• Scott Edinburgh

MBA Application Pitfalls

As you may recall in our recent blog post, “Courting Your Target Business Schools,” we stressed the importance of showing interest in your target schools during the MBA application process. One common way that candidates do this is by attending MBA Fairs. These (typically free) events present candidates with the opportunity to meet with admissions directors from top business schools and also to listen to presentations from leading MBA admissions experts.

This summer, Personal MBA Coach Founder Scott Edinburgh will be traveling to The MBA Tour events across the US, including in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington DC and Boston, to present “Top 10 MBA Application Pitfalls.”

Whether you are able to make one of these presentations or not, check out a sneak preview of 5 of the most common application pitfalls below and our advice on how to avoid them.

#1: Stating a vague reason for wanting an MBA

Although an MBA may be viewed as a “check the box” degree in some professions, this is NOT a message that should come across in your MBA applications. You should have a clear reason for wanting an MBA. While facilitating a career shift or career progression can be part of this reason, your essays should include the specific skills and experiences you will gain during the MBA process. Stating that you need to gain “business acumen” or “management education” is vague. Instead, do some careful thinking both about what your skill gaps are and WHY those skills are needed. This means going beyond saying, “I need to gain finance knowledge.” You should tell the reader why you want these skills and how they will help in your future roles.

#2: Not including school specifics

If you have many applications to complete (my average candidate applies to 5 schools) and a busy full-time job, it can be tempting to copy and paste across essays. This is generally not recommended. Not only does each school have a unique culture that values specific skills and experiences, but they all have different program offerings. So, take the time to do your research (MBA fairs are one easy way!) on the courses, professors and programs that are the best match for your future aspirations and include these details in your essays.

#3: Using too many industry buzzwords

Many candidates will use too many technical terms in resumes, essays, or even during interviews, potentially confusing or even putting off the audience. In some cases, the terms are so common in your industry that you may not even realize you are doing this. In other cases, candidates mistakenly believe that including these technical details will make them sound impressive or convey their knowledge. However, if the readers cannot follow what you are saying, you are not going to be able to show how you excelled in your role and how you were a visionary leader. Even though many admissions directors understand these terms, they are not evaluating you for your specific industry skills. Keep the language simple so that your accomplishments do not get lost in technical terms.

#4: Not answering the question

This may seem obvious, but I have read countless essays that do not answer the question. Business schools look for different qualities and characteristics. They ask specific questions to understand how well you will fit in on their campus. So instead of telling them what you think is most impressive, answer the question. If the question says: “Do not repeat your resume,” then do not write 300 words on your accomplishments. While including some details may be needed for context, keep this limited. In addition, take the time to think about the reasons behind the questions. The best answer will consider not just the WHAT but the WHY.

#5: Too much repetition

Business school candidates are well rounded and have excelled in multiple areas. Be sure that your application portrays this. While you may have a very impressive role or accomplishments, this does not mean you need to mention them in every essay and in your LORs. Instead, think about your entire story and everything you have to offer. Include different aspects of your profile. Of course, they should all work together to paint a clear story.

Be sure to check out the complete presentation including all 10 application pitfalls at this summer’s MBA Tour. Sign up here!

New York 7/21

Los Angeles 7/14

San Francisco 7/15

Chicago 7/23

Washington DC 7/25

Boston 7/26

If you would like individual and personal application support, please find information about Personal MBA Coach’s comprehensive packages or contact me to discuss your profile as well as how I can help! As a Wharton and MIT graduate, I regularly help applicants navigate their applications each year. We also conduct mock interviews with former M7 and top 10 interviewers on our team.

Email me at: or call +1 617-645-2424 today.

Read about the recent presentation at the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants!

Read our analysis of the latest essay questions

#ApplicationTips #MBAEssays


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