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: Essay Basics

EssayWe often stress that, to present oneself effectively in one’s application essays, it is critical to think carefully about what a given question is asking and what this might indicate about a specific school’s admissions priorities.  Of course, it’s also imperative to communicate clearly and appropriately regardless of the target program or particular inquiry.  Today, we’re going back to basics and offering a few broadly applicable tips on tone and style to keep in mind when drafting essays and other written materials for your applications.

1. Be Professional.  While a number of schools ask fun questions and most urge applicants to be themselves rather than submitting “overly polished” materials, it’s important to remember that this is a graduate school application and you should approach your essays with a degree of formality.  You do want your unique narrative voice to come through, but even professional writers know to vary their tone based on their audience.  As such, you should avoid using slang and conversational speech patterns in your writing. Continue reading…

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Admissions Tips: Common Recommendation Dilemmas

RecommendationAs many of our readers are aware, letters of recommendation are a central part of the application process.  We would like to take a look at how to handle the snags that often arise for applicants in unique employment situations.

The applicant who is most likely to have trouble finding a suitable recommender is either self-employed or works in his or her family’s business.  First, self-employed entrepreneurs by their very nature do not have a direct supervisor.  Similarly, an applicant who works for the family business may have trouble finding a non-related supervisor, or someone who can offer a truly objective opinion. Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Word Limits

Word LimitWith applicants for the round one deadlines putting the finishing touches on their applications, the question of how strictly applicants need to adhere to word limits is perhaps more popular than ever.  MBA candidates naturally have a good deal of information they want – and need – to convey in their materials, and getting the important ideas down under restrictive word counts is a difficult task.  While it might be tempting to run a bit beyond the guidelines to slip in that one extra thought, it’s important to keep the reasons for word limits in mind. Continue reading…

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Admission Tip: MBA Application Data Forms

With MBA programs’ R1 deadlines past or just around the corner, we wanted to offer some words of advice about an often overlooked element of one’s file: the application data forms.  All too often, we see candidates leave these online application forms for the last minute, even rushing to enter all the required information from work on “deadline day.”  The truth is that a weak effort on these forms can do serious harm to one’s candidacy, as it might reflect poorly on the applicant’s professional polish or commitment to the application process.  This being the case, here are a few tips for those who are in the midst of completing this component of the application:

1) Don’t be lazy.  We know that many applicants feel “burned out” from their essays and that it’s tempting to zip through the application data forms and provide a bare minimum of information.  While it’s fine to use your resume as a starting point, make sure that you think beyond this ready-made content and consider other information that might be of interest.  In many cases, the forms are a great opportunity for you to list outside activities in depth, offer a quick explanation of a bad semester, share the significance of some professional awards you’ve received, and so on.  In fact, your application forms will often be the starting point for the admissions officer’s review of your file, so it’s important to put your best foot forward. Continue reading…

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Free Harvard Business School Guide !

The Clear Admit team knows that many of our readers are in the midst of finalizing their HBS applications as Tuesday’s first round deadline approaches.  While we’re confident that our HBS essay topic analysis has been helpful and we know that you’re working hard, we wanted to make one more tool available to you before the deadline.  As such, we are pleased to announce that for the next 72 hours, the critically acclaimed Clear Admit Harvard Business School Guide is free!  Just download it from our shop and start reading on your desktop, laptop, iPad, Kindle or any other device you have.

Here’s what you’ll need to do:

1) Go to the HBS School Guide page and add it to your cart

2) Use this code at checkout: HBSSG14

3) Send us flowers, chocolates, or leave us a nice comment on this blog post to thank us :)

4) Tell your friends!

For those of you who don’t already know, the Harvard Business School Guide features 48 pages of in-depth information about life at HBS.  Reading it will help you to:

    • Become an expert on HBS overnight and use your knowledge to fine-tune a personal statement that will stand out in the admissions process
    • Compare HBS head-to-head with Stanford, Wharton and other leading programs using objective data that goes beyond rankings and school-published marketing materials
    • Prepare for your HBS admissions interview (and post-interview reflection essay) by knowing the school inside and out

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Admissions Tip: Know Your Audience

As Round 1 deadlines approach fast, applicants are coming to understand that applying to business school is an incredibly demanding process.  In addition to taking the GMAT, assembling academic transcripts and providing recommendation letters, candidates are required to draft multiple essays, job descriptions, lists of activities and more.

