One of the most challenging parts of the MBA application is knowing when your application is finished. Your MBA and the school from which you get it can have dramatic impacts on the future trajectory of your life, so it's easy to overthink every detail. Many applicants agonize for hours over every word choice, signing into the online application portals at all hours to change a word or two, only to change them back a day later. Wouldn't it just be easier if you could determine that you were, in fact done?
When we run a Final Check on application packages, we comb through every detail with the lens that we know the admissions committee will use. That's a little hard for individual students to replicate, but here are some things that you can look for yourself:
1. Is your resume in the template of the target MBA program?
This is a super easy way to fit in, and demonstrate your commitment to the school. Plus, it creates sort of a cognitive dissonance for the adcom to read a resume in their school's template and then reject that student -- essentially causing the document they are viewing to disappear.
2. Does your whole application tie to one simple story?
You are not under oath. You do not have to tell the whole truth, so help you god. In fact, explaining every part of your job, explaining every reason for why you pursued every opportunity, or listing the many divergent career options that interest you will not help your application, but hurt it. Your application is telling a story, and the best stories are simple linear ones. The best story characters are have clear motives and take decisive action. Often the key to telling a great story in your application is not to add things in, but rather to cut out all extraneous details.
It is also important for every part of your application to tell the same single story, from your resume to your recommender. If your essay is all about working in renewable energy, but your resume is all about finance, the adcom might not think that you're all that credible. The easiest decision that the Adcom can make is to not admit you.
3. Have you mitigated your weaknesses?
Your application is an argument and the best arguments bring up the opposing case and offers counter points. Do you have a lower GPA? Find space in the application to explain why that is the case and what you have done subsequently to prove that academics are no longer an issue. Is your work experience less impressive? Then point out all the ways in which your employer, position, client, or projects were impressive. Ignoring your weaknesses is not a winning strategy. The adcom will still see them, they just won't have the benefit of your counter argument.
4. Have you connected your candidacy to a larger problem you're trying to solve?
Adcoms don't like "admitting students" so much as they like "funding solutions to problems." In that way, you can think of them less like hiring managers and more like venture capitalists: ready to provide funding and mentorship to entrepreneurs out to tackle big markets. If you are able to argue that you have spent your career fighting to solve a specific, important, and urgent problem (ideally one that resonates with the school’s unique values) and that you are now poised to achieve the next level of impact, if only you were equipped with the unique resources that an MBA has to offer, you will be a much more credible candidate than a generic professional looking to go to graduate school.
5. Have you had a second set of eyes?
One of our most popular options this time of year, with the HBS deadline coming up on September 6th, and both Wharton and Stanford GSB on September 19th, is our Final Check service, wherein we comb through the entire application offering feedback on ways to tighten up and improve your answers, aligning your resume with your essays, and correcting any grammar and spelling errors. For the rest of the Round 1 season, we are offering same day / 24-hour turnarounds. Click the button below to check it out!