Impressing MBA Adcoms: Dos and Don’ts

January 10 2023 By The MBA Exchange
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Your Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) application doesn’t sail off into the void after you complete it and hit submit. It goes straight to the members of an MBA admissions committee.

Those committee members, more casually known as MBA adcoms, hold your future in their hands while they consider your application materials. You want to make sure your application will impress and cause doors to open for you. Those admissions committee members are your audience, and you need their applause.

At The MBA Exchange, we understand all sides of this situation. We’ve helped thousands of successful applicants to refine, hone and polish top-notch application materials. Additionally, our team hosts a number of former MBA adcoms from top schools like Harvard, Wharton, MIT Sloan, Columbia, Kellogg, and Booth who can report back from inside the room where it happens, offering you key insights to impress any MBA or college admission committee.

What is an admission committee?

An MBA admissions committee or college admission committee is a group that considers your application materials to make a judgment on whether you’re a good match for their program.

Members of an admission committee may be admissions staff, educators, second-year students, or even alumni interviewers, although the latter aren’t typically involved in admissions decisions. You could be dealing with outside readers or deans.

These committee members are the intended audience for your application materials, the people you have to impress to gain admittance to your target MBA programs.

3 things you should never say to an MBA adcom

At The MBA Exchange, we know what to ask adcom MBA members to avoid tanking your candidacy. Take some pointers from us on how to impress an MBA admissions committee, and watch out for the pitfalls and errors below.

In order, to avoid damaging your own chances. Here’s a helpful list of things you shouldn’t ever ask adcoms in communication.

Is my GPA high enough?

Questions for MBA adcoms that ask for this kind of validation come off as insecure. If you’re trying for a top MBA program with a low GPA, you need to have a plan of attack that counterbalances that weakness with other strengths.

Do I need to retake the GMAT?

Again, that’s on you. Figure out what test scores you need for your target programs and how you’re going to make the grade. (Talk to The MBA Exchange team about these. Types of questions we can help you figure it all out!)

What do you look for when doing a background check?

Background verification is a tricky part of the admissions process that causes anxiety in the hearts of many. But, it’s not a good look to show that anxiety to an adcom. Check-in with an admissions consultant instead.

Things the MBA adcoms hate

Here are a few more things you should watch out for if you’re invited to interview, or during phone calls, etc.

Not answering the question

Adcoms ask the interview and essay questions they do for a reason and are typically looking for a straight answer. Talking around awkward topics just makes them more obvious as an issue.

Asking the adcom about your chances of admission

You and the adcoms you’ll interact with as you pursue MBA admission both know why you’re there. To get into a top MBA program and increase your earning potential, networking opportunities, and hard business skills.

It’s gauche to talk about these topics too directly. You could seem unpolished or needy. In the business world, you need to be able to play the game without giving your whole hand away. Don’t blow it at this point by hassling adcoms for immediate validation.

Contacting the adcom all the time

It’s good to show interest, but no one likes a nag. Only contact adcoms strategically to avoid becoming an annoyance.

Pushing for feedback

It’s tempting to press adcoms for direct feedback or assessments of your profile. Don’t. If you need feedback, working with an experienced MBA admissions consultant is much more likely to be effective for your goals. And, if you need to figure out what went wrong with a failed application and approach the MBA application deadlines soon, that’s a task for an MBA admissions consultant, as well.

The right questions for MBA adcoms

Your b-school applications and interviews need to show you off, not risk embarrassing you. You want to have the right questions for MBA adcoms figured out before you get in too deep and become a potential annoyance.

How MBA adcoms can affect your admissions chances

Any time you get to talk to an adcom, be it in an interview or over the phone, you need to be on and ready. Annoying an adcom affects your application MBA success. These are the people you want to impress an MBA admissions committee, not turn off!

MBA adcoms: what are they really thinking?

Around the world, as admissions officers from top business schools review the well-crafted applications of eager MBA candidates, what are the key questions racing through their heads? What are these professionals pondering as they decide the fate of applicants like you?

