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: 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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Admissions Tip: Using Rankings to Your Advantage

rankThere are numerous sources that can knowledgeably rank the “top” MBA programs.  However, because business schools receive different rankings depending on the sources’ criteria, it can be difficult to understand which are the “best” schools.  Therefore today we’d like to talk about how b-school applicants can use rankings to discover the “best” schools—for them.  Although the general merits of each school are important, we also believe that it is important for MBA applicants to rank schools based on their individual needs and interests.  Therefore we encourage students to use official MBA school rankings in the following ways:

1. Use rankings to create a consensus.  Sources rarely have the exact same rankings as each other, and therefore trying to determine the “top five” schools can be frustrating.  However, it’s best to compile these different sources of rankings to form a consensus regarding the top schools.  For example, if your target program is consistently listed in the top 15, regardless of its individual ranking among different sources, you should feel confident that it is regarded as a top school by industry professionals and future employers.  You may not be able to pinpoint the ultimate “number one” school, but you will be able to distinguish between the different tiers of schools. Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: School-Hosted Blogs

mba-graduateAs the summer progresses and applicants begin researching their target schools in more depth, we would like to highlight a valuable research tool: school-hosted blogs.  The last few years have seen a significant increase in the number of MBA student blogs hosted by schools’ admissions offices, as well as in admissions offices’ use of blogs to keep applicants informed of deadlines, admissions policies and events.  Both types of blogs are useful throughout the admissions cycle; the factual information in the admissions office blogs is helpful in understanding and planning for the application process, while the student blogs offer valuable insights into student life, culture and academics.

Below we’ve provided links to some of the active blogs hosted by the leading MBA programs.

Admissions Office Blogs:
Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Addressing Unemployment or Gaps in Employment

planclockGiven the emphasis that schools place on a candidate’s work experience, it is important to be proactive in addressing gaps in employment.  When applying to business school, many candidates worry about how the adcom might perceive gaps in employment.  We would like to take some time to discuss strategies for addressing this issue.

It’s not unheard of for an MBA candidate to have a gap in employment, and this will not necessarily make a negative impact on someone’s candidacy.  Gaps might be due to anything from lay-offs to periods of travel.  As a rule of thumb, applicants should explain gaps in employment that are three months or longer in an optional essay or, if instructed, on their data forms. The adcom will not want to play detective with vague dates on an applicant’s résumé or large chunks of unaccounted for time.  As the adcom will simply want to know what an applicant was doing during a period of unemployment, applicants should show that they made productive use of this time.  It is important for applicants to be open and clear about extended gaps to show that they were not simply spending the time to look for full-time employment.

Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Visiting the Campus

campus visitAs many applicants are finding out at this time of year, conducting thorough research on MBA programs is an essential step in formulating a list of target schools and crafting convincing essays.  Surfing the web and speaking with friends and mentors are great starting points in identifying programs of interest.  However, to really get a feel for a school and determine whether it’s a good fit for one’s goals and personality, applicants need to dig deeper and gain some firsthand experience with the program and the people.  Visiting the campus is a great way to gather this kind of information, and it can also be advantageous in the application process.  Although most formal campus visit programs will not start until the fall (when classes are in session), we’d like to offer a few “head start” pointers for getting as much mileage as possible out of a trip to your target program.

1) Make yourself known.  Putting forth the effort to travel to a school is a signal of interest in the program that the adcom loves to see, however, you need to let them know that you’ve made the trip.  It is possible to communicate this in your essays and interview, but the simplest route is often to register for a visit through the admissions office.  Not only will most schools arrange for you to sit in on a class and have lunch with current students, but many will also make a note of your visit and include it in your file.  Be sure to Continue reading…

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How to Write a Résumé that Will Get You In | Admissions Tip

ResumeYour résumé is not only an important component of your MBA application, it’s also a great place to start when crafting your overall positioning strategy.  This document forces one to distill a candidacy into a concise summary, focusing on key aspects and themes.  With that in mind, here are a few simple tips to get you started:

1) First things first.  Because you’re applying to graduate school, it makes sense to lead this document with a section detailing your academic history.  This is also the format that many business schools’ career offices instruct students to use when applying for internships or full-time jobs post-graduation.

2) Keep it simple.  While you’ll certainly want to describe your professional responsibilities and achievements in some detail, remember that this document needs to fit on a single page, with very few exceptions.  Rather than overwhelming the reader with information, try to identify three or four discrete projects or accomplishments to complement a few concise statements about your day to day responsibilities in each position.  Remember that it’s also important to be as specific as possible about the impact you’ve had on your organization by quantifying the results of your efforts.

3) Round it out.  Don’t discount the importance of your interests and outside activities.  Schools like applicants who are well rounded and demonstrate a track record of involvement outside of work and the classroom, so formal extracurricular activities are a logical category to include.  At the same time, information about your less structured interests and hobbies is also relevant, as these details can lend some more color to your candidacy and help the adcom get to know you better.  Remember to be as specific as possible; many business school applicants are interested in “travel” or “film,” so specifying a region you especially enjoy visiting or your favorite movie genre will be the key to setting yourself apart.

We hope that these general guidelines serve as a good starting point for Class of 2017 applicants in translating their experiences and achievements into this brief but important document.  For more tailored guidance, contact us to speak with one of our counselors about your background.  You can also read the Clear Admit Résumé Guide for a complete step-by-step “instruction manual” for crafting your résumé (available for download in our publications shop).

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Admissions Tip: Crafting Strong Essays – The Rewards of Reflection

gradingWith several of the leading schools having already released their essay questions for this admissions season, we’re sure that quite a number of early birds are eager to get a jump on the process in order to complete as many applications as possible by Round 1.  As applicants find themselves brainstorming for essay topics, we wanted to offer a few tips on presenting yourself and your experiences as advantageously as possible.

1) Take time to reflect.  Before diving in and beginning work on a draft of any one essay, it’s often fruitful to think carefully about all of the stories and accomplishments at one’s disposal.  These can include experiences from the professional realm, formal outside activities, college clubs and even more casual hobbies and interests.  A comprehensive, reflective approach should enable you to arrive at the essay topics that are most impressive and in line with your overall positioning. Continue reading…

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