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MBA Admissions

A-Z
26 Great Tips

An Accepted.com Special Report

Copyright 2012 Accepted.com


MBA Admissions A - Z:
26 Great Tips

Table of Contents

Introduction..........................................3 N: No Lies!..........................................30
A: Aspirations Versus Goals................4 O: Overrepresented Applicant Types...32
B: Be Yourself!....................................7 P: Proofreading....................................34
C: Community Service Conundrum....8 Q: Quant Quandaries...........................36
D: Distinguish Yourself.......................10 R: Resume...........................................37
E: Essay Mistakes................................12 S: All You Need is a Story...................39
F: Funnel..............................................14 T: Top Essay Techniques.....................41
G: GMAT.............................................16 U: Undergrad Grades...........................43
H: How to Choose the BestB-School V: Visits................................................45
for You.................................................18
W: Waitlist...........................................47
I: Impressive Interview Insights..........20
X: XXX Keeping it Clean.................49
J: Jigsaw Puzzle...................................22
Y: You..................................................50
K: 4 Keys of Reapplication.................24
Z: ZZZZZZ Dont Put the Adcom
L: Leadership.......................................26 to Sleep!...............................................52
M: Motivation......................................28 Epilogue...............................................53

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Copyright 2012 Accepted.com
MBA Admissions A - Z:
26 Great Tips

Introduction

MBA Admissions A-Z provides MBA applicants with 26 valuable tips to guide them through the MBA
admission process. These tips first appeared on the Accepted Admissions Consulting Blog. Please
subscribe if you want to be notified of the latest in top b-school news, receive additional application
tips, and hear about upcoming chats and MBA admissions events.

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Copyright 2012 Accepted.com
MBA Admissions A - Z:
26 Great Tips

A
A: Aspirations Versus Goals

Lets begin with defining your MBA goals1 and aspirations.

What is the Difference between a Goal and an Aspiration?

1. A goal is something that you plan to do or accomplish in a particular timeframe. One way
to look at it is this: Industry + Function + Timeframe = Goal. Example: Immediately upon
earning my MBA I plan to become a consultant at a top strategy consulting firm. Five to ten
years after achieving my degree I hope to move up to a principal or partner position.

2. An aspiration (or vision) is broader both in impact and timeframe. Example: As a


manager, principal, and partner at a major consulting firm, I envision developing an
enhanced form of consulting where clients rely on us to be proactive -- to prevent and
foresee problems, and not just solve them after they occur; inform them of opportunities,
and not just explore those they may have uncovered. In addition, I would like my
consulting experience and business acumen to benefit Favorite Cause X. My management
skills and my proactive approach would allow Organization Y, where I have volunteered
for the last two years, to make the most of its scarce resources and have a far greater
impact on Favorite Cause X.

For the goal, you want to highlight what you plan on doing and when you plan on doing it. For the
aspiration, your focus is usually less sharp and geared more to the long term with a dash of motivation
included. What impact or benefit will accomplishing this goal have on you, on your chosen industry, or
on the world around you? Is there a non-professional or community element to your aspirations?

A Parable to Further Illustrate the Difference between Goals and Aspirations

Once upon a time in the Middle Ages there were three stone masons, all chipping away at the same
large rock. A passerby saw the sweat of their brow and asked what they were working so hard on.
I am cutting this stone, said the first, rather bitter man.

1 http://www.accepted.com/mba/goalsessay.aspx

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MBA Admissions A - Z:
26 Great Tips

I am building a parapet, said the second man, who was less distraught but still exhausted
and unsatisfied from his job.
The third stone mason, who was as sweaty and as hard-working as the first two, looked up
at the passerby, and with a radiant smile answered, I am building a magnificent cathedral to
glorify our Creator for centuries to come!
The immediate task for each of these three men was the same: to cut stones to particular sizes and
shapes. The first mason is simply doing a job. The second mason has a goal. The third mason, however,
has vision or aspiration. He isnt simply earning his daily bread or finishing a construction task; he
is building a structure that will have a lasting impact on the world by bringing beauty and glory and
godliness into the lives of all future generations. Now that is an aspiration.

Your aspiration doesnt have to be nearly as grand, but I think the parable illustrates the difference. And
if you do have grand dreams, aspirations, or visions for your future and are asked about your long-term
goals, aspirations, or visions, dont be afraid to share them.

Now You Know What They Are. So What?

Goals and aspirations are critical in the MBA admissions2 process. They serve at least four vital functions:

1. They guide you in choosing where to apply.3 Clear well-defined goals and long-term
aspirations should be among the major factors determining where you apply.
2. The overwhelming majority of applications have an MBA goals essay.4 Many ask about
vision or aspirations. You need to know whats driving your decision to pursue an MBA
if you want to answer these questions well. They are also frequently asked in interviews.
Wishy washy non-answers can kill an application.
3. Show fit. Schools want happy students attending and happy alumni out in the working,
earning, and donating world. People who know what they want and end up doing it, are
happier customers. They belong. They fit. Admissions offices look to your goals as one
essential element in that elusive fit factor.
4. Prepare you to hit the ground running. Recruiting and career planning usually start
before you arrive on campus. Internship events start within weeks of the start of classes.
If you dont have a clear idea of where you are headed, you flounder in the internship
recruiting process.

2 http://www.accepted.com/mba/admissions.aspx
3 http://www.accepted.com/mba/Choosingprograms.aspx
4 http://blog.accepted.com/2010/03/10/from-example-to-exemplary-3-writing-the-mba-goals-essay

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MBA Admissions A - Z:
26 Great Tips

So before you plunk down US$200K in out-of-pocket and opportunity costs and spend two years at a
top business school, think about where you want to end up. As Stephen Covey recommends, Begin
with the end in mind.

Aspirations are a great place to start MBA Admissions A-Z.

Determining your vision or aspiration is no easy feat, and it can be done only after youve defined your
goals. Learn how to do it right when you view The Art of a Gripping MBA Goals Essay,5 a FREE on-
demand webinar that addresses the what, the how, and the why of MBA goals and aspirations.

5 http://www.accepted.com/mba/goalsessaywebinar.aspx

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Copyright 2012 Accepted.com
MBA Admissions A - Z:
26 Great Tips

B
B: Be Yourself!

One of the most common application mistakes applicants make is that they write what they think the
adcom readers want to hear, and not about what the applicants actually think is important.
But friends, family, forums, and frequent flyers are always telling you to write something extraordinary,
right? How are you supposed to relate your true essence to the adcom if youre working so hard to
come up with wild and crazy experiences to cram into your essays?
Yes, your application should be filled with vivid details of those extraordinary experiences in your life,
but that goal shouldnt distract you from your mission of writing about who you are and what youre
passionate about.
Im not going to lie if you are an internationally acclaimed harpist who has also climbed Mt. Everest
three times, then youd have a much easier time choosing the experiences you want to highlight in
your essays. But few of us can claim such accomplishments; so what do you do if you really are just an
Asian engineer whose claim to fame is that you hold the office-wide record for taking apart a computer
and putting it back together?
Heres the key: What makes an experience extraordinary is not merely how rare it is, but how much
impact it has had on you and on others.
For starters, you can talk about your passion of breaking things down to their individual parts and then
re-constructing them, and how this process invokes a deep understanding of how the final product
equals the sum of its parts; or you can talk about how you find the details of electro-engineering
majestic or beautiful and how these characteristics have motivated you to start your own business of
recycling old computers taking them apart and building new, greater, and grander devices from them.
Adcom readers arent ONLY interested in the yodelers and the underwater algae botanists. Theyre
interested in people who have passions and aspirations and who are looking to find a business school
that will help them materialize their dreams and impact our universe.
If youve never climbed Mt. Everest or have never heard the pluck of a harp string, dont worry. Just be
yourself and write about whats important to you. THAT is what the admissions board wants to hear.
Are you looking for more advice on how to create an application that stands out while remaining true to
yourself? View valuable essay content-related resources in Topics for Your MBA Essay 101!6
6 http://www.accepted.com/mba/applicationessays.aspx

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Copyright 2012 Accepted.com
MBA Admissions A - Z:
26 Great Tips

C
C: Community Service Conundrum

Fortunately or unfortunately, community service has virtually become a requirement if youre seeking
a spot in a top b-school class.7 The good news here is that if you havent been involved in community
service until this point, you now have additional motivation: Your MBA application8 is begging for you
to step up, pitch in, and assume a leadership role in your community.

