By sheer coincidence, we had this post long planned just never got around to polishing it up and publishing, and then recently saw a bunch of other MBA app sites also have “Application Myths!!” posts come out. So at risk of seeming like a copycat, we finally pulled this together with a random assortment of myths that are floating about out there concerning MBA admissions — but we’re giving them a twist. We’re explaining why they’re myths and not true, AND we’re also explaining how they are also at the same time simultaneously accurate!
Basically what we’re offering is that there are no hard-and-fast truths involved with getting into business school. There are guardrails and guidelines, and then everything needs to be translated into how a specific adcom at a specific school will be evaluating the facts of your specific situation.
So here’s a few broad categories where BSers can get hung up.
Myth #1: A high GMAT score is enough to get in.
It’s so tempting to believe that if you just get your GMAT high enough, you’re a sure shot to a top MBA program. But for those highly selective Top 10 programs, or pretty much all of the ones listed in the Essay Questions menu here on essaysnark.com, the GMAT score is just one factor. That whole “holistic review” thing is real. You need a high GMAT plus a decent GPA plus solid essays plus impressive recs. And oh yeah, don’t forget the importance of the resume. It’s the whole package. A high GMAT is admirable and don’t get us wrong, it surely helps, but you can’t bank on that carrying you through if there are big gaps or other major weaknesses going on.
Truth: A high GMAT score can totally get you in — to certain programs.
Some programs actually do value a super-high GMAT score almost above everything else. If you’re applying to a bschool that’s really really focused on their ranking and they really want to boost up their class average, and you’ve got a 780 or even higher, then you betchya they’re gonna be interested. When they admit you with your super-high score, then they can also fit in several others with scores below their targeted mean for the class, so you give them breathing room to bring in others who would represent more of a risk to their stats. If you have a very high GMAT then you are going to stand out from the crowd in this tier of school and it does give your application more power.
Myth #2: The essays aren’t that important.
We actually hear this a lot from the adcoms but our experience in working with all you BSers for all of these years says otherwise! We hate to contradict the actual admissions people on this one but very, very often, we’ve seen a fair-to-middling or downright mediocre set of stats come in with an incredible set of essays (after tremendous hard work from the BSer on them, of course!) and then that applicant does in fact get in. The essays overcame the very “average” nature of much of the rest of the profile.
Truth: The essays aren’t more important.
Just like with everything else, it’s a holistic review. If the essays are amazing, but the recommendations are very lackluster and the resume is not showcasing enough readiness and all of that is on top of a <700 GMAT score and a low GPA.... Then no, the essays alone aren't going to get you in. They might get you to the interview, but that's where the utility ends. So we aren't going to completely contradict what the admissions people themselves have to say on it! We do have to ask, though... If the essays aren't that important, why do the schools keep requiring them? That might be something to ask of an admissions person if you hear them say this in a chat or info session! (That would stop the room, wouldn't it, if someone asked that?? 😀 )
Myth #3: Who you know does not matter.
You don’t need to “know somebody” to get into a top MBA program. MIT even says that they don’t care if your parents attended MIT, it’s not going to help you get in. They shrug off that whole ‘legacy’ notion.
Truth: Who you know can help a lot, depending on who, and which school.
Other schools TOTALLY care about nurturing relationships with key alumni and if you’re trying for Stanford and you work at a firm with strong Stanford connections, well guess what? You are at a real advantage. Significant advantage.
Does that mean you need to have those connections in order to get in? No. But it does mean that they give preference to those who do. They can deny it all day long but we’ve seen it, season after season.
Myth #4: What your college major was does not affect your chances.
This article quotes Yale’s admissions people saying that your undergrad major does not matter. “We always kind of chuckle to ourselves [when liberal arts majors call themselves non-traditional], because there really is not a nontraditional background when you look at the applicant pool,” Grodman says.
Truth: Your college major, like everything else, is part of this holistic review, and everything matters!!
That’s totally true, a liberal arts major should not have any trouble getting into bschool solely because they didn’t study business in college.
Your major absolutely matters! It’s part of your profile. If you’re coming in as an engineering major, then that means you’re hitting against a crowded pool. The opposite of this – that a nontraditional major won’t hurt you – is not always true. A standard pre-MBA profile means you have to work harder to stand out from the crowd.
Myth #5: Your career goals should be really ambitious.
One of the most common issues with essays at certain career-goals-focused schools is that they’re vague and ambitious and there’s nothing that gives the reader any confidence that they’re realistic and grounded in a plan. We caution BSers about this in posts like this one about pitching something entrepreneurial (we even have a special-case Entrepreneurial Career Goals guide for this!) or this one in saying you want to be CEO. If your goals come across as too lofty, then it calls into question many aspects of the overall idea of getting an MBA; it can make it seem that you’ve got unrealistic expectations for what bschool can do for you.
Truth: You need to show why the MBA is necessary — which means, you need to be making a significant change from today.
That doesn’t mean you should play it safe with your goals, and there’s even Columbia that asks you to talk about your “dream job” (which we offer a full strategy around in our Columbia MBA Application Guide for 2018!). If the goals seem like they’re only capturing an incremental change or a lateral move, and the adcom isn’t seeing you as a motivated and driven individual who’s gonna go out there and capture the world, well, that’s not exactly the best messaging either. Your essays need to show your enthusiasm and excitement for this new endeavor, and at least in part this needs to come through in the ideas you have for your future career.
So, basically this means there are no rules! Just lots of ways to get hung up and crazy. Heard any warnings out there that you want our reaction to? Did somebody say something about getting into bschool recently that you thought, “Huh, I wonder if that’s true”? If so, hit us up in the comments and we’ll give you the EssaySnark perspective! One reason we originally launched this here blahg was because of all the misinformation we saw bouncing around the internet, and we’re always open to a discussion of cases when X or Y might be true. Let us know what you’re wondering about and we’ll try to help out!