Pay particular attention to the question that some b-schools ask during the interview and/or on your application:
What Other MBA Programs Are You Applying To?
Why would they ask this question? The reason is this:
- B-schools are keen to know who they are competing against. They want to see how serious you are about eventually matriculating at their school. They want to know how applicants view the correlation between programs but also if you are using the school as a backup or safe school.
- Note that this question is pretty much asked by MBA programs who have been burned by their "yield" in year's past. That is, the admissions committee extends a lot of invites and only gets a handful of positive replies.
Let's use UCLA Anderson as an illustrative example.
- On the UCLA Anderson application, if you list that you are applying to Stanford and Haas, in addition to Anderson, the admissions committee will pretty much know you are using them as a backup. Thus, you'll be under the gun (even more so) to prove to the Anderson adcom that you're serious about the school.
- If you do not make compelling reasons for "Why Anderson?", then the negative effect of your "other schools" is magnified. That is, it becomes even more apparent that you are using UCLA Anderson as a backup.
- A good way to test the efficacy of your case for "Why Anderson" (on your essays) is this - if you can unplug the "UCLA Anderson" name from the essays and plug back in any other business school, the adcom knows you're not really interested, and will see right through it.
What should you do if you answered "Stanford GSB" and "Berkeley Haas" on your application?
- Nothing. Just hang tight and see if you get the interview. Answering "Stanford GSB" and "Berkeley Haas" isn't a deal breaker in the near term, but it could be in the end if you don't play your hand right.
So you got the interview, now what?
- During your admissions interview, if you can't get beyond a laundry list of clubs and courses that you "plan" to join at UCLA Anderson, then you playing your requiem. Yes, every school you are applying to has a finance club, but during the interview that is not your concern. Being able to articulate how exactly you will contribute to club X or class Y at Anderson is your challenge on interview day. You have to be over the top on this one, especially if you listed Stanford GSB or Berkeley Haas on your application as your "other schools."
- So a bad answer is a laundry list. A good answer is: "Given my fundraising background with the United Way as well as my lifelong participation in club sports, I plan on joining Anderson's Challenge 4 Charity. I hope to gain a position on C4C's board as we work with Special Olympics and each Section to raise our volunteer hours and funds. I know we can retake the Golden Briefcase from USC Marshall during the C4C Olympics at Stanford." with "pull through" issues or low acceptance rates of extended offers know that they are going to get dinged in the rankings. They are keen to see that you are serious.
Keep in mind that the advice above is addition to:
- Your ability to articulate clear reasons why you need an MBA, your short and longer term goals and why you need to get that MBA now as opposed to a year from now.
- If you do not have clear reasons for wanting to go to a particular school, the adcom will see through it. They review thousands of applications, they have a pretty good BS detector. On paper you might be qualified, but in reality you might be overqualified. That is, you look like an applicant who considers themselves too good for the school in question.
If you are interested in mock interview services or any of our consulting services, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is how we think about the process - from every angle. It's not enough to know yourself and the story you want to tell, you have to understand the challenges, obligations, and desires of your audience as well. We're here to help with all that and we do it at a higher level than anyone out there.