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Common MBA application mistakes to avoid

Written by Sameer Kamat

The top business schools have a relatively low acceptance rate and it’s in the interest of the applicant to reduce the common MBA application mistakes most of their competitors are bound to make. Every little precaution that you take to reduce the negative points helps in pushing up your chances of getting in just a little bit more. So even if the points below don’t seem like rocket-science, do take the time to use them as a check-list to ensure that your little works of art enjoy the limelight.

This would be more of a motherhood post that brushes up many concepts that we’ve been covering in this blog. It is meant for those looking for a few quick points to activate those memory cells that might’ve been dormant.

Here are a few tips to ensure that your MBA application strategy is on the right track and you’re focusing on the right areas.

Common GMAT preparation mistakes

There are candidates who take their GMAT preparation too casually without realising its importance in the application process. Most of the top schools have an average GMAT score in the range of 700-720. So a disciplined approach towards GMAT study needs to be adopted. Again it’s advisable to leave a time buffer to re-take the test in case your scores are way below your expectations.

There are others who adopt the other extreme and go out of their way to get their targeted GMAT score. This may involve multiple attempts at the GMAT. In this pursuit, they may be sacrificing on the other aspects of the application which are equally significant. Read more on why you should not overfocus on the GMAT

Try to do justice to the AWA section as well though this score does not figure significantly in most places. Be aware that schools may use this score as a way to check your level of expertise in various areas like analytical thinking, logical flow and the skill to express yourself effectively. This serves as a verification for your essay-writing ability.

Common MBA Essay mistakes

Career goals

Most of the MBA essays revolve around your expectation from an MBA, your career goals and how an MBA from a particular business school would help you reach there. So even before you get started with writing the essays, have a clear picture in mind so that you’re able to connect the dots and your essays have a logical flow rather than bits and pieces of information scattered all over.

If you mention in your essays that you may consider working in a particular role for a few years post-MBA but you also have plans to start your own venture, you may sound too vague. You need to have clarity and present a definite career plan rather than presenting numerous options you are likely to consider after your MBA. It surely helps if your career goals are somewhat related to your previous work experience.

Essay writing shortcuts

Don’t assume copying and pasting essays from other schools and making minor changes will get you sorted. Each essay needs to be individually crafted. Of course, you can (and should) use stories and common building blocks from the earlier applications.

With each additional school essay you complete, you’ll be learning new tips to improve the quality of your writing. As you master this skill, the additional time and effort to complete new essays will go down.

MBA Essay language vs. content

In MBA essays, it’s the content that you need to primarily focus on. Some candidates spend a whole lot of time searching for fancy idioms or phrases which they feel will impress the admissions committee. However it’s imperative that your story needs to be in place with a logical flow. Your essays would be judged on the basis of the various parameters that present you as a fit person for a particular b school. Even with a simple language (without typos or grammatical errors) within the required word count, you can create a lasting impression with your essays.

Here are 9 more pitfalls to avoid while writing MBA essays

Common MBA interview mistakes

Make it a point to read through your essays several times so that you familiarize yourself with what you have already presented to the admissions team.

Your future plans, career aspirations or any other answers you provide during an interview need to be aligned with what you’ve already mentioned in your MBA essays.

If there’s a disconnect between the two, it raises doubt on whether the ideas presented in the essays are your own or not.

Among the common MBA interview mistakes is not giving enough time for practice. Having a fantastic interview plan isn’t sufficient. You need to go through the process a few times to become comfortable enough to tackle the real version.

If working with a professional MBA consultant isn’t an option, here’s how you can prepare for MBA interviews for free.

Top mistakes in MBA Recommendations

Another common mistake is to give lesser importance to the recommendations vis-a-vis the other MBA application components.

Here’s why you should not neglect your MBA recommendations.

Choosing the wrong recommender is another big and common mistake applicants can make.

It would not be a wise decision to select someone with a very high designation whom you’ve hardly interacted with. Instead let it be someone you’ve closely worked with who can provide insights about your working style and talk about the good work you’ve been doing.

Having good interpersonal relations with that person plays an important role as the person should be willing to devote the necessary time and effort to come up with a high-quality recommendation.

Read more about how to choose the right recommender.

Common mistakes in the MBA Resume

Did you notice the teeny-weeny prefix that we added before ‘Resume’? Yup, the same that we did with most other headings. A lot of folks assume that a resume is a resume, in whatever form and shape. So any old file lying in your computer archives can be pulled out, polished a little and submitted. Bad idea!

The MBA resume is different from a Job resume. Period.

Keep the MBA resume short, crisp and relevant. Don’t make the mistake of sending across your job resume. You may have used a lot of technical terms and additional data which would not serve the purpose in an MBA application. Let the resume be as simple as possible so that the admissions committee gets only the data that’s of use to them.

Irrespective of whether you are creating the resume for a job or bschools, here are some more key tips that explain how to write a good resume.


In conclusion, don’t let your MBA applications be a hurried affair. Give yourself enough time to go through multiple rounds of review so that you leave no room for error. With some awareness and planning you can address the common MBA application mistakes and submit spectacular MBA applications to the highly selective Bschools that are hoping to select the best.


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Sameer Kamat

About Sameer Kamat

Founder of MBA Crystal Ball | Author of 'Beyond The MBA Hype' | Cambridge MBA Connect with me on Google+ | Twitter @mba_cb


1 Comment

  1. Prakash   |  Saturday, 05 January 2013 at 12:37 pm

    I thought I knew it all…but I picked up a few finer points (like resume tips linked to an earlier post I missed). Thanks crystal ball team.

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