• Scott Edinburgh

Are your applications really ready to go?

Round one deadlines are approaching! As many of you know, the HBS application is due in just under 3 weeks, with Duke Fuqua and Yale SOM due the following week. Wharton, Stanford, Kellogg, Hass and Booth are not far behind. Nearly all schools will have a round one deadline by early October.

As you put the finishing touches on your applications, make sure they are solid! For some schools there is an advantage to applying round one; for others, your chances are not that different round two. However, for all schools, your best shot is if you apply when you are ready. A strong application in round two will beat one that needs fine tuning in round one nearly every time!

Here are a few things to keep in mind before you hit the submit button.


  • How many stories are you telling in your application? Many successful applications focus on one main story that paints a clear picture of who you are as an applicant. You can write about two different stories, one being personal or what you enjoy doing outside of work, but try to stay focused and allow the admissions committee to walk away from reading your app with a clear sense of who you are.

  • Are the stories consistent throughout all of the application components? Your resume, essays, short answer questions and letters of recommendation should all provide the same message. Any inconsistencies are an instant red flag!

Why MBA?

  • Have you clearly thought out and articulated why you want an MBA? To get promoted or To gain business skills are not good reasons. While not all schools ask this question, all candidates should be able to clearly explain (either in the essay or in the interview – if given the chance) what skills and experiences they hope you gain from an MBA and how it will help to attain their career goals.

School Specifics

  • Some of the essays are similar across schools and you may start with material from one school and try to morph it into essay content for another school. Whether you morph material or not, make sure that you are being specific enough about each school in your application.

  • Admissions committee members read thousands of essays every year, and it is very easy for them to determine who is genuinely interested in the school and knows a lot about the program and who crafted a generic essay.

Short Answer Questions

  • Short answers are very important! Don’t let the fact that the questions are brief and only part of the online application fool you into thinking they aren’t necessary to focus on.

  • Ensure the same voice is carried throughout your application, which includes your resume, essays and short answer questions.

  • These questions may only ask for 250 characters, but optimizing those characters to tell the strongest story you can will take some time.


  • One of the most overlooked areas of the application is the recommendation section.

  • Ensure your recommenders know your complete story and can write letters that help to corroborate that story.

  • To the extent that your thinking has developed as you went through the application phase, make sure to update your recommenders.

Essay Quality

  • Are your essays really strong enough? Do you find yourself re-reading paragraphs because you don’t see how they exactly fit into the essay?

  • It is a good idea to have someone else read over your essays, and ask someone who isn’t extremely familiar with what you do on a daily basis. This will give you an outsider’s objective opinion of your accomplishments and help to ensure you are talking about your experiences with the right level of detail for someone outside of your industry.

  • Is your essay telling the reader something about you? While a story can often add to or even make a great essay, the goal for every essay is to convince the admissions committee that you will add value on campus (and beyond). Make sure your essay sends a message about what you have to add.

Remember, if you have any doubts reading these tips, waiting until round two might be ok. The best time to apply is always when your application is the strongest!

Personal MBA Coach is here to help with all aspects of the application process! If you would like individual and personal support, please find information about Personal MBA Coach’s comprehensive packages or contact me to learn how I can help! As an MIT Sloan BS graduate and Wharton MBA grad, I have been helping candidates get into the schools of their dreams with a 96% success rate for over 10 years. Email me today at:

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