Do’s and Don’ts of the MBA Application Process (Part Two)

Posted by TheMBATour on 27 July 2011 / 0 Comments

By Donald Martin, Author of Road Map for Graduate Study

In our last article, we took a look at five of ten very important do’s and don’ts for applying to business school. This installment gives you the other five. Here we go:

6. Do be confident but don’t be conceited.

Similar to #5, it is important that you be confident in the application process. Put your best foot forward, and do nothing less that your very best. Do all you can to portray your abilities, talents, passion, and interest in the institution. You are one of a kind; a unique and special person. Be proud of who you are and what you have accomplished. But, remember that you are not perfect, that you are not better than others, and that you will never know it all. Sometimes applicants mistake conceit for confidence. These are polar opposites. Confidence tends to correlate with gratitude and humility. Conceit is usually associated with self-promotion, a chip of the shoulder, and looking down on others. The latter will definitely get you noticed, but not in the way you want to be.

7. Do be persistent but don’t be a pest.

Following up on your application(s) is most appropriate, especially if you believe misinformation has been communicated to you, or if a deadline for hearing from the admissions committee has passed. However, contacting the admissions office every week, or repeatedly sending notes or letters can result in an impression that you are desperate. During the application evaluation process, admissions staff members are overwhelmingly busy reading all of the files they have received. The more selective the program, the more applications to be read. This takes time, energy, and dedication. You can rest assured that admissions staff takes their evaluation responsibilities very seriously. You can also rest assured that what you have submitted will be evaluated. If you have done your homework, and taken time to do the best job possible on your application, trust that. Contact the admissions office only if you are asked to, or if you believe something needs to be clarified or corrected.

8. Do be yourself and don’t try to fit some sort of fake image.

This is a major temptation for applicants. Many make an assumption about what they think the admissions committee is looking for, and then they try to become that person in their application. Others, who may be feeling interior and nervous about how their application will measure up against others being submitted, put on an act to cover up their feelings of insecurity. Some try to make themselves sound perfect, with little or no hint of being human. Let me ask you a question: Can you usually tell when someone is not being her/himself? Sure you can. It is usually very obvious. And what is your reaction when you observe this behavior? Are you drawn to or away from this person? Most would answer the latter. So it is with the admissions committee. If you come across as perfect, or as faking it, this will be detected, and the result will not be in your favor. We are all human, and we are all unique. Let both of these shine in your application. The best applications I ever read were presented as if the applicant was saying, “Here I am–this is who I am. I like myself, and confident of my abilities, and hope you will see in me a match with your program. But if you do not, I’ll be fine, and know that something else will open up for me.”

9. Do lighten up and enjoy the process and don’t act as if this is “do or die.”

Have fun as you go through this process. Focus on the outcome of what you want–a graduate degree. There are many paths to earning that degree. While you have one path in mind, do not become so focused on that one path that you cannot see any other possibility. If the gate to that path does not open to you, all can seem lost. The path to both my masters and doctoral degrees was quite a bit different than what I’d initially planned. I deferred enrollment for both degrees, changed my focus of study in my master’s program, and ended up completing both degrees on a part-time basis. None of this was part of my original “plan.” But my career path was definitely impacted in the most positive ways due to the timing of completing both my graduate degrees. It has been amazing for me to look back and see how important timing was in my educational journey. Had I not be open to letting a different gate open at times, I would have had many of the opportunities that came my way. Trust in the timing of things. Let events unfold, and go with the flow. You will succeed, even if the path of your success is different that you originally imagined.

10. Do put your best foot forward but never yield to the temptation to embellish or lie.

Of all of the sad experiences I’ve witnessed, having to revoke and application due to dishonesty has been the saddest. How tragic and unnecessary! You are a very talented individual, and you WILL succeed in your life if you are persistent and determined. You will never succeed by being dishonest. It will always catch up with you, some way and somehow. Do not lie about any part of your application. Do not send in letters of recommendation that were not written by the person(s) listed in your application. Do not claim that you achieved something or received an award if you did not. Don’t do it. Just say no. It’s heart wrenching to see a perfectly capable and promising individual lose out because he/she chose to misrepresent the truth. We’re all human, and the temptation to do this will come to all of us. Being tempted is normal; determining how you will respond is what determines your level of integrity.

Well, there you have it: Ten do’s and don’ts of the MBA application process. My hope is that you will have a wonderful journey in your life, and that your graduate school experience will be one of the best memories along the way.

For 7 ways to get positively noticed as an applicant, 7 deadly sins for applicants, responding to the notification decision, and much more, go to Dr. Martin’s website and review his book Road Map for Graduate Study: A Guide for Prospective Graduate Students. The website address is

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