10 Mistakes to Avoid in Your MBA Application


Your MBA application is not just a representation of your achievements but is also the first level of communication with the university admission officers. Students spend a lot of their time preparing for qualifying tests such as GRE/GMAT to score good grades, however, equal consideration is required in drafting the MBA application. It is the basis of the application, the admission committee at universities decides whether a candidature is good enough to be taken to the next level or not.

Let’s take a look at common mistakes students make with their MBA application and how to avoid them:


Not Planning Ahead

Not Planning Ahead

Scoring good grades to qualify for MBA is half the work done. Your chances of being accepted at a University depends a great deal on your application too. Making the mistake of not strategizing for your MBA application may result in an application sent in haste with mistakes that cannot be undone. Hence it is vital to plan ahead for your MBA application by doing extensive research and taking the right guidance, to help you come up with an impressive application.

Submitting an MBA application on-time with the complete and right information can become a demanding task on hand. It requires a great deal of focus and discipline as it is a time-consuming activity. Especially true for those with jobs, as they will require to put in some extra efforts by creating a balance between their personal and professional commitments.

Targeting Wrong Schools

Generally, everybody wants to get an MBA degree from the top 10 business schools, however, there are only limited seats available. While choosing Universities to apply for MBA, students make the mistake of just going after school rankings. Ranking alone cannot be the deciding factor. One should take time to think about her/his career goals and see which business schools best align with them. Target business schools that will help achieve those career goals. Along with the program itself, get enough information on activities that extend beyond studies like career support programs, alumni network, industry participation, and so forth. This will help you target schools that best meet your needs which will help increase acceptance chances of your MBA application.

Armed with this information you will be able to write a succinct essay that will clearly and concisely convey to the admission committees why you think you are a good fit for the program. In the essay, you will be able to confidently convey highlights of the program you look forward to gain knowledge from, unique experiences you will gain based on special programs the business school has and mention other resources you think will add to your learning while doing the course. Without being specific and failing to include these points, your MBA application will come across as a generic one, failing to stand out in a sea of applications.

Generic Resume

Generic Resume

Resumes for MBA applications need to be detailed. The admission committee goes through the resumes not to know the job descriptions and designations but to understand how you contributed to the job. What were your challenges? How did you overcome them? What were your learnings? They would like to see some actionable goals put to execution. Putting all of this in a descriptive manner in your resume will take some thought and time. Avoid making the mistake of sending your regular resume without any changes.

For your resume to stand out, draft it in a manner that helps the reviewer understand what is unique about you. Number crunching and job description is something every application will have. Details on interesting facts such as learnings from the job, how they came about, your hobbies, personal experiences or volunteer activities undertaken will make the application about you and hence unique. Business schools look for students from diverse backgrounds and experiences to study together. Applications that help bring this element out, generally, have a better chance of acceptance.

Last Minute Recommendations

Recommendations are a vital part of any MBA application. They speak of you as professional and also highlight your personal character that helps build trust with the reviewers of your MBA application. Strong recommendations support the claims you have made in your application about yourself. Hence it is important to approach the right people and the right time. Recommendations come from senior professionals who generally have a busy schedule. Hoping one email or phone call will do the job, is setting wrong expectations. One should approach at least a month in advance if not more as there will be multiple reminders to be sent.

People who know you directly and have worked with you are the best ones to approach for recommendations first. Ideally, your current or past supervisors, teachers, managers are the ones who can write good recommendation letters for you with anecdotes to strengthen the claims made in the application, especially on the personal attributes. A letter of recommendation from an alumnus of the business school you are applying to is highly valued by the admission committee.

If the recommender is known to you, the task may be easier, however, if you have approached people you do not know directly there will be additional work to do. If you have been introduced to someone senior you do not know personally, be prepared to leave a good impression on them by walking them through your education and work experience. How you handle the interaction will give them an idea of how professional you are in your approach, which will reflect in their recommendation letter for you.

Writing Essay without an Outline

Writing Essay without outline

As the essay is about us we think it will be an easy task to put our thoughts together. However, when we start writing we soon either run out of ideas or start repeating points already mentioned in the resume. To avoid this, it is advisable to start with an outline first. We are all aware of how important the essay is in an MBA application, so spending a little time on first making an outline first helps draft the essay quicker. The outline should contain all the highlights and the sequence in which you would want to put them. The more time and effort you will put the better will be the output as you will able to recall details, which otherwise may have been overlooked. Once you have an outline, filling in the details takes less time.


A long list of achievements is not the only thing the reviewers look for in an MBA application. Avoid just listing your successes in your resume and essay as they come out as repetitive information. If your resume is about all the work you did, the essay should go deeper into the work to highlight your involvement and learning with it. Every section of the application should complement each other so the reader gets a clear and consistent message.

The application should reflect your personality in terms of your values and belief. Every accomplishment should weave in the values you believe in which tells the reviewer how they guided you and added to your experience. Focus on your strengths that not just helped you but also your peers – be it at work, study, community, or family. Showcasing that you have an interest beyond your studies and are passionate about things outside your academics with a willingness to contribute to the betterment of the community goes a long way.

Social Media

Social Network

Social media has become a way of life. It is a reflection of your personality. The admission committee may look into your social accounts to understand more about you as a person. For example: if you claim to be passionate about conserving the environment in your resume, but your social media accounts do not have anything to support this claim, it may put some doubt in the minds of the reviewers. Somebody who is concerned with environmental issues will at some point and time take interest in articles, podcasts, webinars and other posts related to the subject. If there is evidence to support your claims that come across as genuine, it helps build strong credibility with the reviewers.

Trying to fit in

Not being authentic does more harm than good. There are no right or perfect answers as the reviewers are looking to understand what is unique about you. Using a template or copying from others does not work as it is not reflective of you, it does not tell the reviewers anything about your interests or why you want to be a part of the program. The reviewers want to know your story- why you want to do this course, how will the business school help to fulfill your aspirations, what are your career goals, how is the MBA program going to foster those goals.

The reviewers go through thousands of applications from across the globe. It is easy for them to spot an application that has been copied from somewhere or is not a true reflection of an applicant’s thoughts. It is best to stay authentic and share how your values, beliefs and interests have guided you in your journey so far, helped shape the person you are today and what vision do you have of your future.

Incomplete Answers

It is tempting to write short answers hoping the reviewers will understand what you want to convey. However, it does not work that way. After completing all the sections treat it as a first draft and read through to gauge it from the reviewer’s point of view. Have you answered the questions correct, are the answers complete or you have just addressed the question in parts. Writing generic answers will not make the cut, you have to be specific to make the answers about you, not about what you think the reviewers may want to read.

Small Mistakes

Small Mistakes

We may call them small mistakes but they leave a negative impression on the reviewer of your application. Careless mistakes and errors leave a negative impact leading the reviewer to question your seriousness about the program and the process. Such mistakes show a lack of professionalism and put a question on your ability to pay attention to details. To avoid this, proofread as many times as you can at different stages of drafting your application to correct the errors or typos. Make sure to have enough time in hand to have the application reviewed by the people you trust as they may point to mistakes that you have overlooked. We cannot emphasize enough that the application should have impeccable grammar and language in general as it not just leaves a good impression but also saves a lot of time for the reviewer.

You may have an excellent GMAT/GRE score, best of work experience and recommendations but if your MBA application fails to impress the admission committee all the hard work may go in vain. Following the above-mentioned points, you can avoid making common mistakes people make with their application.

As we mentioned earlier, your MBA application is your first level of communication after qualifying to apply for a program, therefore you need to make sure it is well-drafted and written in a manner that brings out your unique story to justify your candidature for a particular business school.

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