News, advice and resources for business school applicants

Admissions Tips

Browse our weekly admissions tips, or choose the category most relevant to you: researching, planning, applying, deciding.


Admissions Tip: Round 3 Results

Admissions Tip: Round 3 Results

With the MBA programs releasing their Round 3 notifications in the upcoming weeks, the 2014-2015 admissions season is coming to a close for the vast majority of MBA aspirants.  We’d like to offer our congratulations to all those who have gained admission to one of more of their target schools and wish good luck to waitlisted applicants whose fate is presently a bit less certain.  For all those who submitted their applications in the final round and received an unfavorable decision, we’d like to share a few tips that we hope will make the process of facing rejection as productive as possible: Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Considering the Campus

Admissions Tip: Considering the Campus

Continuing our series of admissions tips geared towards those individuals who are just beginning to think about their MBA applications, we wanted to offer some advice on factors to consider with respect to a school’s facilities and location.  Whether speaking with current students or touring the campus for oneself, it’s helpful to approach these information-gathering experiences with as clear a sense of what matters to you as possible.  Here are a few broad categories to consider: Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Avoiding Red Flags

Admissions Tip: Avoiding Red Flags

When applying to the top schools, it is important to avoid “red flags” in your application.  For the uninitiated, red flags are negative items that stand out in your file and may result in rejection from business school.  While most applicants understand the basic red flags, like a 2.4 GPA or a recommendation letter that raises serious concerns about the candidate’s maturity, there are many less obvious triggers. Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Addressing Academic Strengths

Admissions Tip: Addressing Academic Strengths

While we devoted time last week to advice on addressing weaknesses in one’s academic record, today we wanted to explore the other side of the issue: the strengths that lie in your undergraduate record.

Beyond issues of aptitude or previous achievement, there are a number of other things that your academic profile might say about you.  For instance, if you have a range of quant-focused classes in your record, this might create the impression that you are well prepared for the sort of coursework you would undertake in business school.  Meanwhile, if you have pursued extensive coursework in an area beyond the more traditional disciplines of economics, business administration or engineering, this could indicate some unique interest or perspective that you would bring to the classroom. Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Addressing Academic Weaknesses

Admissions Tip: Addressing Academic Weaknesses

To follow up on last month’s advice about GMAT preparation and timing, we wanted to offer some general comments about the role of academics in the admissions process.  Many candidates considering business school focus on the credentials they will hold and the network that they will join upon graduation, but it is important to keep in mind the academic experience at the heart of any MBA program.  Because a business school is, after all, a school, it makes sense to begin your consideration of your profile by thinking about your academic aptitude and track record to date.  Your performance in your educational endeavors up to this point will be treated as a predictor of your success in business school. Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Feedback Sessions for Denied Applicants

Interview 2As many of our readers know, a small number of leading MBA programs offer admissions feedback sessions to applicants who did not make the admissions cut in a given season.  Though we’ve touched upon this subject before, we’d like to use today’s blog entry to underline the importance of these feedback sessions for those of you who are considering reapplication. Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Waitlists That Discourage Supplemental Information

Admissions Tip: Waitlists That Discourage Supplemental Information

We have previously posted some correspondence tips for those applicants who have been waitlisted by schools that welcome supplemental materials and communication.  Today, we’d like to provide some advice to those who are in an arguably more difficult position: waitlisted by schools that discourage further contact with the adcom.

This may sound obvious, but if a school indicates that they do not want supplemental materials, then you should respect their guidelines.  In other words, do not send along a new recommendation or an essay if the program has clearly indicated that you should not do so.  There may be exceptions to this—for example, if a dramatic change has taken place in your candidacy—but in most cases, you should simply follow the rules. Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Dealing with a Ding

Admissions Tip: Dealing with a Ding

With many MBA programs beginning to release their R2 decisions, the spring notification season will soon be coming to a close.  While we would like to hope that today’s topic isn’t apropos for too many of our readers, we wanted to offer some advice to applicants who’ve been rejected from their preferred programs and are planning on reapplying next season.  While it’s important to take some time to deal with the disappointment, it’s never too early to begin thinking about the next season, and there are a number of steps you can take to improve your candidacy and move toward a stronger application.

1) Reevaluate.  While it’s certainly difficult when things don’t go as planned, this is actually a great chance to take stock of your career and goals and to make sure that an MBA is still a logical and necessary step at this point.  It’s this sort of reflection that can lead to refined career goals and a clearer sense of the reasons you need a business education. Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Extracurricular Activities

Admissions Tip: Extracurricular Activities

Because it’s the time of year when applicants aiming for Fall 2016 intake are just beginning to think about the admissions process, we wanted to focus today on one element of the application that candidates often underestimate: extracurricular activities.

In order to understand why this category is important, candidates should keep in mind that the adcom is responsible for crafting a dynamic class each year.  The aim is to admit individuals who will support a vibrant campus community and step into leadership positions.  In other words, as admissions officers consider each applicant, they ask themselves “what’s in it for our school?”  An applicant who has previously demonstrated a talent for writing, for example, by contributing to a nonprofit’s newsletter, will really catch the adcom’s attention if she also expresses her intent to contribute to a specific publication on campus.