Below you will find helpful answers to three of the most commonly asked questions about
community service:

1. Why do schools care about community service?

Elite business schools are quite open about their mission: to train leaders for the world. They want to
see evidence of leadership. They want to see indications of initiative and caring beyond the immediate
needs of your job. Community service presents an excellent opportunity for young professionals
to show all that plus the organizational, motivational, and communications mojo leaders need.
Furthermore, schools want active participants in both their own student and alumni communities. Since
they believe that past behavior predicts future behavior, if youve been passive in the past, they have no
reason to assume you will be active in the future. You need to provide the proof.

2. If I havent done community service until this point, wont the adcoms see through my last-
minute efforts as an admissions ploy? Dont they want us to serve the community out of the
goodness of our hearts and not simply to look good on an application?

Yes, the adcoms want community service to come from an innate desire to serve your community, but
last-minute community service is still better than no community service at all. Theres no way to hide
the fact that you only recently joined your churchs adult literacy outreach program; so you need to
focus on how this new experience has suddenly enriched your life, and how it has motivated you to
start your own adult literacy program in another underserved community across town. Or you can talk
about how your new volunteering stint has helped shape your goals by adding a volunteerism angle to
your long-term vision.

7 http://www.accepted.com/zones/bschools.aspx
8 http://www.accepted.com/mba/application.aspx

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26 Great Tips

3. Do I need traditional community service experience, like working in a soup kitchen or joining
Big Brother/Big Sister?

Of course not! Since when has an element of the MBA application asked you to be common or
traditional in any way? Community service comes in all shapes and sizes and is certainly not limited to
the obvious. Maybe you started a community crocheting group that meets once a week to crochet hats
for Ukrainian orphans. Maybe you bring your nine-year-old autistic nephew to a special needs yoga
class twice a week, and have been doing so since he was four. And if you work in a soup kitchen, or
better yet, manage a soup kitchen, then thats great too. The best community service is the community
service you do because it means something to you.

Are you worried that you dont have enough community service experience to highlight in your MBA
application? Learn how to ameliorate this profile weakness, as well as other potential deal-breakers,
when you follow the professional tips in MBA Application Weaknesses 101.9

9 http://www.accepted.com/mba/applicationweakness.aspx

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MBA Admissions A - Z:
26 Great Tips

D
D: Distinguish Yourself

Weve touched upon ways in which to highlight your uniqueness in Be Yourself. There we talked
about the importance of expressing what youre truly passionate about rather than simply enumerating
those things that you think the adcom want to hear. Writing about your passions, as well as your dreams
and aspirations (see A: Aspirations Versus Goals), are good ways to showcase your individuality in
your MBA application, but if your writing style falls short, then your message will get lost.

So how do you ensure that your application essay doesnt just contain the right distinctive content,10 but
that the language and style are distinctive as well?

The following 3 MBA essay writing11 tips will help you accomplish your goal of highlighting your
distinctive self through the lens of distinctive writing techniques:

1. Be strong. Instead of relying on weak, empty verbs, use muscular, impactful language. Dont
say I like to travel, but My passion for exploration landed me in 24 countries on 5 continents,
in the span of 4 years. Also, steer clear of to be verbs. I plan on revamping the clothing
manufacturing industry is much more powerful than I want to be a textile importer.|

2. Be specific. Instead of presenting boring, drab statements about your accomplishments, be


specific, using numbers to quantify and qualify the impact of your achievements. The more
detailed you are, the more your writing will stand out. Dont write I led a team of interns
last summer, but Last summer, when I was only a Jr. Accounts Manager, I led a team of
16 interns in a nation-wide marketing competition. The publicity gained from our first-place
win brought 24 new accounts to our young company. (The above example about traveling
around the world also demonstrates this point.)

3. Be personable. The adcom readers are people. Thats right living, breathing human
beings. Try and infuse your writing with your personality so that when the readers review
your essay, they enter an engaging conversational reading experience. Read your essay
aloud. Now, does it sound like a robot reeling off critical data, or does it sound like YOU,
speaking human-to-human about those important things, large and small, that make you
10 http://www.accepted.com/mba/applicationessays.aspx
11 http://www.accepted.com/mba/essay.aspx

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tick? Obviously the latter will gain the attention of the adcoms and will do a better job of
introducing them to the person behind the essay.

Funny how distinct, extraordinary writing can be very similar to your everyday, ordinary speaking!

(P.S. Notice how I didnt say Be personal. You are mistaken if you think that offering personal
information is the ticket to distinction. No one wants to know about your messy divorce or your life-
long goal to lose those last nagging 6 pounds.)

Looking for more advice on how to make your application essays stand out? View our on-demand
webinar, The Roadmap to Bold and Brilliant Essays,12 now!

12 http://www.accepted.com/mba/brilliantessayswebinar.aspx

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MBA Admissions A - Z:
26 Great Tips

E
E: Essay Mistakes

Here we are going to focus on 4 critical MBA admission essay mistakes. Make sure that your essays
DONT include any of these:

1. Buzzwords

Try this on for size: I plan on penetrating the B2C e-commerce bubble by starting my own synergistic
company. Additionally, I want to lead empowering seminars about diversity awareness in the workplace
for the human resources space.

Unfortunately, creating an MBA application essay13 isnt as simple as piecing together a string
of keywords. Many applicants think that if they include industry buzzwords in their essays, then
theyll come off sounding like experts in the field. Recipe for success? More like recipe for disaster.
Buzzwords dont make you look smart; they make you look unoriginal. (Of course, you can use a few
buzzwords when absolutely necessary. Just make sure they clarify and inform as opposed to confuse
and obscure.)

2. Grandiose Statements

Dont merely discuss a value or belief; illustrate it. I want to give back to my community. Okay,
thanks for the infonow tell me something else: HOW? Or WHY? When have you lived this value
in the past? How do you plan on focusing your energy on helping your community in the future?
Furthermore, why do you feel a calling to contribute to your community? Give me some details here!

Maybe this is what you meant: When I was suddenly orphaned at 16 years old, my local church bent
over backwards to help revive me and my twin brother after the paralyzing tragedy. The community
members went beyond simply feeding and clothing us, by caring for us and loving us in the absence
of our parents. Their boundless kindness inspired me to found my not-for-profit organization; it helps
teenage orphans keep their heads above water after tragedy strikes by supplying material as well as
emotional support.

13 http://www.accepted.com/mba/sampleessays.aspx

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26 Great Tips

3. Whining

Complaining about your application blemishes14 only draws attention to them. If you arent happy with
your GPA,15 then take responsibility for your low grades, and if relevant, provide context that explains
why you did poorlyand then move on. If possible, portray your liabilities as assets by discussing the |

ways in which youve grown from your experiences, or point to times when you excelled in similar
circumstances. But please, keep the tone mature. Nobody likes a crybaby.

4. Typos

This is one of the most common MBA essay mistakes, and yet is also one of the easiest errors to fix.
Rule of thumb: Dont hit Submit until youve edited and proofread your application essays.16 For the
best results, read your essay aloud so you can identify errors with your eyes, as well as your ears. And
remember, the only thing better than one set of eyes and ears, are multiple sets. Have your mom, best
friend, neighbor, co-worker, or Accepted.com editor help you identify and then fix all spelling errors,
grammatical mistakes, and stylistic blunders.

The Book of All Books: MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top
Business Schools17 will lead you through the MBA admissions process beginning to end and includes
lots of advice on how to approach the MBA essay writing process with examples. The book, written by
Accepted.com founder and CEO, Linda Abraham, is succinct, but more in-depth than our short tips can
ever be. Available on Kindle and in paperback.

14 http://www.accepted.com/mba/applicationweakness.aspx
15 http://blog.accepted.com/2011/03/10/mba-admissions-tip-dealing-with-a-low-gpa/
16 http://www.accepted.com/mba/essay.aspx
17 http://www.accepted.com/mba-smarties

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26 Great Tips

F
F: Funnel

What could a funnel possibly have to do with MBA admissions, you ask? Well, at Accepted.com, one
of the tricks-of-the-trade essay editing techniques we use is something called the Editing Funnel. After
you draft your essays, you should use it too.

