A “flawed” MBA candidacy: Ignore, explain or fix?

Every business school applicant has some aspect of his or her candidacy that’s, well, imperfect. It might be a “C“ in college calculus, a 4-month gap between jobs, the absence of international experience, or zero involvement in non-profits. In most cases, the individual doesn’t even think about such flaws until it’s time to assess his or her chances for admission to top MBA programs. Before then, such bumps in the road simply didn’t matter.

This aspect of an admissions campaign is so important that we’ve made “analysis & planning” the first component of our Comprehensive Consultation for MBA applicants. Drilling down into our clients’ personal, academic and professional profiles typically reveals holes, disconnects and missteps that could have a major influence on whether they’ll gain acceptance at their dream business schools.

As you anticipate the scrutiny of the MBA admissions committee in evaluating your vulnerabilities during the application process, there are 3 paths that you can take:

1. Ignore
When presenting your candidacy it’s important to avoid T.M.I. – “too much information.” By raising issues that are neither relevant nor important, you could be revealing a lack of self-confidence that will instantly turn off the adcom. So, you have an important judgment call to make when deciding if mentioning a certain aspect of your background is even necessary. The experience and perspective of a professional admissions consultant like The MBA Exchange can be invaluable.

2. Explain
It’s risky to assume that a business school is so intuitive that the adcom will understand the circumstances surrounding a weakness without a clear explanation from the applicant. So, don’t make the admissions staff play guessing games as that only irritates them and magnifies the issue in question. Sometimes, just describing the factors that led to the vulnerability and expressing an appropriate degree of remorse is enough to put it behind you. The key is to convey the facts thoughtfully and strategically in your applications. Again, guidance from an admissions consultant and support from skilled essay editors in framing your explanation can make a big difference.

3. Fix
Although it’s not always possible, mitigating a flaw and then explaining how and why you fixed it can send a very positive message to b-schools about your candidacy. Examples include earning an “A” in an extension course, proposing a major initiative at work, helping a non-profit exceed its fundraising goals, etc. The less time there is before the application deadlines, the more challenging this can be. So, using an admissions consultant to help you prioritize and focus could help reverse some weaknesses and maybe even turn them into strengths.

In summary, no MBA applicant is truly perfect. And business schools continue to emphasize the importance of “authenticity” in candidacies. So, considering if, when and how to deal with flaws is a necessary step in the admissions campaign of any serious applicant. Be real, be smart.