First thing first: don't panic! No one is perfect. Every applicant will have an aspect of their application which they wish could be improved but can't be retroactively fixed: additional work experience, a higher GPA, a gap in their resume. So what is one to do? Back in October we had a #TwitterChat and asked Admissions Directors to provide students with advice on how to compensate for application weaknesses.
Put it in Writing
A3: The optional essay is a great way to address any areas of weakness on your application. (1/2) #TheMBATourChat— Babson Grad School (@BabsonGraduate) October 28, 2015
A3: Keep it concise, no need to write more than a few sentences in most instances. (2/2) #TheMBATourChat— Babson Grad School (@BabsonGraduate) October 28, 2015
A3 The optional essay is a good place to provide context on a potential weakness in your application #TheMBATourChat— UCLAAndersonMBA (@UCLAMBA) October 28, 2015
While highlighting your weaknesses might be the last thing you want to do, Admissions Directors agree that it's important to use the optional essay section of the application to give context for your shortcomings. Is their a gap in your resume because you traveled around the world for a year? Explain it! Giving context to the situation will help Admissions Committees understand your journey.
Address the Issue
Yes, you could just breeze over the low points of your application, but Admissions Directors certainly won't. They will have questions, and it's in your best interest to provide them with answers before they ask them.
Applicants should be transparent in presenting their candidacy through optional essays, interviews and early conversations #thembatourchat— WMSchoolofBiz (@WMSchoolofBiz) October 28, 2015
Talk about Opportunity and Action not Roadblocks
We want to see balance in an application. Candidates should highlight their strengths & not make excuses for weaknesses. #TheMBATourChat— UC Irvine Merage (@UCIrvine_MBA) October 28, 2015
A3 provide lots of positive reasons to accept & not just "handle" negatives.— Linda Abraham (@Accepted) October 28, 2015
A3 Demonstrate practical knowledge gained from work experience to help us understand why you would be a good candidate. #THEMBATOURCHAT— Whitman School at SU (@WhitmanatSU) October 28, 2015
Don't confuse answers with excuses! Admissions Directors don't want to hear all the reasons why you couldn't do something. They want to know how you strove to overcome the problem. You may be thinking, but I still got a bad grade, how's that overcoming? Focus instead on the fact that you actively did everything to get the best possible grade you could: attending office hours, working in study groups, spending extra time doing additional reading to help understand the subject.
Demonstrate how you were able to take on a challenge, something you will certainly have to be able to do in business school and in your career. Use this weakness as an opportunity to show how you are able to bounce back and take action to help better a situation.
Remember, Schools Look at Your Entire Application
A3: One weaker area (eg. GPA) can be balanced out by strong work experience or GMAT - again, we look at apps holistically. #TheMBATourChat— Ivey MBA Admissions (@iveymba) October 28, 2015
Admissions Directors are people too! They want to see the good things about your application, and evaluate you in a holistic manner. Yes, business school admissions is extremely competitive, but if you are able to highlight your other achievements and effectively discuss your weaknesses, you can come out on top!
We also recommend candidates apply early if they feel there are parts of their application that may not be as strong. #TheMBATourChat— UC Irvine Merage (@UCIrvine_MBA) October 28, 2015
Most people forget that schools have resources for you to use during your application process. If you have questions, ask them! Also, take steps to increase your chances of admissions. For example, some schools recommend applying early to express your high interest in the program.
While you want to submit the best possible application, remember these tips to help turn an application weakness into an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to overcome obstacles.