The Greatest Mistake

Tackling MBA applications for the typical type-A b-school hopeful seems like a cake walk.  Just be careful you don’t make the greatest mistake.

 After all you’ve been through in your academic and professional career so far, writing a couple of essays and filling out some paperwork sounds like a pretty easy ask.  You’ve stayed up all night crafting the perfect business proposal or completing a complex project.  You’ve worked with people all over the world whether in person or virtually, all while never missing a workout or a volunteer shift at the food bank.  You’re MBA material and you’re unstoppable.

 It’s great to have confidence,  but overconfidence can kill your approach.

 Confidence in yourself, your vision and your achievements will help you appear mature, which is a vital thing to communicate in any MBA application, but be careful that your confidence does not cross the line and become hubris.  Just like Oedipus, hubris can ultimately ruin you.  While it’s necessary to toot your own horn, if you try too hard to impress, you could end up doing just the opposite.  A good dose of humility goes a long way.

 The greatest mistake you can make in any MBA application is to “over-do it” on your application. 

 HBS says it best right on their own website: “Don't overthink, overcraft and overwrite. Just answer the question in clear language that those of us who don't know your world can understand.  In case you didn’t notice, that’s three “overs” they use there.  Being “extra” in the application is a real no-no.  Let your achievements speak for themselves.  If they are truly impressive, they will require little or no embellishment at all. 

 Application readers don’t have an MBA.

 They also don’t come from investment banking or data analytics or engineering backgrounds.  Writing a good MBA application means avoiding jargon, platitudes and any industry-specific detail.  The admissions committees are made up of regular folks, but with a keen eye for human nature and the ability to glean out from the page what makes someone tick.  Make it easy on them by not providing a mental obstacle course.  This is not America Ninja Warrior, it’s a simple, straightforward reveal of who you are and why your unique life choices have prepared you for business school.  Notice I said “why” and not “how” your choices have prepared you.  If you ask yourself why after each thing you think you’d like to pass along in your application, you can galvanize the story and become the memorable candidate who breaks down the gate.

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