You could have a perfect GMAT score, a 4.0 from Yale, and a list of extracurriculars a mile long, and yet you could still end up being rejected for doing any of these things in your essays:
This should be obvious, but lying on your application is literally one of the dumbest things you can do – it’s akin to 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 $5,000 for a fundraiser, don’t say it was $10,000. If you have a criminal record – no matter how big or small – own up to it; not mentioning it doesn’t make it disappear from your record. Fact-checking has become a regular part of an admissions reader’s job. Don’t exaggerate or lie. It’s unethical, unwise, and will only come back to bite you.
2. Revealing arrogance
Nobody likes a showoff, so when you’re applying to b-school, 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, shows that you think you deserve all the credit. That’s not a great attitude, and while schools do want high achievers, movers and shakers, they also want nice, modest people who work well with others. 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’ll be dinged.
3. Being Sloppy
A single typo won’t look good, but it won’t give you the automatic axe. When I say sloppiness, I’m talking about seriously messy writing, like writing Harvard when you mean Booth, and littering your essay with grammatical errors, extra words that don’t belong, and misspellings. Forgetting to submit a section of the application is another obvious no-no, as is just writing very generically or superficially – this shows that not much thought or attention went into the application, and could easily be interpreted as lack of seriousness regarding the particular school.
4. Including private, intimate details about your life
You want to provide a personal account that highlights your character, experiences, and achievements, but there’s a fine line you don’t want to cross – too much information will be deemed inappropriate. Topics to steer clear of: sex, divorce, gross medical details, childbirth, bathroom humor, heavy partying, etc. Hopefully you’re thinking, “Why on earth would anyone include that in an application?” If, however, you’re thinking, “Wow, I never thought to avoid these subjects – this is good to know,” then I’m glad you’re reading this!
The only time when it may be acceptable to discuss any of the above is in an optional essay as context for poor performance in the past, and even then, less is more. Focus on how you have dealt with the issue, overcame it, and moved on.
5. Writing broad declarative statements unsubstantiated by specific examples
You probably learned this rule in elementary school, but let’s review it – each topic sentence you write must be followed by supporting sentences. So if you claim that you are a team leader, you can’t just leave it at that. You need to follow that statement up with a few examples: What have you done to show your leadership abilities? How many people were on your team? How did you motivate your team members? Did you encounter any obstacles? If so, how did you overcome them? What did you gain from the experience overall? This is particularly important when talking about work accomplishments. Saying that you developed a new product or organized a huge event requires substantiation. Don’t leave the reader to guess about the details.
So there you have it: five places you don’t want to go in your MBA essays – at least if you do want to go to b-school. To make sure that you haven’t fallen into any of these traps, contact us and we’ll connect you with an admissions pro to review your essays!
• Top MBA Essay Questions: How to Answer Them Right!, a free guide
• From Example To Exemplary, a free guide
• Three MBA Application Poisons and Their Antidotes, a short video