HBS, Wharton, Columbia, NYU Stern, Kellogg, Booth, they’re all the same when it comes to one thing: “dings.” If you’re applying for your MBA degree this year, you’re probably all too familiar with what that little word means. “Dings” are the marks made against you on your MBA application, the things you’ve done wrong, your failings, the things that will keep you from the MBA degree and business school and career of your dreams. “Dings” are MBA slang for really, really bad.
What if you knew ahead of time though, the top five things that you could avoid that would make sure an MBA admission officer’s “ding” on your application never happened? What if you could in fact, avoid the “dings” altogether and create a stellar application, by avoiding the most common dings, below?
Again, these are the top five things NOT to do:
1. DING #1: Speaking in a general versus personal matter = don’t do it.
This happens way too frequently among MBA applicants. In the essays, the applicant makes very general and sweepingly broad statements about “society” or “the global climate,” or “the issue” and goes on and on from their soapbox making a broad, generalized point, without really letting the admissions committee see them and who they are personally as an applicant. So, if you never use the word “I” in your essay and you find yourself talking about the various “ills of society” too much = DING.
2. DING #2: Not following though with your examples
Let’s say the question is, “Tell Us About A Time You Overcame Failure.” You have an example, you state where you were working at the time; you state what happened…the failure…and then you just stop on the negative. You’ve stated your answer as if it’s a fill-in-the-blank question. However, you have failed to provide any kind of self-reflection in the essay about why this “failure” occurred, how it influenced your life and career, and what you learned and took away from it that was positive (you always want to end on the positive). So, not stating these things, not following through on your examples is akin to answering someone in monotone = DING.
3. DING #3: Not knowing how to write well
You don’t have to be Shakespeare, you do have to be able to write well. Think about it, you’re applying for an MBA degree, and if all goes well, in the future you will be an executive or manager in charge of various employees, teams, and divisions. You better know how to write, regardless of your field. At the management level you represent the company. The MBA essays are the first place they look for clear, concise, logical and properly structured writing. If you can’t do it, get help. If you can’t do it, and you go ahead and turn bad writing in, thinking it doesn’t really matter and your essays are convoluted, unclear, grammatically incorrect or just plain confusing and/ or sounds like your eight year old wrote it = BIG DING.
4. DING #4: Not building a logical bridge
Often people use the MBA degree to bridge the gap between their past career (possibly even in a different field), and their future plans. “Dings” happen on this front however, when applicants fail to make their journey from point A to point B very clear and laid-out. How are you going to go from a mechanical engineer to a strategy consultant focused on tech investments? How does all your past experience figure in? Tell us. Tell us in detail. Make sure your plan is accurate. People switch careers all the time, and what the admission committees look for is simply: is your plan LOGICAL, does it make sense? Have you laid it out? Fail to show the necessary steps, or worse, not be clear about the steps yourself = HUGE DING.
5. DING #5: Not speaking with confidence
This one seems self-explanatory, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across applicants who write in a very self-deprecating way. They say things like, “if it’s possible for me to become a (fill in the blank) and go to your great school…” In other words, they put the school way up here on a pedestal, and themselves way down here in the plebeian mud. Don’t do it. The men and women who will one day be the top executives and leaders in their field KNOW they belong at these schools. There’s no self-deprecation, because they know they have just as much to contribute to the school as they will receive. There is no pedestal. Think otherwise and = DING. Show them you know you belong!
Avoid these five “dings” and you will be in much better shape than most of the MBA applicants out there. Master the essays, and you will have an excellent chance at success!