Volunteering is of course a great way to expand one’s extracurricular involvement.  However, many applicants participate in the occasional fundraising walk or an annual corporate outreach day; those who demonstrate ongoing involvement in one cause or organization will be of special interest to the admissions committee, especially if it is related to their current or future career.  A candidate who has contributed over a longer period is likely to have developed his or her responsibilities beyond ladling soup or stuffing envelopes.  What’s more, this can be a particularly important opportunity for applicants who are currently living and working outside of their home countries; for example, an Indian applicant who works and volunteers in Africa will stand out as being particularly engaged and well adapted to his or her foreign environment.

Candidates who are older or younger than the average applicant should recognize that their extracurricular involvement is particularly important.  A younger applicant who lacks leadership responsibilities at work might demonstrate his talent for motivating others outside of the office.  Meanwhile, older applicants can use their extracurricular involvement to reassure the adcom that, despite family responsibilities or distance in age from one’s classmates, the broader life of the community remains important to them.

Lastly, applicants will have a much easier time writing their application essays if they have a variety of experiences from which to draw.  While applicants can certainly respond to most essay prompts by reflecting on their professional experiences, relying exclusively on one’s work is a mistake.  With each essay, the applicant should aim to share a different side of him or herself—submitting five essays about electrical engineering or investment banking is not the most effective way to do this.

We hope that this sheds some light on the opportunities and value that activities outside of work provide with respect to one’s b-school candidacy and applications.  Should you find that area of your application lacking upon reflection, the good news is that there’s still plenty of time to address this before the deadlines.  Whether that means volunteering your professional services to a local nonprofit, joining a community mentoring organization or brushing up on your competitive square dancing, Class of 2017 aspirants should aim to make this an especially active and productive spring and summer!

Get in touch with our team for a free assessment of your candidacy as the admissions season begins.

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Admissions Tip: Planning for the GMAT

Admissions Tip: Planning for the GMAT

For all you “early birds” who are planning to apply to business school this fall, we wanted to offer a few tips on managing your time as it relates to the GMAT exam.  Because this is an important element for many applicants in determining at which schools they will be competitive, it’s best to prep intensively and get this out of the way early in the process.

You should ideally be finished with the GMAT by mid-summer.  The reason for this is that you will want to reserve the months of August, September and October for essay writing, school visits, managing your recommenders and other miscellaneous application-related tasks.  The last thing you want to be doing in September is juggling the demands of GMAT prep alongside your MBA applications, your responsibilities at work, your extracurricular involvements, etc. Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Late Round Considerations

Admissions Tip: Late Round Considerations

After a relatively sleepy February, March will soon be upon us with its extensive list of application deadlines and decision notification dates.  Let’s take a look at part of the long list of Round 3 (or 4 or 5) deadlines spread over the next two months:

Feb. 27th: LBS R3 (5:00pm GMT)

March 3rd: IESE R3 (11:59pm UTC)

March 4th: INSEAD R4 (11:59pm CET)

March 11th: Berkeley/Haas R3 (11:59pm PST)

March 11th: Cornell/Johnson R3 (11:59pm EST)

March 13th: Emory/Goizueta R4 (11:59pm EST)

March 13th: Oxford R4 (11:59pm GMT)

March 13th: UNC/Kenan-Flagler R4 (5:00pm EST)

March 15th: CMU/Tepper R3 (11:59pm EST)

March 15th: NYU/Stern R4 (11:59pm EST)

March 19th: Duke/Fuqua R3 (11:59pm EST)

March 23rd: Michigan/Ross R3 (11:59pm EST)

March 24th: UT McCombs R3 (11:59pm CST)

March 26th: Wharton R3 (5:00pm EST)

April 1st: Georgetown/McDonough R3 (11:59pm EST)

April 1st: Northwestern/Kellogg R3 (5:00pm CST)

April 1st: Stanford GSB R3 (5:00pm PST)

April 1st: Dartmouth/Tuck April Round (5:00pm EST)

April 1st: UVA/Darden (5:00pm EST)

April 6th: Harvard R3 (12:00pm EST)

April 15th: Columbia Regular Decision (11:59pm EST)

April 15th: UCLA Anderson R3 (11:59 PST)

April 15th: USC Marshall R3 (11:59 PST)

April 17th: LBS R4 (5:00pm GMT)

April 23rd: Yale SOM R3 (11:59pm EST)

April 24th: Oxford R5 (11:59pm GMT)

May 19th: IESE R4 (11:59pm UTC)

May 29th: Oxford R6 (11:59pm GMT)

While it’s always best to apply as early as possible, the difference between applying in Round 1 and applying in Round 2 is, for most applicants, a marginal one.  However, the later rounds are a very different game.  Because most of the seats in the incoming class will have been given away by the time Round 2 decisions are released, the acceptance rate in the third round is dramatically lower than that for the first two deadlines of the season.

To maximize your chances of a later round acceptance, demonstrating your interest in the school and submitting thoughtful and error-free written materials will be crucial.  Applying in Round 1 is generally taken as a sign of interest in a given program, and by the same token, applicants submitting their materials in a later round need to work extra hard to convince the adcom that they are genuinely interested in the school and are not simply applying as an afterthought because interview invitations didn’t come through in Round 2. Demonstrating that you would make a valuable contribution to the community and providing evidence that you have taken steps to engage current students and alumni will work to your advantage.

As always, we’d like to recommend the in-depth Clear Admit School Guides to those applicants who are targeting the later deadlines and just beginning to investigate certain programs, and we encourage those who’ve visited the campus and interviewed to share their experiences in Clear Admit Interview Reports.  Potential R3 or R4 applicants are also welcome to contact Clear Admit directly to discuss the strength of their later round candidacies and learn more about our one-on-one counseling services.

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