There is a wide range of criteria that top-tier business schools use in evaluating applicants. The importance of building a candidacy and preparing an application that is likely to produce an offer of admission has led to the emergence of two popular myths.
Myth No. 1: All of the top schools are looking for the same things in applicants.
Many applicants believe that they can prepare and use the same resume, recommendations and essays for all of the schools to which they are applying. They rationalize this practice by assuming that all schools look for and value the same achievements and characteristics. Furthermore, they believe that the manner in which the candidacy is presented can be the same for all schools. While this approach saves a lot of time and effort for the applicant, it also means that he or she has missed a vital opportunity to differentiate the candidacy by aligning its components with the key selection criteria of each school.
Admissions officers are not naïve. They can spot “cookie cutter” applications and take this as evidence that the applicant either is not different or better than the pack, or that he or she doesn’t know the school well enough to confirm the fit. Either way, the application is probably doomed.
This belief that “one size fits all” is reinforced when the applicant fails to tap into the experience of resources who know the differences – sometimes subtle, sometimes major – among MBA programs.
Our process drills down into the candidacy to discover the relevant uniqueness, even if it seems to the individual that they’re not differentiated. Our framework and methodology will find it. It will find the points of reference that are relevant and meaningful and help the applicant capitalize on that. Likewise, we know which attributes the schools consider as table stakes – you’ve got to have these two for serious consideration and attributes that can put you over the top and make it a distinct app. We make sure the entry requirements and standards are being addressed. We help the client see what’s bigger and better about their candidacy that will resonate beyond those core requirements.
There is some risk assessment and risk taking involved in order to really stand out. The expertise of an experienced admissions consultant can be so valuable because they know what’s an acceptable risk to get a meaningful reward, rather than taking a risk just to take a risk and putting the candidacy in jeopardy.
Myth No. 2: All of the top schools are looking for different things in applicants.
The flip side is that some applicants believe that there is little common ground among the top schools as far as what kind of students they want. These individuals believe that each application must reflect a completely different set of strengths and post-MBA goals in order to resonate. To do so demands countless hours of research and writing, which can limit the total number of schools being pursued. More importantly, believing and acting on this myth means that some of the strongest attributes of a candidacy are left out of some applications just because the applicant arbitrarily felt compelled to take a new approach for School X than School Y.
The belief that every application must be invented from scratch reflects a desire for success and perfection, but is not sustainable or effective. Such applicants need a knowledgeable resource who can help time identify the aspects of their candidacy that should be showcased for one school and ignored for others.
The MBA Exchange helps applicants avoid both of these extremes by starting with a thoughtful and thorough analysis of the candidacy. Then, drawing upon 14 years of admissions success with over 2,300 applicants who targeted more than 70 different MBA programs, we help our clients to align what they have with what the schools want. It is that “alignment” that ensures the right content and style for each program — sometimes new and different, other times tried and true. The result is a customized presentation that is on target for the admissions committee’s evaluation.
Get to know us by requesting an objective, professional evaluation of your candidacy. The MBA Exchange is ready and eager to help you achieve your objectives.