Heres how it works:

1. At the top of the funnel (thats the widest part of the opening), you examine your essay as
part of your applications big picture. Ask yourself: How does my MBA essay18 complement
the other elements of my application? Does it contribute to the readers overall knowledge
of who I am? Does it add new information in areas that the boxes and numbers dont
address? If you have more than one essay, does each one contribute something new to this
large picture?

2. As we move down towards the middle of the funnel, your editing focus should narrow
to each individual essay. For each essay, ask yourself the following: Do I present a clear
theme?19 Do I support my theme with clear examples? Does this essay have a logical
structure? Did I infuse this essay with the details necessary to bring it to life and make it as
readable and persuasive as possible?

3. Finally we reach the bottom of the funnel (thats the narrowest part at the end). This is
where youll check the writing mechanics of your essay.20 Pay close attention to the nitty-
gritty here: the spelling, grammar, style, clarity, word usage, etc. Youll want to read and
reread your essay a few times, and the last time aloud, to make sure you catch, and then fix,
each and every error.

As you start to use the funnel, youre at a point where you may want to recruit a friend, family member,
or MBA application essay editor, if you havent already, to help you make sure that your answers to the
questions raised above are the right ones.

18 http://www.accepted.com/mba/sampleessays.aspx
19 http://www.accepted.com/mba/applicationessays.aspx
20 http://www.accepted.com/mba/essay.aspx

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26 Great Tips

And that is how funnels relate to MBA admissions.

Find all the writing and editing tips you need to proof your MBA application essays to perfection at
How to Write and Edit MBA Essays 10121 now!

21 http://www.accepted.com/mba/essay.aspx

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MBA Admissions A - Z:
26 Great Tips

G
G: GMAT

Its time to test your GMAT22 knowledge. How much do you know about this important b-school
entrance exam?

1. The GMAT is one of the first elements in your application the adcoms will look at.

True. While the GMAT is not always the determining factor for admission, it can be used as a tool to
weed out applicants and it can influence a busy reader to read an application a little more quickly and
critically. It is also sometimes used as a screening tool by elite investment banking and management
consulting firms. For them, 700 is the magic number.

2. There is no way to recover from a low GMAT score.

False. Its not easy to grab the attention of the adcom once youve lost it with a low GMAT,23 but it
is possible. To do so, youre going to need to truly blow the adcom readers away with an otherwise
impeccable application. This includes writing out-of-this-world essays,24 creating an impressive MBA
resume,25 presenting a flawless transcript, providing outstanding LORs,26 and like it or not having a
less-than-ordinary background.27

3. An above average GMAT score can win you an automatic acceptance at some business schools.

False. No business school, even those that are lower ranked programs, will look at your GMAT score
at the exclusion of everything else. If you earn a perfect GMAT score, but have no work experience,
were kicked out of college due to cheating, and have six DUIs, then your score alone wont be enough
to gain you a seat in any MBA program. An impressive GMAT score must always be accompanied by
an impressive application. However, some schools do treat a high score more favorably than others. A
school working to boost its MBA rankings may be more inclined to accept students based on their high

22 http://www.accepted.com/mba/gmat.aspx
23 http://www.accepted.com/mba/applicationweakness.aspx
24 http://www.accepted.com/mba/applicationessays.aspx
25 http://www.accepted.com/mba/resume.aspx
26 http://www.accepted.com/mba/letters-of-recommendation.aspx
27 http://www.accepted.com/mba/diversity.aspx

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stats than others and may also be quicker to offer merit-based financial aid.

4. Schools care about both the verbal and quant scores.

True. People tend to think that top b-schools28 care only about the quant score of the GMAT, but this
isnt true at all. Yes, being able to compute is important, but so is being able to communicate. Your
verbal score indicates your ability to read and write you cant really go to business school where the
language of instruction is English (or at least not successfully) if you dont have some mastery over the
English language.

5. You should retake the GMAT as many times as you need until you hit your target score.

False. You SHOULD retake the GMAT two or three times, but retaking it more than five times may
begin to negatively impact your application. Think of it as the law of diminishing returns for the
GMAT: Putting forth effort to reach excellence is positive, until youve put forth so much effort that
it begins to make you look bad like a serial test-takeror a person who keeps trying but who still
cant cut it. If after three re-tests you still dont have the score you desire and there are no extenuating
circumstances that are likely to change on the next retake, then you need to cast your school net wider
to include programs that better meet your qualifications.

Continue to boost your GMAT IQ when you visit GMAT & MBA Admissions 101.29

28 http://www.accepted.com/Zones/bschools.aspx
29 http://www.accepted.com/mba/gmat.aspx

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26 Great Tips

H
H: How to Choose the Best B-School for You

Weve boiled down this complicated process into 4 simple steps: determine your post-MBA goal,
evaluate your qualifications, research programs, and choose schools that support your goals and that are
likely to accept you based on your qualifications.

Lets take a close look at each step:

1. Determine Your Post-MBA Goal

This step is deceptively tricky. Often applicants think that stating their goal is as simple as saying,
I want to go into investment banking, or worse, I want a position of responsibility that will allow
me to grow. Of course nothing in the MBA application process30 is THAT easy! Determining your
MBA goal31 requires that you think about your FIL Function, Industry, and Location. The adcoms
want to know more than the straightforward declaration of your chosen field and they certainly dont
want a vague, vacuous statement of intent. They want to know what you truly see yourself doing, and
possibly where (the Location element isnt always essential, but in some cases it will add an important
dimension or flavor to your goal). Furthermore, breaking your goal down into short-term and long-term
phases will also help add depth and breadth to your goal and will help you figure out which programs
are best for helping achieve those milestones.

2. Evaluate Your Profile

You cant choose a business school if you have no idea where your qualifications fall on the
competitiveness spectrum. Certain programs, for example, wont even look at an application (or at
least, wont look at it very seriously) if your GMAT32 is below a certain number or if you dont have
two years of work experience. These stats, along with other considerations like community service
involvement, GPA, leadership experiences, and others, are important because they offer the adcoms
a glimpse into who you are and how youll contribute to the next top b-school class. From your
perspective, your qualifications will help you establish which programs are appropriate for you after
all, if you only scored a 660 on the GMAT and have limited work experience and weak leadership
30 http://www.accepted.com/mba/application.aspx
31 http://www.accepted.com/mba/goalsessay.aspx
32 http://www.accepted.com/mba/gmat.aspx

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skills, then HBS33 or Wharton34 probably arent realistic options for you. One of the most important
parts of choosing the best MBA program35 is choosing the best program for YOU. Know your strengths
and weaknesses36 and youll save yourself from getting way in over your head.

3. Research Programs

Now that youve done some soul-searching and introspection about what you want (step 1) and who
you are (step 2), its now time to start learning about your options. Which schools will support your
goals? At which programs will you be a competitive candidate? Which schools would benefit from
having you as a student? And of course, which programs would you benefit from as a student?

Begin the school research process online. Most schools explicitly state what they are looking for
in their applicants. If you dont fit the bill, move on. Once youve weeded out the obvious no-gos,
continue narrowing down your options by speaking with current students and alumni, reading student
blogs, looking at the rankings, and attending MBA fairs or info sessions.

4. Choose Schools

Congratulations! Youve now laid all the groundwork necessary to choosing the best business schools
for you! Now you can confidently apply to those MBA programs that support your goals and that are
likely to accept you based on your qualifications.

For more in-depth advice on choosing a business school that matches your qualifications and goals,
please see Accepteds FREE special report, Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One.37

33 http://www.accepted.com/mba/HarvardHBS.aspx
34 http://www.accepted.com/mba/Wharton.aspx
35 http://www.accepted.com/Zones/bschools.aspx
36 http://www.accepted.com/mba/applicationweakness.aspx
37 http://www.accepted.com/mba/Choosingprograms.aspx

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I
I: Impressive Interview Insights

There are loads of articles about how to prepare for your MBA interview38 (and you should definitely
read up on that info), but here were going to focus on 5 things to do DURING your interview to help
you make an impactful first impression.

