How to Think Like an MBA Admissions Officer, Part II

A little while ago we wrote a very popular piece titled How to Think Like an MBA Admissions Officer, in which we described how admissions officers often form impressions of an applicant within seconds of picking up an application. While this can be a tough pill to swallow after you’ve put possible dozens of hours into each of your applications, keep in mind that admissions officers are only human, and they can’t help but be influenced by the hundreds or thousands of applications that they’ve previously read.

Whether or not they’re thinking about it consciously, the question that runs through MBA admissions officers’ minds essentially boils down to this: “How much time should I devote to this application?” Give off all the obvious signs of an applicant who will never fit with the school — e.g., by not being a team player or having a low GPA — and you’ll make an admissions officer’s decision easy (and “Ding!” will be their decision).

For admissions officers, these decisions aren’t made out of laziness, but rather a simple need to process tons of information in a very little time. MBA admissions officers are constantly asking themselves the “Worth my time?” question as they move from one application to the next, trying to find the best ones to recommend for further evaluation.

Finding great applicants in the pile of applications is not the hard part — it’s finding the best ones that is the challenge. And the more time that the admissions officer spends on a bad one, the more he has to make up for it later (either by hurrying up with another application or working even longer hours).

As yourself these five things as you think about whether you will end up in the “No more time needed” stack of applications or the “This one’s worth more of our time” pile:

  1. Will your work experience look impressive or bland?
  2. Will your GMAT and GPA seem like assets or liabilities (or will they offset one another)?
  3. Do you seem like someone on an upward trajectory, or someone who’s stagnating in his or her career?
  4. Is there anything in your application that will make the admissions officer want you over the other people who have very similar professional/ethnic backgrounds?
  5. What about your application will the reader remember 15 minutes after reading it?

Objectivity is very important here, especially when asking yourself why an admissions officer might want to choose you over someone else who looks very similar to you on paper. This is also where another pair of eyes can help, ideally from someone who doesn’t know you too well. Your friends and family are biased… They think you’re amazing, but they’ve known you forever! An MBA admissions officer doesn’t have such an advantage.

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One response to “How to Think Like an MBA Admissions Officer, Part II

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

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