Scott Edinburgh
September 1, 2015

Putting Finishing Touches on Round One Applications

Putting Finishing Touches on Round One Applications

By Scott Edinburgh, Personal MBA Coach

Round one deadlines are approaching! As most of you know, the HBS application is due next week, followed by MIT Sloan, Chicago Booth, Duke Fuqua and Yale SOM the following week. As you are putting the finishing touches on your applications (or hopefully getting close to that point soon), keep a few things in mind before you hit the submit button.

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.


  • 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 beyond two stories is not recommended.

  • Are the stories consistent throughout all of the application components? (Resume, essays, short answer questions, letters of recommendation)


  • 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 or you are unsure if the arguments are strong enough?

  • 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.

School Specifics

  • Some of the essays are similar across schools and you will certainly 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.

Good luck finishing up your applications! If you are interested in a gut check on your applications to make sure everything is done as perfectly as possible, find out more about Personal MBA Coach’s gut check offering. For those of you who are earlier in the process, contact me if you want to discuss comprehensive packages.