1. Dress to impress. If this first tip seems obvious to you, then congratulations on having
more sense than some of the MBA applicants Ive worked with in the past. The standard for
MBA interview fashion is business casual. Dont try and dress up a pair of jeans; dont
wear sneakers; and style your hair conservatively (dye back the blue streaks and go easy
on the spiky Mohawk). Dressing well wont just help show your interviewer that you are
a professional person whos taking this interview seriously, but will also help boost your
confidence those who dress well tend to carry themselves well toowhich leads to our
second tip

2. Exude confidence. To succeed in business school (and certainly in the business world at
large) you need to throw meekness and timidity out the window and embrace your strong
and confident self. Prove to your interviewer that youre cut out for a future of success by
presenting that winning smile, firm handshake, and clear, confident answers. That being
said, nobody likes cockiness. Avoid it at all costs. (See tip #5 for more on the importance of
politeness.)

3. Dont rush. Stumped by a toughie? Thats bound to happen during your interview at
some point, no matter how prepared you are. Theres nothing wrong with pausing before
answering, or even saying something like, Thats a great question. Let me think about that
for a minute. You want your answers to be thoughtful, accurate, and as specific as possible.
If pausing for a few moments will help you come up with an answer that fits that bill, then
taking your time is the right thing to do. Theres no need to feel like you need to rush into an
explosive answer the very second your interviews stops to breathe.

4. Be succinct and to the point. Youre going to need to find a balance here between offering
complete and detailed answers and being brief. You dont want to talk your interviewers
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ear off; not only does that make for boring conversation, but it may also prevent your
interviewer from asking all of her questions. Limit your answers to just a few minutes each.
If more information is needed, your interviewer will ask for it.

5. Be polite. Another obvious one for some people, but not (unfortunately) for all. You should
be friendly and courteous at all times during the interview. Start and end with a handshake;
never interrupt your interviewer when shes speaking; dont criticize the quality or quantity
of questions; dont challenge her when she says the interview is over.

Explore the MBA Interview Feedback Database39 to help you prepare for your interview. By reading
about other peoples experiences, youll know what to expect for your interview, and then when
youre done interviewing, you can pay it forward by sharing your interview experiences and insights
with others.

39 http://www.accepted.com/mba/interviewfeedback.aspx

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J
J: Jigsaw Puzzle

Lets take a look at all the elements that go into creating an MBA application: Theres your GPA, your
transcripts, your GMAT,40 a resume,41 your letters of recommendation,42 all those boxes and forms on
the actual application page, and finally, your MBA admissions essays.43

Creating Your Unique Puzzle


One way we like to view all these elements is to look at them as pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The final
product may be your MBA application,44 but the picture that you complete by piecing together each
of the components is a picture of YOU, the life-force and essence of your application. The purpose of
presenting all of the above information to the adcom is to introduce yourself to them, so if the pieces
dont fit together to create this picture, then you havent made a proper introduction.

Introduce Yourself!
Now, you dont want to submit all of these elements and then have the adcom stumped as to how they
all fit together; instead, you want to hand them over in a neat package that MAKES SENSE, so that
as they read or examine each piece, theyre able to quickly and naturally see how each piece fits into
your unique puzzle. When they are finished with the last essay, they should sit back and say, Hey, I
understand this person professionally, extracurricular-ly, and personality-wise. Id like to get to know
him better, and then stick your application in the Send Interview Invite pile.

Realize the functions of the different elements:


Resume: Summary and birds eye view of your professional credentials.
Transcript and test scores: Raw data on academic qualifications.
Essays: You telling your story. Opportunities for you to take a deep dive, adding depth to
readers http://www.accepted.com/mba/gmat.aspxLetters of Recommendation: Anothers
perspective on you as a professional.
40 http://www.accepted.com/mba/gmat.aspx
41 http://www.accepted.com/mba/resume.aspx
42 http://www.accepted.com/mba/letters-of-recommendation.aspx
43 http://www.accepted.com/mba/sampleessays.aspx
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The Essays as Puzzle Glue


I cant overemphasize the importance of having strong application essays in this equation. The other
application elements will definitely portray important aspects of who you are, but its the MBA essays
that will really hold the puzzle together, fill in the gaps, and add the color and vibrancy that the other
data lacks.

5 Tips for Using Your Essays to Hold Your Application Together


Keep the following advice in mind as you work to complete your MBA application jigsaw puzzle:
1. Each application essay45 should highlight different qualifications or experiences that you
want to showcase to the adcom
2. Minimize overlap between stories in essays. Failing to do so is comparable to sticking two
identical puzzle pieces in a puzzle box.
3. Use the essays to address weak points46 in your record or subtle stereotypes47 in your profile.
Doing so will help promote your cause (though please, dont be defensive, apologetic,
or whiny), as well as unify your application by connecting to other parts of the puzzle.
(Pointless regurgitation or repetition of ideas or stats iswellpointless, and should be
avoided.)
4. Use details and descriptions in your essays.48 Think of these writing techniques as the color,
boldness, or glossy finish on a puzzle.
5. Balance story and insight, description and analysis.

Getting Jiggy with Your MBA Jigsaw Puzzle


Your entire application should create a cohesive, coherent, unified picture of YOU, featuring your most
impressive accomplishments, noteworthy experiences, and important scores and stats. It should be
whole, not fragmented; a missing piece will make your application puzzle look sloppy, not to mention
not yet finished.

Do you need help putting all your MBA application puzzle pieces together successfully? View A
Winning MBA Application Strategy,49 a collection of resources that will teach you how to create a
unified, COMPLETE MBA application jigsaw puzzle.

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K
K: 4 Keys of Reapplication

Should you reapply to business school? Which programs should you apply to? And when? The
following tips will help you answer these questions to determine if MBA reapplication50 is the right
decision for you.

1. Analyze your profile. Were you really qualified for the programs that you applied to?
Were your test scores51 really high enough? Did you have enough work experience or
extracurricular activities to showcase?

2. Evaluate your application. This is easier said than done; its hard to objectively judge
something that youve put your heart and soul into. But it needs to be done. Did you
present your qualifications in the best light? Were your application essays52 well written
and persuasive? Did you interview well? If these aspects of your application were okay,
then what went wrong? If youre lucky enough to receive application feedback from the
school(s) that dinged you, then you should review and internalize that feedback carefully. If
you plan on reapplying, this information is crucial.

3. Examine your school choices. Did you apply to programs based on your post-MBA goals53 and
qualifications? Did you aim too high? Or is it possible that you were qualified for these programs
but that you didnt properly establish fit? Did you focus too heavily on rankings and brand
instead of on whether your target school was actually an appropriate target for YOU?

4. Determine if you applied at the right time. For some top MBA programs,54 the earlier
you apply the better. It could be that spots for students with your background and/or
qualifications had already filled up by the time you applied.

Once youve critically evaluated each of the above points, youre ready to answer the big question:
Should you reapply? If you can fix what went wrong in the above items, then a future acceptance may
50 http://www.accepted.com/mba/reapplication.aspx
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be in your future. Can you improve your profile? Can you create a better MBA application?55 Can you
choose schools that best reflect your needs and wants? And finally, can you submit Round 1 to further
increase your chances of acceptance?

Completing the thinking/analyzing part of the reapplication process may be tough, but one thing is
certain: Itll make reapplying next year go much, much smoother if you lay the groundwork now.

To access an objective, knowledgeable MBA admissions expert to evaluate your qualifications and your
dinged application, please consider Accepteds MBA Application Review.56

55 http://www.accepted.com/mba/application.aspx
56 http://www.accepted.com/services/mba/applicationreview.aspx

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L
L: Leadership

What does it mean to be a leader? Can leadership be measured by the number of awards you
accumulate? Do you need an official job title (like Head of X or VP of Y) to prove you can lead?

Here are some of my thoughts on what it means to be a leader and the way you should present your
own leadership in your MBA application:57

1. Prove stature, not status. Adcoms are looking for true leaders, people who dont just
hold impressive awards and elevated titles (i.e. people with status), but people who can
demonstrate through specific examples and achievements that they are leaders (i.e. that they
have stature, regardless of formal designation).

2. Indicate the 7 Is. How have you made a difference? Leaders dont just get things done
in order to cross them off their to-do list; they have vision, and motivate others using their
keen INTUITION, to help them fulfill that vision and leave an everlasting IMPRESSION.
Dont just say that you led a team of X number of people on a recent marketing project,
but indicate the IMPACT that the completion of that project had on your company, your
community, or the world. What INSPIRED you to INITIATE your INVOLVEMENT in
this project? Were you pleased with the results? What did you learn about leadership over
the course of the project? How much INFLUENCE did you have over the people you
managed? What did they learn? (Did you catch the 7 Is? To sum up, they are: Intuition,
Impression, Impact, Inspiration, Initiative, Involvement, and Influence.)

