Top 10 Myths About Getting Into the Top Business Schools—Busted

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Friday, July 24, 2020
Jatin Bhandari
Founder, PythaGURUS Education
Aiming to get into a top business school, but worried about what you've heard about the admissions process? Separate fact from fiction with these myth busters.

The internet is swarming with misconceptions about applying to business school. From closed MBA applicant groups to open forums, potential candidates are flooded with information about what to do and what no to do while applying for an MBA.

Although some of this information is highly useful, a lot of it is simply false. Which is why this blog post is long overdue.

Today we take on 10 of the most prominent MBA application myths on the internet.

Myth 1: Your GMAT score is the most important part of your MBA application.

It would be a lie if I said that the GMAT score isn’t one of the most crucial factors during MBA application considerations. But while that is true, it is also true that applicants with a 780 GMAT score have been rejected from top schools and applicants with a GMAT score of 500 have been admitted to the same schools.

This is because the GMAT score gives you a competitive edge, but if the rest of your profile—like your application essays and letters of recommendations—isn’t equally stellar, a high GMAT score won’t help offset it.

Myth 2: Pre-MBA networking is overrated.

Pre-MBA networking is crucial. When answering an essay question that asks “why this business school?”, applicants who have networked with current students or alumni of the school have an advantage.

An applicant who hasn’t networked may have used Google or the school’s website to complete the essay. This can lead to a generic and shallow answer stating the facts regarding the school. It would be like reading their brochure back to them.

But talking to current students and alumni at your target schools can expose you to information about the school’s programs, student clubs, professors, and projects, which could provide insights on how you will reach your post-MBA goals. This would in turn help you create a more personal and detailed answer of how the school would add value to you professionally and personally.

Myth 3: Leadership means holding a managerial role at work.

As a graduate business school applicant, you don’t necessarily have to hold a managerial position at your job to showcase leadership in a professional setting. Leadership skills can be showcased through a few examples of when you took initiative.

For example, if you have very little work experience and have held no managerial roles, you might have bridged the communication gap between management and the union of workers at your factory. Although you weren't serving in a supervisory role, you took initiative and showed leadership capabilities.

Myth 4: You need a finance background to pursue a finance-centric business school.

Business schools often have reputations associated with them. For the most part, stereotypes either surround the student culture or the program focus of the school. Here, we are concerned with the program focus.

For example, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business is often considered a finance school. This might lead you to believe that you need to have a previous degree or job in finance to get into Booth. However, these stereotypes become less true with every passing year. Like other top schools, Booth also highly favors diversity in student backgrounds.

Myth 5: The admissions committee won't ready your essays if your profile isn't strong.

The admissions committee goes through everything you submit with your application. If you’ve submitted a poem, they’ll read that too. It’s merely a myth that the selection process happens in segments of students being eliminated at the end of each segment. It’s not a reality show.

The admissions committee does begin with looking at the stats in an applicant’s profile but then moves on to their essays and letter of recommendations to make sure that an exceptional applicant isn’t rejected due to a slightly weaker academic performance.

That does not, however, change the fact that a strong profile will tremendously improve your chances at receiving admission.

Myth 6: Having a recommendation from a VIP will get you admitted.

Do you think getting a letter of recommendation from someone like the CEO of your company would improve your likelihood of getting admitted?

If the CEO does not know your professional capabilities and cannot comment on your skills and abilities, then the admissions committee probably won’t be impressed by their recommendation of you.

Admissions committee members at top schools say that if you have the choice to receive a recommendation from an immediate supervisor who can comment on your professional capabilities or a high-ranking employee whom you have never worked with, you should choose the person who can best describe your professional acumen, even if they are not in the C-suite.

Myth 7: Only a traditional full-time two-year MBA has value.

MBAs come in all shapes and sizes. No matter what career stage or post-graduate educational journey you’re in, there is an MBA for you. Among some of the world’s leading MBA programs accredited by AACSB is INSEAD’s one-year MBA program. Many AACSB-accredited institutions offer flexible MBA programs that provide the same high-quality education a traditional two-year MBA does.

However, for applicants who wish to make a career switch, a full-time two-year MBA may hold the most value. The internship opportunities that you can benefit from during a full-time two-year MBA allow you to hit the ground running with some experience in your new job function post-graduation.

Myth 8: Your application needs to be flawless.

Even Superman has kryptonite. The admissions committee does not expect perfection in an applicant’s profile. They expect honesty and specifics. When addressing a failure or a weakness, some applicants tend to focus on making themselves look spot-free by either claiming innocence to failed situations or deflecting blame onto someone else. Both the scenarios show the admissions committee that you aren’t ready to accept responsibility for your actions.

Business schools truly appreciate applicants who take responsibility for their actions, as it shows growth prospects in an individual. Recognizing mistakes also shows the business schools that you can effectively self-assess.

The best way to deal with this situation is to accept your weakness or error and provide the admissions committee with the steps you proactively took to rectify the error.

Myth 9: Admissions committees only know as much about you as your application reveals.

This is something that many applicants believe, and it couldn’t be further from the truth. If you have a photo of you doing something distasteful or illegal on your Instagram account, the admissions committee will see it and will keep it in mind while making their admissions decision.

Applicants often don’t realize that admissions committees also have social media at their disposal, just like the rest of the world. So, make sure to do a clean sweep of your social media accounts and online presence before submitting your application. Or at least make them private.

Myth 10: You don't need/you do need to hire an MBA admissions consultant.

If someone tells you that you absolutely need an MBA admissions consultant, walk away from them. It’s a deception. On the other hand, unless you’ve already been admitted to a top school without professional guidance, you could always use an admissions consultant.

If you can afford it, MBA admissions consultants can be a great investment.

You will probably be paying at least a 100,000 USD tuition if you get into a top school. And trust me this is low considering that the tuition for a two-year full-time MBA program at most top schools like Harvard and Stanford is much closer to 150,000 USD.

A good consultant can help you optimize your profile, in turn optimizing your chances of earning a scholarship from your target school.

So, in a way, with the potential of receiving scholarships, a good admissions consultant is paying for their own services.

Since an admissions consultant has plenty of experience dealing with applicants and business school admissions committees, they know how to deal with even the slightest discrepancies in your profile to assist you in best presenting yourself to your dream school. They can help you understand what needs to be changed or added to your profile to get you into one of your top MBA program choices.

I hope going through this list of myths helps you feel at ease about your MBA applications. While you should not take your MBA applications lightly, and focus on all aspects of the application, not just the GMAT score, you also do not need to have a full-blown panic attack.

The more honest and humble you are while listing your accomplishments and accepting your flaws, the better chance you have at acing the application essays and interviews.

In conclusion, I believe we should demystify one the biggest myths of the MBA application process: I need an MBA to be successful!

An MBA might get you a job with higher pay, but it won’t magically change your life. And you certainly don’t need it to be successful in life. Your MBA degree is not the end itself but simply a means to your end goals. If you don’t have short-term and long-term goals figured out, you won’t achieve your desired success in the MBA application process or life.

Jatin Bhandari
Founder, PythaGURUS Education
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