Based on the collective experiences of former admissions professionals on the consulting team at The MBA Exchange, here are six key questions that race through the minds of decision makers:

Will this MBA applicant:

  • Succeed and contribute in the classroom?
  • Respect and enhance the core values of this MBA community?
  • Benefit from and add to the diversity of the incoming class?
  • Achieve success in his or her post-MBA career?
  • Build lasting, reciprocal relationships with classmates?
  • Become an active alumnus or alumna who gives back?

As an MBA applicant striving to succeed, you now have a choice. You can either hope that your application answers these and similar questions completely and convincingly. Or you can verify this in advance by having an admissions expert provide a critical review or a simulated assessment before you submit it to the school.

How to impress MBA admissions committees

MBA admissions committees want to see every aspect of your personality, background and achievements in order to determine that you’ll be a good fit with a given program. That’s why a well-rounded MBA application is so essential to admissions success. In order to impress an MBA admissions committee, you need genuinely impressive accomplishments, well-presented to maximize impact.

The different component parts of your MBA application, including your responses to the online application and submitted materials, create opportunities to impress the admissions office with your various strengths.

A typical MBA application contains:

  • College transcripts and GPA
  • Score reports from standardized tests like the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT™) or Graduate Record Examination (GRE ®)
  • A resume prepared for MBA admissions (not job-hunting!) detailing your work experience
  • Recommendations
  • Essays and short answer questions

Once adcoms have looked these materials over – if you’re lucky! – you’ll receive your invitation to interview for admission, one of the most important parts of sealing the deal.

Problem factors like an MBA with a low GPA or a poorly-prepared resume that doesn’t adequately document your work experience can get your candidacy tossed out before you reach the interview stage. Your goal is to make it through the initial admissions committee review of applicants by optimizing your candidacy as much as possible.

Impressing at events conducted by MBA admissions committees

Your target business school hosts events where you can interact with the MBA admissions committee or college admission committee personnel and make a favorable impression. These events could be Q&As, forums, meet-and-greets or even coffee chats, and you can find events both in-person and online.

Dos of impressing admissions committee members during events

Do make sure to do your research before attending these events! Attending admissions events is a way to get a leg up, so make the best of the opportunity. It’s a good idea to prepare a few good, solid questions that you can ask adcoms, getting information and bringing yourself to notice at the same time.

Do keep your people skills on point, with plenty of active listening and lots of politeness. Person-to-person connections can get you far in the MBA admissions world, but you’ll need to put your best foot forward.

Also, do keep track of what you learn during the event. You can use pertinent details to more perfectly tailor application materials like your essays to hit exactly the notes that your target program’s admissions committee is looking for.

Don’ts of impressing admissions committee members during events

Events with top-program adcoms are a bad time to develop a case of foot-in-mouth disease – you want to watch your manners! Selfishly dominating a session shows a lack of team spirit, and asking adcoms directly about your admissions chances is a big social no-no, on the verge of being rude.

Reaching your goal of getting an interview invite from MBA admissions committees

Your goal for your application materials, once they make it in front of the MBA admissions committee or college admission committee members, is for them to make enough of an impression to get you through to the interview stage, where you can close the deal on your admissions package.

To impress MBA admissions committees, you need your resume, GMAT score, essays and other application materials to present you with pizzazz and clarity, showing how much you could contribute to in-class and extracurricular life in a top MBA program. Demonstrate drive, leadership, experience and impact in all of your MBA application materials.

Optimizing your MBA application to impress

Optimizing an MBA candidacy takes lots of time, effort, and insider know-how. Why not let the team at The MBA Exchange support you through the admissions process?

With more than 25 years of experience perfecting MBA candidacies, we can position you to impress, whether that means presenting your achievements and accomplishments in the best possible light or assisting you in efforts to improve weaker aspects of your application like a low GMAT score.

For a sneak peek into the highs and lows of your potential MBA candidacy from the experts at The MBA Exchange, fill out our free, confidential profile evaluation form now. We’ll let you know where you’re already making a strong impression, as well as the areas we see where your application and candidacy could be improved.