3. Avoid leadership clichs. Terms like vision, buy-in motivate, and of course
leadership are a dime-a-dozen in essays on leadership. And its true that each of these
words can legitimately fit in a leadership essay. However, if they are not backed or even
trumped by your leadership example, they descend into the realm of the hollow, overused,
tired clich. Use the terms sparingly; demonstrate the qualities generously.

4. Tell your leadership story. Detailing your leadership history and achievements in an MBA

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essay58 should read more like a story than a resume after all, you have your MBA resume59
which should read like a resume. Youll have an easier time imparting your impact (see #2)
if you give concrete experiential examples.

For more insights into the leadership essay, please read Accepted.coms free special report, Leadership
in Admissions.60

58 http://www.accepted.com/mba/sampleessays.aspx
59 http://www.accepted.com/mba/resume.aspx
60 http://www.accepted.com/admissions/leadershipessay.aspx

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M
M: Motivation

A good application essay61 is comprised of both anecdote and analysis, the what and the why of your
personal experiences. Telling a straight story (anecdote without analysis) will leave your essay flat, with
no depth or insight into your character or motivations; on the other hand, an essay that rattles on about
the why but omits the what will be boring and overly theoretical, lacking substance and voice.

Your goal: To create an essay that balances these two components, thats full of descriptive details about
what happened (your experience) AND why such things occurred (or how you reacted or responded).

Essay Component #1: Anecdote

The first component of a compelling essay is the retelling of what happened to you. This is the story
element of your MBA essay.62 Most applicants launch their essays with an anecdote to draw in your
readers. Good idea. (For important storytelling tips, please see our free special report, From Example to
Exemplary,63 or the on-demand webinar, Essays that Stick.)64

Essay Component #2: Analysis

For this second component, youll want to talk about your motivations for pursuing the experience
in question or the lessons learned as a result of it.

The questions below will help you shape the analysis component of your essay. After thinking of a
good anecdote, a key experience that youd like to share, make sure your essay also addresses the
following:
1. Why is this experience one that you wanted to bring to the adcoms attention?
2. What makes you tick? Why did you make the decisions you made?
3. How did a particular experience motivate action in the future?
4. What did you learn from this experience?

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Youre applying to b-school, so your quant skills are probably pretty good so lets put this in solid
math terms:

Anecdote + Analysis = Your Awesome Application Essay

For more essay writing tips, please see MBA Application Essays 101,65 a resource guide containing
special reports, webinars, and blog posts on every aspect of the MBA essay writing process.

65 http://www.accepted.com/mba/applicationessays.aspx

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N
N: No Lies!

Youre a grownup you dont need to be told that lying is wrongor do you? This kindergarten
precept often needs reviewing when MBA applications66 roll around. Even the most honest of
applicants sometimes fall prey to the sinister temptation of the Little White Lie Okay, so I worked
there for ALMOST a year (7 months); no one will know if I fudge that a bit on my MBA resume67
or Office Assistant is practically the same thing as Office Manager, right? or bigger lies likes
saying you dont have a criminal record when you do or changing the data on a transcript or forging
a recommenders name. These are all, big and small, serious no-nos. They are ethically wrong; and if
that doesnt do it for you, try this: They are serious threats to your acceptance, and then success, at top
schools and a future career.

Rule of thumb: Say the facts and dont look back. Your MBA apps are not the place to lie, fib, exagger-
ate, misrepresent, or even avoid telling the truth. Call it what you will, just make sure you dont do it.

Here are three reasons why:

1. Background checks are likely to turn up any material misrepresentations. When they do,
the school will withdraw the offer of acceptance. You will see your acceptance turn into
a rejection with the attendant embarrassment and inability to apply to those previously
friendly institutions.

2. If the lies arent caught during the background check, the misrepresentation may need to
be perpetuated and could actually come up in the future with even more devastating and
shameful consequences. (This happened to someone my husband knew at work as well as
to the former head of admissions at MIT undergrad. In the former case, the false claim had
NOTHING to do with work or professional competence.)

3. There is also the possibility that in the future you will have a conflict or falling out with
someone who knows about the fallacy. That person can then go to the school or future
employer and reveal the fallacy out of spite, claiming that spasms of conscience are driving
him to confess. (I have heard of such cases.)
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In short: Lying in applications is serious business. Even if you get away with it during the admissions
process, it can still have serious consequences way down the line.

Learn how to mitigate MBA profile weaknesses wisely and honestly with the expert tips founds in MBA
Application Weaknesses 101.68

68 http://www.accepted.com/mba/applicationweakness.aspx

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O
O: Overrepresented Applicant Types

Youre an Indian male with an IT background, or a consultant from New Jersey who majored in Econ,
or a Chinese bank manager who also dabbled in engineering.

In short, you are an applicant who comes from an overrepresented background what can you do to
prove that you are a unique candidate69 despite your run-of-the-mill profile?

1. Highlight unique hobbies, interests, and activities. A good way to avoid being stamped
Typical is to show that even with your unoriginal professional/social/geographic/
economic background, you are in fact quite a distinct individual. For example, youre an
Indian IT male who is also an underwater photographer whos won three international
marine photography awards (and the first was when you were 12 years old). Or youre a
consultant from New Jersey who has also run a successful home-based empanada delivery
business for the past four years. You get the point you may have a typical job, but youre
definitely an individual.

2. Be specific in describing what you do and what you have done. Are you an engineer
or an environmental engineer who worked in the rainforest near the Amazon? Do you
volunteer or have you led teams in building 5 houses for Habitat for Humanity? A few
concrete details distinguish and differentiate.

3. Reveal non-traditional goals. Not all similar pasts lead to similar futures. By being as
specific as possible in the description of your post-MBA goals,70 youll prove that while
your professional experiences may look like others in the crowd, your future goals are
distinct youre headed somewhere entirely different!

4. Create essays that reflect your personality. If your resume and stats wont set you apart
from the crowd, then youre going to have to work extra hard to make sure that your
MBA essay71 truly embodies whats special about you. Use your distinct voice to relate
your unique personality. There may be hundreds of accounting majors applying to your
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target school, but theres only one with your individual traits, passions, visions, goals, and
perspectives YOU!

5. Choose recommenders72 who really know you. The better your chosen recommenders
actually know you, the better job they will do praising your unique talents and attributes.
The recommender with the most impressive title isnt always the best person for the job.
Instead, choose someone who you know and trust, and who knows not just what youve
done professionally and/or academically, but who you are as a person.

For more tips on how to distinguish yourself in your MBA application, please see Diversity,
Overrepresentation, and You.73

72 http://www.accepted.com/mba/letters-of-recommendation.aspx
73 http://www.accepted.com/mba/diversity.aspx?utm_campaign=A-ZReport&utm_medium=PDF&utm_source=Subscribers&utm_content=Diversity
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P
P: Proofreading

You want to make sure your MBA application essay has no errors, so you run spell check on your
computer, get rid of all those squiggly red and green lines, save your essay as FINAL, and then submit.

But wait! Your essay isnt really complete until you do a solid job proofreadingwith your eyes and
ears. Your word processors spelling and grammar editor is excellent for catching obvious errors (the
ones youd catch anyways), but it is less than perfect (and in some cases a lot less than perfect) at
finding the more obscure mistakes.

The best way to proof an essay is to print it out, move to a different chair or desk, and read it aloud
slowly with a pencil handy so you can write in corrections that you will later enter on the computer.
Reading aloud will slow you down and allow your ear to catch what your glassy eyes will miss. As you
give your essay its final proofread, stay on the lookout for the following:

1. Check for the proper school name. There are few things worse than submitting an essay to
HBS that begins with the words I want to go to Wharton because (and thats putting aside
the fact that an essay opening like that is pretty bland). Not only does it show the adcom
that you didnt do a good job proofing your essay, but it also shows that you sloppily lifted
your Wharton essay, without writing a new essay specifically geared toward HBS. Actually,
here is a trade secret: Before you get to the proofreading stage, use your computers Find
function (Control-F for PCs) and search for Wharton make sure you replace each one
with Harvard. And then, since you should never rely on your computer alone, your read
aloud proof will serve as a double check.

