How to Think Like an MBA Admissions Officer

While you will put dozens and dozens of hours into your business school applications — and may even put that much work into a single application — the fact of the matter is that your fate is often decided in a matter minutes as an admissions officers reviews your candidacy. While this may seem unfair, put yourself in the application readers’ shoes for a moment: Needing to get through literally thousands of applications in each admission round, they need to be able to quickly and efficiently separate our the wheat from the chaff.

How do they do this? Whether they’re always doing it deliberately or not, they do it by picking out certain markers in your application, each one telling them “This is an applicant that you should look at more deeply” or “Not much to see here… You can probably safely move on.” Understand what these markers are, and you can give yourself a significant advantage over other business school applicants.

While no two people are the same, after an admissions officers sees thousands of applications, very predictable trends start to emerge, and some of these are pretty easy to spot. The result of this somewhat predictable process is that there’s a critical first “moment of truth” — the first 60 seconds or so when an application reader picks up your application and starts to immediately form opinions about your candidacy. While much more time will be spent on your application before a decision is rendered — and admissions officers tell the truth when they say it’s a holistic process, everything is considered, multiple people usually ready your application, etc. — the reality is that your outcome largely depends on how that first moment of truth goes for every admissions officer who picks up your application.

After spending just a minute or two with your application, what key things do you think an admissions officer will take away about your candidacy? Some admissions experts call this your “brand,” and while we like this term, some applicants forget that their brand is not what they present, but rather what admissions officers perceive in their applications. And applicant may think of himself as the “motivated banker who does Habitat for Humanity and wants to get into consulting,” but admissions officers might see a “pushy banker without any community impact with ill-defined career goals.”

Successfully affecting the initial impression that admissions officers form in that first moment of truth really is almost as powerful as doing Jedi mind tricks — and potentially a lot more lucrative if it can get you into a top-ten business school. Watch this blog for a few specific tips to help you successfully steer admissions officers’ first impression of your candidacy.

For more MBA admissions advice, pick up a copy of Your MBA Game Plan, the leading book on the subject. And, be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow us on Twitter for more advice on the business school application process.

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One response to “How to Think Like an MBA Admissions Officer

  1. Pingback: How to Think Like an MBA Admissions Officer, Part III « MBA Admissions Blog by MBA Game Plan

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