More than likely you’ve read about the obvious boo-boos you want to steer clear of in your business school application. Since you’re already aware of those, let’s talk about the dangerous but not very obvious missteps that lurk like quicksand in the application process. This article is for applicants who already know the rudiments of the process and want to move on to the more cryptic elements. They’re cryptic because they’re hard to see and hard to explain. Admissions committees don’t want to admit they exist, but they do. So if you’re gunning for one of the top three schools, learning how to dodge around these veiled pitfalls can be the difference between acceptance and rejection.
Mistake 1: Don’t Get Grandiose
In a perfect world, everyone wants to be Mother Theresa and save the world. A lot of applicants, just like Miss America contestants, believe that’s what will get their foot in the door at the school of their choice. If you demonstrate how unselfish and compassionate and caring you are, everyone will melt and think this is the kind of person we want at our school, right? You can peddle the saccharine all day long, but if your philanthropic pitch doesn’t align with your personal history, it won’t sell. For example, you tell the committee that your heart’s desire is to work on developing microfinance programs in West Africa, yet nothing in your background indicates any such prior interest. The only way such an assertion would be true would be if you actually came from Ghana and have already worked with Kiva.org, a microfinance non-profit organization, for the last few years. Your skill set matches your aspirations.
Many applicants believe expressing an attraction to the non-profit field is the key to winning the hearts and minds of admissions officers. That approach did not work well in the Viet Nam War and will fail just as miserably with admissions officers, who, through experience, know when someone is blowing smoke in their face.