2. Check spelling and usage. Your computers spell checker may catch obviously misspelled
words, but it wont catch words that are spelled correctly but that are used incorrectly.
Illicit feedback isnt the same thing as elicit feedback (which is probably what you
meant). Your computer amazing as it is cant read your mind!

3. Check grammar and style. I recommend turning off your computers grammar checker
and instead relying on your own eyes and, and in this case, EARS as well. Grammar errors
are often easier to identify when you hear them read aloud. Something may look right, but
if it doesnt SOUND right, then it probably isnt. Before submitting your essays, do a final

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read through and LISTEN for mistakes and awkward phrasing.

You may also find that now, during the final proofreading stage of your MBA essays, is a good time
to recruit a friend, family member, colleague, or professional editor to read through your essay. After
looking at your essay 4,557 times, you may simply gloss right over errors, reading what SHOULD be
written rather than what IS actually written. A fresh pair of eyes and ears can catch what your exhausted
and biased eyes and ears missed.

Explore Accepteds professional MBA essay editing74 options. Youre a professional applying to a
professional program. Have seasoned pros edit your critical MBA essays. Theyre simply too important
for you to rely on anyone else.

74 http://www.accepted.com/mba/essayediting.aspx

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Q
Q: Quant Quandaries

Schools want to see evidence of quant skills. They want to confirm your ability to handle the demands
of a rigorous program. For liberal arts majors who havent taken math since high school, the quant
score on the GMAT takes on greater importance because it can be the only evidence of quant ability.

If you fall into this poet category and have received a less-than-ideal quant score on the GMAT, then
I suggest you do one or more of the following:

1. Take a GMAT prep course and retake the exam if you believe you can increase your score.

2. Brush up on your math skills by taking online classes like MBAMath, or more traditional
courses like calc, accounting, statistics for business, and econ. Traditional classes are
preferable if one also has a low GPA. Indicate somewhere in your application that youre
addressing this weakness.

3. Offer specific examples or anecdotes in your application essays that highlight your
competent quant skills, despite your not-so-high GMAT quant score.

4. Take advantage of the optional essay as yet another place to boost your competitive edge.

5. Ask your recommenders to vouch for your quant abilities.

If after taking these steps youre still not a competitive candidate at your first choice schools, consider
reevaluating your qualifications maybe youre aiming too high with these target programs and should
choose schools that will view your scores as competitive.

Your MBA application strategy should address these issues. Please see A Winning MBA Application
Strategy75 and GMAT Prep, Your Score, and MBA Admissions76 for more information.

75 http://www.accepted.com/mba/application.aspx
76 http://www.accepted.com/mba/gmat.aspx

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R
R: Resume

Your MBA resume is an often overlooked component of the b-school application that is, overlooked
from the perspective of the applicant, not the adcom. The adcom readers actually read it, and read it
carefully, to whet their appetites for whats to come in the rest of the application package. If its a good
resume, then they assume that a strong, impressive application will follow. A bad resume will do the
opposite: turn them off. They will keep reading through your application, but they may not be thrilled
to do so.

You want to make a good impression by producing an A-grade resume. The following 7 items are things
you SHOULDNT do because they will cause you and your resume to flunk the first-impression test.

1. DONT make your resume your last priority. Often your resume is the first thing the
admissions committee reader will read. Standing in as your first impression, you should put
adequate time and energy into making sure that its solid.

2. DONT rely on basic job descriptions. Adcoms arent looking for the basic to-dos of
your last couple jobs; theyre scanning your resumes to glean career progression. A list of
impressive jobs is nice, but if they dont indicate that youve achieved goals, had an impact
on your surroundings, or been promoted, then it wont be enough to sway your reader.

3. DONT submit a job resume. Job resumes are reserved for applying to jobs; they are read
by people in your target industry who are familiar with industry jargon. Your MBA resume
should not include overly technical terms.

4. DONT be too creative in your resume formatting. Standard formatting trumps creativity
when it comes to creating an impressive MBA resume. Your target schools most likely have
their own resume standards (check with their career service departments). If they dont bold
headings, then you shouldnt bold headings. If their margins are one inch, then yours should
be too. Dont use crazy fonts or intricate borders, dont use colored paper, and for heavens
sake, dont spritz your resume with perfume.

5. DONT forget to edit your resume. Needless to say, your dazzling first impression may

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start to deteriorate if your reader finds spelling, grammar, and style errors in your resume.
Proofread for consistency and accuracy. This includes double checking that your actual facts
are correct as well.

6. DONT go into information overload. This is grad school, not college. You dont need
to include your SAT scores or where you went to high school. Also to be excluded: your
height, weight, and date of birth. (Maybe thats obvious to you, but its not to everyone!)

7. DONT go over the one-page limit. Resumes that are longer than one page may indicate
that you think youre more important that you are or that you have no self restraint or
cant be bothered to trim your resume down to the more traditional single page. If you
simply have way too much to include, think about using the optional essay in include this
additional data.

Now that you know what NOT to do, its time to learn what you SHOULD do to create an impressive
resume. Check out MBA Resume 10177 or our Resume Services78 for more details.

77 http://www.accepted.com/mba/resume.aspx
78 http://www.accepted.com/mba/admissionsresume.aspx

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S
S: All You Need is a Story

Youre writing an application essay that you hope will grab the attention of your admissions readers
and convince them that you are top b-school79 material.

Which of the following do you think is the most effective MBA essay strategy?80

1. Construct a theoretical analysis of the importance of leadership.

2. Create a detailed list of your skills, accomplishments, and talents.

3. Compose a story that illustrates your originality, ingenuity, and innovation.

Lets look at each of our options.

Construct a theoretical analysis of the importance of leadership.

Wrong. This could be the basis for a very interesting dissertation, but its not the material of an MBA
essay.81 The admissions readers want to learn about who you are as an applicant, a professional, and an
individual. An essay that explores the intricacies ofwell, of anythingwill detract from your singular
purpose: of introducing the reader to YOU.

Create a detailed list of your skills, accomplishments, and talents.

Wrong again. Youre including an MBA resume82 along with the rest of your application, right? Dont
regurgitate that same material here. Sure itll tell your readers about who you are, but theres one word
for an essay like that: BOOOORING.

Compose a story that illustrates originality, ingenuity, and innovation.

Correct! The best way to grab your readers attention is to tell a representative, transformational story
based on a moment, object, or event that personalizes who you are, where youve been, and what
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you plan on doing moving forward. A good story83will connect the dots between the past, present, and
future and will reveal your strengths, talents, and passions in a much more compelling way than any
resume or theoretical exploration can do.

Some basic storytelling tips:


Use succinct, sensory language and vivid details to grab and then keep! the attention of
your reader.
Choose a plot or a moment in time that can easily be retold in full in the limited space
youre given. You dont want your reader left with questions about who someone is or what
happened next or, worst of all, why this story is of importance at all.
Avoid buzzwords and clichs like perseverance, actionable, growth opportunity, or
at the end of the day. They only make you look shallow, not smart.
For more valuable tips on how to compose your winning MBA application story, please view Essays
that Stick,84 a FREE 45-minute webinar that will teach you six memorable techniques for creating a
memorable MBA essay.

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T
T: Top Essay Techniques

Trust me when I tell you that the hardest part of writing your MBA essay will be the beginning. Getting
started actually typing out those first few words will prove the most daunting task.

It gets easier, though. Really it does.

So while you may be tempted to push off starting your essays, I assure you the sooner you get started,
the sooner this difficult phase will be over and youll get to have some fun with your essay.

A good way to motivate yourself to jump into the essay writing process85 is to keep in mind that your
first draft is just thata first draft, otherwise known as a rough draft, or what I like to call, a rough,
rough draft. Okay good I just sensed that your heart rate slowed to a more normal rate. See, rough,
rough drafts arent so scary, are they?

I recommend you use the following rough, rough draft writing technique to help loosen yourself up and
overcome this first and largest writing hurdle:

1. Do it now.

Stop procrastinating and designate the next 15 minutes to creating your rough, rough draft.

