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Ways to be Noticed as an MBA Applicant, for Better or Worse By Dr. Don Marin
Dr. Donald C. Martin -- Graduate Study Expert Dr. Donald C. Martin -- Graduate Study Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Chicago, IL
Tuesday, May 9, 2023

During my 11 years as Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, I read and made a final decision on every full-time application.  It was daunting indeed. But as head of the enrollment process, I believed that if a candidate invested the time to apply I had a responsibility to give her/his application a full review.
Not surprisingly, through this process certain common tendencies, both positive and negative, emerged.  Here are five ways to be positively noticed as an MBA Applicant:
Positive #1Remember that first impressions are lasting impressions.
Once you have formed a first impression of someone, it takes a long time to change that impression, for better or worse.  At whatever point you have contact with the admissions office, be that via email, on the phone, virtual or in person, make sure you have done everything you can to put your best foot forward, leaving a very positive impression.  In addition, after that first contact, send a hand written thank you note.  That stands out more than you might think.
Positive #2 – Follow directions.
This cannot be overstated.  Plain and simple, do what you are asked to do – no more, no less.  If you have a legitimate question about something in the application, ask – don’t assume.  Your ability to follow directions makes a very positive impression, and allows you to move through the completion of your application without the unwanted attention applicants who have not done what they are supposed to do receive.
Positive #3 – Use good recommenders.
Make sure your recommenders know you long and well enough to write a thorough, accurate, and positive recommendation letter.   Recommenders should know you very well, have been professionally associated with you for at least a year, and be able to speak from personal experience about your qualities and qualifications.  Additionally, they need to be prepared to discuss an area in which you need to improve.  Portraying an applicant as perfect results in the opposite of what was intended.  It causes a degree of suspicion that either the recommender is hiding something, or that s/he does not know the candidate very well.
Positive #4 – Stay calm no matter what happens.
Admissions personnel are not perfect – they are human, and sometimes they will make a mistake.   One of the pieces of your application may accidentally be misfiled, placed in another applicant’s file, or simply be lost.   If this happens, you will be informed that your application is incomplete.  I could write a book containing the immature and inappropriate responses of applicants when this happened to them.  Remember:  While not intentional, this is a practice opportunity for you to show that you can handle something that was unexpected, and is not your fault.  Instead of yelling at the admissions staff, or sending a very scathing email message criticizing them for botching things up, do the opposite.  Thank them for telling you, and resend what they need to complete your application.  Be appreciative and positive, not condemnatory and angry.  It will help you to stand out in a very positive way, believe me.
Positive #5 – Ask good questions.
Ask questions that demonstrate you did your homework and are really interested in this institution.  In other words, do not ask questions you can answer for yourself.  Instead, ask questions that show you did your due diligence, and are looking for more information; that you went below the surface, dug deep, and want to increase your understanding of that particular MBA program.
And now for the negatives:
Negative #1 – Rude or arrogant behavior.
There is never an excuse for less-than-polite and mature behavior. Yes, we all have bad days. But when interacting with the admissions office in any capacity, it is imperative to be professional, courteous and accommodating.
Negative #2 – Dishonesty.
MBA applicants who are dishonest in the application process are not necessarily dishonest people. They simply yield to the pressure that results from believing what they bring to the table as an applicant is not as impressive as what others may offer. So they take certain ‘liberties’ with the facts—be it their GPA or test scores, or overly embellishing accomplishments such that they become essentially untrue. As the saying goes: “Just Say No” when tempted to exaggerate or misrepresent the facts. In most cases you will be found out.
Negative #3 – Too much contact.
If you have a legitimate question, by all means, ask the admissions office. But don’t over do it. Avoid excessive contact or weekly emails to the admissions committee reminding them of your “strong interest.” This is often interpreted as desperation and lessens your appeal.
Negative #4 – Sending wrong or non-proofed information.
There is no excuse for sending essays that have numerous misspelled words or grammatical errors. Let spell-check be your friend. And always have someone else review your work. Moreover, be sure to double-check the essay section of the online application. Sending an essay that you wrote for one program to the wrong school is an indication that you did not take time to make sure everything was in order before submission.
Negative #5 – Leaving something unaddressed or making excuses.
If there is something about your application that you believe needs explaining (a gap in employment, a low undergraduate GPA), be sure to address it head on. Otherwise, the admissions committee may think you are hiding something. But when you do address it, don’t make excuses. Provide an explanation and offer to provide more information if needed.
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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Name: Dr. Donald C. Martin
Group: Grad School Road Map
Dateline: Chicago, IL United States
Direct Phone: 773-549-7639
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