With the obvious incentive to save time wherever possible, it’s understandable that many applicants simply cut and paste content from an existing resume and write about their work in the manner that comes most naturally.  However, in doing so, countless candidates each year assemble their materials without ever asking a fundamental question:

Who will read my application? Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Declare Your Love and Explain It

Why School XWith Round One deadlines for a number of programs just around the corner, it’s the time of year when many applicants are working hard on their application essays and learning more about their target programs in the process of rounding out their “why MBA/why school X” discussions.  Keeping this important component of the admissions process in mind, we wanted to take the time today to offer some advice on how to polish this element of one’s file and get the most mileage out of this section.

1. Make it personal.  Schools look for applicants who seem genuinely excited about their program, and the best way to bring this across in your essays is to come right out and say it.  Many applicants are well-researched but present their findings in the form of objective facts.  The adcom will already know whether their program features a flexible curriculum, is very strong in marketing, or offers an international focus.  What they don’t know – and what you should be explaining in your essays – is what you find exciting and appealing, and why.  Stating your interest in a school by connecting its offerings to your goals and interests is a great way to help the adcom understand (and ideally get them to agree with) your opinion that you would be a good fit with the program.  Continue reading…

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Admission Tip: The Optional Essay

Admission Tip: The Optional Essay

We realize that the questions of whether to answer an optional essay and, if so, what to say are ones that loom large for many b-school applicants at this time of year.  While we’ve been offering a great deal of school-specific essay advice over the past few months, we wanted to take some time to suggest a few considerations that applicants might want to take into account when making this call.

Is it relevant?
Perhaps this goes without saying, but the only information worth sharing in an optional essay is that which will make a material difference in your candidacy.  Whether you wish to comment on an exciting leadership role you’ve just taken on or explain that you were overextended extracurricularly during that one bad semester in college, make sure to think carefully about whether this information will affect and enhance the reader’s perception of your business school candidacy. Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Off-Campus Information Sessions

Admissions Tip: Off-Campus Information Sessions

For all those applicants who have recently opened a calendar to plot out the next few months only to realize they can’t possibly fit in campus visits on top of full time jobs and essay writing, never fear!  It’s true that traveling to a school’s campus is the ideal way to learn about their MBA program, but visiting is often not a viable option for applicants who are located remotely or unsure of their level of interest in a given school.  The good news is that business schools might very well come to them.  Many b-schools are getting ready to hit the road and embark on worldwide tours to dispense information and recruit qualified applicants.  Such events offer a great opportunity for interested students to meet with admissions staff (and sometimes with current students and/or alumni), learn about the program and ask specific questions.

Some of the top schools are already on the road, so we recommend looking into the travel schedules for programs of interest and planning accordingly.  Keeping in mind that these schedules are updated and amended throughout the fall, here are some of the top programs’ itineraries for the months ahead: Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Applying to Business School as a Younger Applicant

Admissions Tip: Applying to Business School as a Younger Applicant

As many of our readers know, it has become increasingly common for younger individuals to apply to MBA programs.  Whereas the average age and years of work experience at the leading business schools has traditionally hovered at around 28 and five respectively, many programs are now carefully considering the more youthful end of the applicant pool.  Of course, the fact that admissions officers are taking a closer look at younger applicants does not mean that getting accepted to a top program is easy for this group.  In fact, it may be difficult for younger applicants to present themselves as fully prepared to contribute to an MBA program because they often lack leadership experience and extended business exposure.  This is especially true as they will be compared to their fellow applicants who have more years in the working world (often translating to more leadership experience and professional accomplishments).  With this in mind, we’d like to offer a few tips that will help younger MBA candidates leverage the strengths of their candidacies and become increasingly competitive applicants at their choice schools. Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Planning for the R1 MBA Deadlines

Admissions Tip: Planning for the R1 MBA Deadlines

Anyone who’s familiar with the MBA application process knows that August moves forward at an accelerated pace, and come September, entire weeks seem to disappear.  To help this year’s Round One applicants avoid the classic time crunch, today’s blog post offers some basic advice on how to approach the Round One deadlines at a reasonable pace.

Let’s start by taking a quick look some of at the published Round One deadlines for the top MBA programs: Continue reading…

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