2. Turn off your phone.

Yeah, you heard me. Actually, Im going to take this one step further: Turn off your internet. This is not
the time for G-chat or Facebook or Words with Friends. Come on, its just 15 minutes. Surely you can
unplug for 15 minutes.

3. Spend the entire 15 minutes writingand dont stop until the buzzer dings.

Words beget words, which means once you get your first few words out, youll have the momentum to
keep going. Even if you start by saying, I have no idea what I want to write here. Hmmm. What are
some of my greatest skills? Hmmm. Im good at basketball. Nah, thats not relevant. Well, maybe it is. I

85 http://www.accepted.com/mba/essay.aspx

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mean, I did start that pick-up neighborhood basketball league. Just write. Ramble. And you dont need
to write in full sentences like I just did above. Basketball pick-up game will get the job done as
wellwhich leads to my next point.

4. Dont sweat the small stuff (like grammar).

Now is not the time to worry about grammar, spelling, or style. Now is the time to focus on getting
those tumbling thoughts out of your head86 and onto paper. Heres another point: Use paper if you can
write faster than you can type, and a computer if you type faster than you can write. Your goal is to
capture your thoughts as quickly as possible, so use whichever medium works best for that.

5. Remember that no one will see this (unless you show it to someone).

Please do not be self conscious during the rough, rough draft writing phase. Feel free to write about
your strengths without worrying about sounding cocky, or write about your weaknesses without hurting
your ego. Whine, complain, write a poem. Do what you need to do overcome the scary image of a
blank screen. Writing SOMETHING at this stage is the goal. That SOMETHING is up to you.

Final note: This is a technique that you can use to overcome writers block for any or all of your MBA
application essays, not just the first one. Anytime the thought Oh no, ANOTHER essay. What on earth
am I going to write this time?? pops into your head, thats your cue to JUST START WRITING.

For more tried and true essay writing techniques and tools, please see How to Write and Edit MBA
Essays87 now!

86 http://www.accepted.com/mba/applicationessays.aspx
87 http://www.accepted.com/mba/essay.aspx

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U
U: Undergrad Grades

3 Steps for Handling a Low Undergraduate GPA

Grades show whether you previously performed well in an academic setting. If your college GPA is
low, then you need to provide evidence that even though you may have faltered back then, now youve
got youre A-game and are capable of academic excellence.

But how?

The following 3 steps will help you overcome a low GPA and present a solid case to the admissions
board that you mean academic business:

1. Identify.

First, identify the cause of your low GPA.

Is it low because you partied a little too hard your first two semesters, but then buckled down after that
and worked to pull up your low freshman GPA? Or did you start out high and then get really lazy and
bored with school your senior year and let things spiral out of control? Or is it possible that your low
GPA is truly an indication that your workload was too challenging and that youre not school material?
Or perhaps you were dealing with serious illness or family problems? Or maybe back then you just
werent motivated to succeed?
Once you understand why you have a less-than-impressive GPA, youll have an easier time figuring out
what to do next (Step 2) and how to explain the situation (Step 3).

2. Ameliorate.

Once you determine that you are motivated this time around and are capable and competent
academically, then its time to take action to improve your profile. (And if after deep introspection you
decide that school is just not for you, then consider yourself lucky that you figured that out now and not
after youve paid $100,000+ on even more schooling.)

Obviously, you cant go back and raise your undergraduate GPA, but there are steps you can take NOW

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to show the adcom that your undergrad GPA doesnt define your current academic abilities:
Take a few business-related, college-level courses and earn As in them.
Ace the GMAT.

1. Explain.

There are three places in your MBA application88 where you may want to address a low GPA: the
optional essay,89 the required portions of the application, and your letters of recommendation.90

In a non-whiny, non-defensive tone, you can clearly and straightforwardly explain why your GPA is
lower than it should be in the optional essay. Perhaps there was a death in the family one semester or
maybe you had emergency surgery that left you on bed rest for three weeks mid-semester. Or maybe
you just didnt realize the importance of grades until halfway through your sophomore year and by then
your GPA had taken a serious hit. Or maybe you worked thirty hours a week to support yourself. Let
the reader know the context of your grades. Write honestly and write well.91

In other parts of the application, show the skills that your transcript hides without drawing attention
to the grades. For example, if did not do well in Econ 1 or college math classes, but now are do some
really heavy lifting in terms of financial modeling either in your resume or in a required essay, write
about a quantitative challenge that you handled with elan.

Regarding letters of recommendation getting a supervisor to vouch for your maturity and abilities is
probably one of the best things you can do to bolster your case. Again, if you had poor grades in classes
requiring a lot of writing, ask your boss if she can comment positively on your communications skills.
If you had poor quant grades, ask if she can praise your quantitative analysis of a complex project.
In either case, your boss doesnt have to reference the negative you are trying to overcome just the
positives.

Please see Overcoming Weaknesses in Your MBA Profile92 for more advice on how to identify and
ameliorate flaws in your profile.

88 http://www.accepted.com/mba/application.aspx
89 http://www.accepted.com/mba/applicationessays.aspx
90 http://www.accepted.com/mba/letters-of-recommendation.aspx
91 http://www.accepted.com/mba/essay.aspx
92 http://www.accepted.com/mba/applicationweakness.aspx

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V
V: Visits

First, let me begin by saying that if you have the time and money to visit the schools that youre
thinking about applying to, then you absolutely should. And the reason isnt because of the imaginary
brownie points; it is because visiting a school will transform you into a much more informed
applicant.93 Theres so much about a schools culture, teaching style, and student body that can only be
understood fully through experience.

The following 4 tips will help you make the most of your b-school visit.

1. Timing is everything. Visit the school when classes are in session so that you can see the
learning in action. Dont go during finals as students will likely be stressed out and not as
eager to leisurely sit and talk with you.

2. Research before you go. You should read up on the school before you pay your visit. Your
familiarity will enable you to ask better questions, make deeper connections with student,
faculty, and adcom members, and feel more comfortable overall.

3. Prepare good questions. Youll likely to speaking to lots of students, adcom members, and
professors. Come prepared with good questions so youre not left tongue tied when a good
opportunity for a question presents itself. (See below for sample questions.)

4. Participate in visitor activities. Take advantage of all options presented to you, including
attending class, a tour, info sessions, one-on-one meetings with students, etc.

Sample questions:

What is a typical day like for you here?


What would you like to see improved here?
What kinds of extracurricular activities are you involved in? Is it easy for someone to
start their own club or group?
How do professors balance teaching and research?
93 http://www.accepted.com/mba/fit.aspx

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Is there a bidding process for internship and full-time job interviews?


You should also ask questions that are specific to your target program and needs, like about individual
professors or classes. Another good, program-specific question for students may be, Why did you
decide to attend this program? You can also ask about their post-MBA goals94 and how this program
will help them achieve them.

Finally the best questions are those about specific programs at the school that you are interested in
because they will help you achieve your post-MBA goals.

Cant make it to all your target programs. Make the most of MBA fairs, when the schools come to you.
Download MBA Fairs: Advancing Your MBA Ambitions.95

94 http://www.accepted.com/mba/goalsessay.aspx
95 http://www.accepted.com/mba/fair.aspx

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W
W: Waitlist

You probably have mixed emotions about being waitlisted.96 On the one hand, you werent dinged and
you still have a chance of gaining acceptance to your top choice school.97 On the other hand, you havent
been accepted yet, which means as of now, you still dont know what the future holds. Thats why many
feel that being waitlisted is like being in limbo you are neither here nor there, at least not yet.
The following 5 tips will help you launch from waitlist limbo to acceptance:
1. Read your waitlist letter carefully, looking for hints of deficiency. Some schools are
better about stating straight out why you werent accepted. For others, youll need to read
between the lines to determine where you fell short in your application. And for most, you
will have to do the assessment on your own. (Or ask us; were happy to do it for you.)
2. Follow the instructions. If the school says that you are welcome to send additional
materials to support your candidacy, then you should absolutely do so. If they say that you
should not contact them at all, then youll need to respect their wishes and wait for them to
contact youno matter how badly you want to share new information with them.
3. Emphasize your continued interest in the MBA program. If contact is allowed, then
you should draft a short letter that thanks the school for considering your application and
reiterates your desire to attend the program. Your letter should also include a brief paragraph
or two on the following.
4. Address shortcomings and tout recent achievements. If youve taken steps to ameliorate
your MBA profile weakness98 (as determined in Step 1 above), then you should certainly
include the measures youve taken to improve. If youve retaken the GMAT99 or enrolled
in a college statistics course, for example, then you should say so. Furthermore, if youve
bulked up your achievements had an article published, launched a new business, earned
a patent, received a promotion, increased your volunteer hours, etc. share this important
information with the adcom.

