You could have a perfect GMAT score, a 4.0 from Yale, and a list of extracurriculars as long as your leg, and still end up in the reject pile for transgressing any one of the following three MBA application sins:
1. Lying or lacking credibility
Lying on your application is literally one of the dumbest things you can do – it’s up there with shooting yourself in the foot. And when I say lying, I mean large scale hoaxes all the way down to the smallest, whitest lie, or even an exaggeration. Stick to the facts. Play it safe. If you worked at a job for six months, don’t say you were there for nine. If your job was assistant manager, don’t say you were manager. If you raised $5000 for a fundraiser, don’t make it $10K. If you have a criminal record – no matter how big or small – own up to it; not mentioning it, won’t make it disappear from your record. I’m not sure why people think they can get away with lying – it frequently comes back to haunt them.
2. Revealing arrogance
Nobody likes a showoff, so when you’re applying to b-school, I suggest you ditch your know-it-all, arrogant attitude at the door. Saying things like “I’m the only one who…” when you couldn’t possibly know if you are the only one, or “Thanks to my efforts, my team succeeded…” when more likely your team succeeded due to team collaboration, show that you think you deserve all the credit. That’s not a very nice attitude, and while schools do want high achievers, movers and shakers, they also want nice, and modest, people. If your essays reflect an attitude of “You’ll be lucky to have me because I’m just so great” or “I deserve to be accepted,” you’re dinged.
A single typo won’t look good, but it won’t give you the automatic axe. When I say sloppiness, I’m talking about serious, messy writing, like writing Harvard when you mean Booth, or just littering your essay with grammatical errors, extra words that don’t belong, and misspellings. Forgetting to submit a section of the application is an obvious no-no, as is just writing very generically or superficially – clearly without much thought or attention. This latter type of carelessness reveals sloppy thinking more than sloppy writing; it is equally damaging.
Rule of thumb: Be honest, be modest, be neat! And of course, a perfect GMAT score won’t hurt.
For more sure-fire ways to get rejected, please see “The MBA Admissions Directors’ Recipe for Rejection.”