if there are better examples that would better showcase your experiences with collaboration and leadership.

Remember, the MBA is geared towards developing your ability to work with people, whether it is through motivating teams of people, mentoring individuals, or managing challenging relationships. Thus, details on your technical accomplishments should be shared in a way that is understandable to non-industry readers. Details on these more technical achievements should be descriptive enough to show impact and expertise, but concise enough that you still have room to display the key transferable skills you learned from this accomplishment, such as leadership and teamwork.

Following the tips above should help you decide how to use the limited space in your MBA application package and present a complete picture of your unique personality.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! And as always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD. You can read more articles by him here

How to Create a Breakthrough Business School Application Resume

InterviewProspective MBA students spend a lot of time on a variety of things to prepare their application packages. Some application prep – like studying for the GMAT or drafting responses for essay questions – takes up a disproportionate amount of time for the typical candidate. However, the application component most admissions committee reps look at first is, in fact, the professional resume.

Wait, so the GMAT score you have spent hours studying to achieve and your meticulously crafted essays that are now on draft #89 from revisions aren’t looked at right away, but that resume that has gone unedited since you last interviewed for your most recent job is?

Your professional resume represents one of the most important aspects of your candidacy, and is your first opportunity to make a positive impression on the Admissions Committee. Let’s explore a few ways you can create a breakthrough resume for your business school application:

Stick to a Clear Structure:
Having a clean and consistent structure is probably the first thing a reviewer will notice after opening your resume, so make sure whatever format you use is consistent and readable. Avoid over-packing your resume and leaving no white space. Also, do not treat your resume like a book report – this document should not exceed one page, so exercise the skill of brevity and keep it concise, including only the most relevant bullets.

Share Accomplishments, Not Tasks:
Your resume is not your job description! The Admissions Committee is looking to learn what you have accomplished in your career, so avoid simply highlighting your day-to-day tasks. MBA programs want to create classes of accomplished students who can leverage their programs to take the next step in their career trajectory. If you only communicate the tasks that were outlined when you first took on your role, then this makes your case for admission to these classes much less compelling.

Again, do not feel like you need to include everything you have ever done over the course of your career in your resume. Focus on the accomplishments that resonate the most and that you have most directly been a part of, keeping in mind to highlight important interpersonal skills like leadership and teamwork in your descriptions.

Show Your Impact:
The MBA application is all about impact, and your resume is one of the best opportunities you have to show this. You should aim to make sure each bullet in your resume holds some form of significance.

Of course, the more quantifiable the results of your impact, the better, but do not feel you have to limit your resume to only numbers. Qualitative influence is also important to mention, and will be well received by the Admissions Committee if framed properly. For some, quantifying the specifics of their resume can be challenging – if you fall into this bucket, then using reasonable estimates of your impact can also work, and will provide the Admissions Committee with greater context of your experiences than simply avoiding this all together.

Don’t treat your business school application resume as an afterthought; make sure you include the elements above to maximize your chances for admissions success.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more articles by him here.

What Counts as Significant International Work Experience?

For international experience to be significant it has to be something that you can write about at length and appropriately in a b-school essay.

  1. Can you articulate how you lead a team in a multi-national or cross border environment? This is what the adcom would want to see if you were writing an essay. A lot of applicants have worked occasionally overseas. More important is what you learned, how it changed your perspective, how you overcame an obstacle and how you produced a positive team outcome.
  2. That is, what you got out of it and what you can put down on paper is what will set your experience apart from other applicants. That is where I consider the line drawn with respect to whether or not an experience is significant.
  3. With respect to any extracurricular international experience (start-up, professional volunteerism, etc.), if you can write about it effectively as part of your positioning then it