96 http://www.accepted.com/mba/wait-list.aspx
97 http://www.accepted.com/Zones/bschools.aspx
98 http://www.accepted.com/mba/applicationweakness.aspx
99 http://www.accepted.com/mba/gmat.aspx

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5. Make your intentions clear. If you are certain that you would accept an offer100 if the
program extended it, say so.
Remember, your letter should be short, sweet, and to the point two pages max, one page preferred.
Dont be pushy, dont be defensive, and dont beg.
Learn more must-know waitlist tips when you visit Accepteds MBA Waitlist 101101 guide.

100 http://www.accepted.com/mba/decisions.aspx
101 http://www.accepted.com/mba/wait-list.aspx

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X
X: XXX Keeping it Clean

Back in the olden days (like 15+ years ago), the adcom saw your MBA application102...and that was
it. Now, with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the popularity of blogging (especially among MBA
applicants), the adcom have access to a whole lot more than the professional file that you carefully
present to them.

Which is why you need to be careful. Very careful.


Here are 6 things that admissions members could tag with a red flag:
1. Pictures or videos of you doing stupid stuff you know what it is.
2. Inappropriate email addresses.
3. Blog posts/status updates/Tweets using inappropriate language or curse words.
4. Blog posts/status updates/Tweets written in poor English.
5. Blog posts/status updates/Tweets that are slanderous or mean.
6. Anything that indicates that youre involved in illegal activity.

Please go through each and every one of your social media accounts and CLEAN THEM UP. Delete
anything that may make you look bad, untag yourself in your friends photos and videos if you need to,
and last, but certainly not least, make sure that your privacy settings are set at the very highest possible
standards. These platforms are constantly changing their privacy rules; stay on top of them to insure
that only those people that you WANT to see your activity are the ones who have access to it.

Going forward, realize that anything in digital format is pretty hard to keep private. And every move you
make, does not need to be recorded for posterity, especially those that will make you cringe in the future.

Note: An increasing percentage of top b-school103 adcom (and potential employers) DO use Google as a
resource when trying to learn more about applicants. Your professional reputation is at stake here!

Learn more about the dos and donts of creating the right MBA application image when you view
Accepted.coms tip-filled resource A Winning MBA Application Strategy 101.104
102 http://www.accepted.com/mba/application.aspx
103 http://www.accepted.com/Zones/bschools.aspx
104 http://www.accepted.com/mba/application.aspx

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Y
Y: You

Your MBA application105 is intended to introduce the adcom to YOU. It highlights whats special and unique
about you as a professional, as a community member, as an individual, and as a future business leader.

Here were going to talk about how to keep the focus on YOU in your MBA application essays,106 but
instead of talking about who you are, we are going to talk about what you are NOT.

You are not:


1. Your family, boss, colleagues, or professors. Make sure that if youre telling a story, that
the focus of the story is on you and not on somebody else. For example, if youre writing
about how somebody influenced you (say, your mom), or about a sticky situation that you
overcame that involved another person (say, your boss), make sure that you keep the focus
on how YOU acted or reacted. How YOU were influenced and influenced. What YOU did
in this sticky situation. Otherwise, your essay will turn into a story about the great virtues of
your inspirational mother or about the horrors of your treacherous boss. Interesting, maybe.
Application material, definitely not.
2. The universal you, we, or one. Your MBA application essay107 is not a philosophy paper. Drop
the didactic tone, and instead talk about the YOU that is really I. Do not write your essay about
humankind. Do not make any broad or sweeping statements about life or people in general. It
shouldnt be about you, the reader, or we, the people, or one, some theoretical person.
3. Your team or department. You may have led your team and you may be a potent force in
your department, but those groups do not define you. While acknowledging the contribution
of others, concentrate on your role within those groups and what you specifically did to
contribute to the whole.
4. Just a [name profession]. You are a multifaceted human being108 with diverse
interests, skills, and talents. Make sure your application introduces the adcom to your
multidimensionality.
105 http://www.accepted.com/mba/application.aspx
106 http://www.accepted.com/mba/sampleessays.aspx
107 http://www.accepted.com/mba/applicationessays.aspx
108 http://www.accepted.com/mba/diversity.aspx

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5. The guy that hangs out with his buddies and has one too many beers after the game. Or
maybe you are, but thats not the YOU to highlight in your MBA application. Instead,
highlight the professional, the innovative, the fun (but not drunk), the self-aware, and the
community service YOU. Present the YOU that you are most proud of.
Please see our MBA sample essays109 for examples of how to best introduce yourself to the admissions readers.

109 http://www.accepted.com/mba/sampleessays.aspx

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Z
Z: ZZZZZZ Dont Put the Adcom to Sleep!
You want to create a compelling, memorable, colorful MBA essay.110 One that excites the adcom
readers, not puts them to sleep. Use the following five MBA essay writing techniques111 to help you
keep the adcom as far away from dreamland as possible:
1. Start with a story or anecdote. Launching your essay with brief story or anecdote will
do wonders to draw your readers in and propels them to read on. Never start an essay with
something drab like, I was born in a small town or My name is X or I want to go to
Top B-School X because. These will make your readers snooze; and if they snooze, youll
certainly lose. Jumping right into a story is a much more engaging way to start.
2. Dont rehash your resume. You may be tempted to talk about your extensive job history,
but your essay is really not the spot for that; your MBA resume112 is. In general, dont waste
precious essay space on material thats located elsewhere in your application. Use your
essays to describe and analyze important activities, interests and events that you want the
admissions committee to know about.
3. Use fresh material for each essay. Choose different experiences113 to highlight in each of
your application essays. Overlapping experiences are a) a waste of space and b) really boring.
4. Let your personality shine. Take your warm and witty personality and infuse it into your
essay. Your essay is your vehicle to introduce yourself to your readers. Make sure theyre
getting to know the very best of the authentic YOU possible.
5. Use vivid language. Your essays should use sensory language that will transport your
reader through your story. Use details that help your readers see, hear, smell, taste, or touch
what you experienced.

Need more tips on how to keep the adcom engaged and excited while reading your essays? See How to
Write and Edit MBA Essays 101114 now!

110 http://www.accepted.com/mba/sampleessays.aspx
111 http://www.accepted.com/mba/essay.aspx
112 http://www.accepted.com/mba/resume.aspx
113 http://www.accepted.com/mba/applicationessays.aspx
114 http://www.accepted.com/mba/essay.aspx

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Epilogue

I hope you enjoyed these 26 tips and benefited from them, as well as from the additional resources
we provided. But published advice and written resources, while extremely helpful, fall short in one
significant way: They are general. Theres simply no way for us to publish tips that are specific to your
unique situation.

For personalized, custom advice, you need an experienced mentor. You need a seasoned,
knowledgeable Accepted MBA admissions consultant.115

When you work with Accepted, you access an informed advisor and ally with demonstrated expertise.
Why struggle alone? Or worse, turn to friends and family who simply dont have the insight you need.

Heres what we bring to your MBA application:


Experience. We have been helping applicants get accepted to top MBA programs
since 1994.
Knowledge. With over 130 years of collective experience, weve seen what works and
what doesnt.
Objectivity. Its tough for you to be objective about you. Its easy for us.
Potential benefits:
Acceptance to a better school with higher professional opportunities, increased
earnings, and a superior network.
Increased chances of snagging a fellowship or scholarship.
Saving you the cost of a reapplication.
Reduced time, stress, and frustration.
The question really becomes, how could you not consider an Accepted.com consultant?

Especially since were going to make it easy for you. Real easy.

As an MBA Admissions A-Z subscriber, wed like to offer you a free introductory consultation.116 This
will allow you to experience the benefits of advice tailored to you and you alone.

Register now for your consultation!

115 http://www.accepted.com/aboutus/aboutus.aspx
116 http://info.accepted.com/mba/a-z-report-free-consultation

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