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Answering Ten Questions MBA Applicants Often Ask, Part 2 by Dr. Don Martin
Dr. Donald C. Martin -- Graduate Study Expert Dr. Donald C. Martin -- Graduate Study Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Chicago, IL
Wednesday, August 23, 2023

In this second of a two part series, I will provide my responses to ten of the questions prospective business school applicants most often ask.  In this article I will discuss questions 6 through 10.
Question 6What if I discover that another candidate falsified his/her application in some way?
Response:  This is a tough one.  You have two choices:  Leave it alone or report the applicant to the admissions director.  In the end, this is a personal choice.  There is not a right or wrong way to respond.  Some may believe they have a moral obligation to report the applicant; others may believe they should not do so.  If you do choose to report, I suggest you do so in writing, have absolute proof of your claim and that you identify yourself.  Claims made anonymously are generally considered less credible.  Obviously, if you have reason to believe that the applicant you want to report could learn it was you who reported them and could retaliate in some way, do not identify yourself.  However, explain why you are not doing so.
Question 7:  What if I learn one of my recommenders did not speak well of me?
Response:  If your information is absolutely true, you may have a problem.  It is generally assumed that applicants ask individuals to recommend them because they are confident that the recommendation will be positive.  A negative recommendation is usually a red flag.  My suggestion is that you ask another person if they would be willing to provide a positive recommendation for you and then ask the admissions director if it is possible to add this recommendation to your file before a final decision is made.  While the negative recommendation is a concern, the way you handle the situation will provide the admissions director and the admissions committee with additional information about you.  In some cases applicants who initially receive  a negative recommendation, but who handle the situation well, are admitted.
Some applicants have asked whether it would be useful to provide a letter to the admission director addressing the negative recommendation.  While such a letter will offer background information and the context that will help provide some explanation for what happened, I do not recommend doing this.  If the applicant can provide an explanation of why they think the recommendation was negative, the major question on the mind of the admissions committee would be, “Then why did you ask this person to recommend you in the first place?”  The only time a letter like this would be useful is if the applicant learned something after the fact that he/she did not know when first asking the person for a recommendation.  In that case, I would suggest sending an explanation letter immediately, along with another recommendation that is sure to be positive.  If you have an idea of what was communicated of a negative nature, ask the new recommender to address that very issue, providing a more positive evaluation of you in that area.
Question 8:  What if, after I have applied and before a decision is made, something major happens in my life that I believe could help my chances of being admitted?
Response:  It is important to recognize what you are defining as “major.”  A promotion, job change, special award or recognition, etc., are major events that an admissions committee will want to know about.  By all means communicate this to the committee.  Do so in writing and alert the admissions office that you are sending updated information.  Send it via overnight mail.  Let the admissions committee know you believe this new information supports your belief that you are a viable applicant for the program.  Offer to provide additional information or answer any additional questions.  Be confident but not arrogant.
Question 9At what point does my genuine interest in a b-school move from being reasonable to being unreasonable or appearing desperate?
Response:  Responding to questions that are asked of you by the admissions office, updating your application with important, major information, correcting a mistake, or responding to a bad recommendation are reasonable and acceptable forms of contact.  Calling every week, asking several others to call or write on your behalf, sending several email messages, notes/letters, or trying to be overly funny or unique, is overkill.  If you have communicated effectively in your application, and have had contact when necessary, you have done your job well.  More than this is too much and will most likely backfire.
Question 10What if I end up being admitted to a b-school that offers me a substantial financial incentive to enroll, and my first choice MBA program, to which I have also been admitted, offers little to no financial assistance?
Response:  You have a very interesting decision to make.  Bottom line:  Finances are important, but should not be the primary influencer of your enrollment decision.  In the end, you should enroll where you believe there is the best fit for you.  Financial planning early on will allow you some flexibility in this regard.   But at the same time, if you believe the program offering you the most in financial assistance will give you what you are looking for, consider that program seriously.  One other idea:  You may want to contact your first choice institution, asking if additional funding has become available.  Some believe it is acceptable to let the institution know what you were offered elsewhere.  I do not support that strategy.  It can easily be perceived that you are only concerned about the financial implications of graduate study.  Some institutions could make a note of that and you could be passed over for additional funding down the road.  However, asking if any other funding has become available is not considered an inappropriate question.  The only time I would suggest you share what you have been offered elsewhere is if you are specifically asked to do so.  Then you are simply responding to a question versus appearding to be concerned only about the money.
Check out Dr. Don’s MBA blog series on U.S. News & World Report: https://www.usnews.com/topics/author/dr_don_martin?offset=50 
Be sure to check out Dr. Don’s book, “Road Map for Graduate Study, A Guide for Prospective Graduate Students,” right here on the GSRM website. For a reduced price CLICK HERE, go to The Book page, scroll down, click on the Order Now box, and use discount code GSRM.
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