11th-hour MBA application advice: before you hit submit on that app

Here are our best tips and practices before tapping submit on your apps, so you don't get caught with your pants down an hour to go before the deadline. 

We always tell our clients, do not wait until only a few days before the deadline to begin completing your online app, because you just may have an "oh-snap" type moment.

1. SOME ONLINE business school applications won't take scanned transcripts bigger than 700kb.

You can shrink your transcripts (online) here - http://goo.gl/8EQeC

2 . Try to avoid submitting your application during the last hour before the deadline.  App Websites tend to slow down and timeout. 

Why is this? Because no one read this list. Maybe. Seriously though, some MBA programs host their own applications (ie. and not through a service like Slate or Applyyourself.com). This means a server that might just crash under the weight of thousands of applicants just like you.  Hosting your own server could also means limited customer service and response times. So I wouldn't push the limits of good judgment when submitting close to the deadline. Try to submit a few hours before the deadline or risk having the server slow way down. 

And if you do try and submit, and you do get the application submission website to crash. Keep calm and keep trying. But also put in an email to the admissions committee explaining the situation briefly. I would also email any tech support email address on the website as well (you might have to dig for this address though.)

Emailing the admissions committee also works if you experience an Internet disruption or electricity black-out. Email the adcom, explain the situation. They are human, they are reasonable. Just explain, don't just sit back and pray.

3 . Occasionally, you can't cut and paste short answers onto the online app fields when using Google Chrome.

You have to use Firefox. No one uses Internet Explorer .... joking, but I have not tested cut/paste with Explorer.

4. Most business schools include short essays on their online application.

Tuck has their international experience essays (250 words), Yale has a professional statement, HBS does ask you for your goals and Darden does a good job of hitting you up with an elevator pitch essay. Make sure you review the app way ahead of time, so you don't find yourself with yet one more "essay" to complete with the clock ticking.

5. Also know that all schools have a short answers on their app that will ask you for employment history, significant awards, extracurriculars.

Do not simply cut and paste from your resume - try to make your answers complete sentences. 

6. Short answers on the app will most likely have character limits, not word limits.

There is a difference, a big one. Also note - that character limits for b-school apps usually count spaces against the character limit. 

7. In general, don't "mail it in" on your online application answers for business school.

The "data sheet" is the first thing the admissions committee will see. Do not get off on the wrong foot by being sloppy or incomplete. Grammar counts.

But also know this - that your answers on this section need to match the numbers and bullet points on your resume (and any numbers/figures/timing on your essays and letters of recommendation as well). Just because they ask you to upload a resume, and they they ask you to subsequently fill out their online data UI, doesn't mean that you should state different stuff.  Put another way, if it's important enough to put on your resume, then it's definitely important enough to include on your app. You will confuse them if you state a whole new set of job responsibilities. 

8. Some schools ask you what other schools you are applying to - this has a purpose.

It's like being on a date and getting asked how many other people you are seeing. 

9. Columbia Business School asks you what "current students" you have spoken to.

Yes, they want names of current student. Other schools simply ask you what student or alumni you have talked to. However, I have also heard a CBS admissions rep state that it is acceptable to put the name of alumni as well.

10. Don't put down on your app that you attended an event if you DID not.

They do try and keep track, and they will check. This is perhaps the dumbest way to look like an asshole to the admissions committee. 

11. Resumes should be as traditional as possible - no colors, pictures, weird fonts.

The resume is supposed to be a sales document - so it has to be aesthetically pleasing. Think like this - would a recruiter hire me for a consulting job if they saw my rainbow colored, alphabet soup looking resume? `

12. Columbia Business School asks applicants for their picture.

Upload a picture that is professional, not gangsta or gangnam, and minimize the number of other people in the pic.  So don't fake bake, pucker your lips or wear anything with sequins or flair. Chicago Booth wants a slide show and you should really be submitting pictures of yourself in this presentation - so no grainy Motorola star-tac quality pics, or pics with your shirt off.

13. If you're cutting it close on the word counts or if you are filling up all the short answer boxes on the online form, it is okay to use acronyms.

Just don't go crazy using them if the adcom doesn't have a clue as to what they are.

14. Don't be a jagoff and submit your recommendation on behalf of your recommender.

If he or she is too busy find another recommender or dress up as a clown to get their attention. A good reason is that the writing will probably sound like your style of writing. A better reason is that some schools do record your IP address. It really looks un-kosher to have your app, your rec 1 and rec 2, coming from the same IP and just minutes apart. Don't believe me? See linky - https://technolutions.com/slate/advantage. Scroll down to the bottom and read the fraud section - ya, they are talking about you Willis.

15. Know what timezone you are in, and what timezone the business school is in. 

If you are applying to HBS or CBS, those MBA programs are in the eastern time zone of the United States. So any times they quote (as the application being due) are being quoted in terms of the eastern time zone, not in IST or GMT. 


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If you are interested in the MBA Admissions Consulting services offered by Amerasia, please email mba[at]amerasiaconsulting.com to inquire about setting up a free consultation.