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MBA Expert Series: The Biggest MBA Admissions Mistake

Posted in Test Prep on November 3, 2010 by

Welcome to another installment of our MBA expert series! This week, we were fortunate enough to sit down with MBA admissions expert Walter Hutchinson, founder of ApplicationAdvantage.com, the boutique international admissions advisory, and also founder of MBAdashboard.com, the admissions supersite powered by proprietary technology tools designed specifically for global business school applicants. Walter holds degrees from Columbia University and has lived in North America, Asia and Europe while advising professionals and students representing more than 20 countries.

In your opinion, what is the biggest mistake students make during the admissions process?

Time management. By far.

There are no shortcuts to a stellar application. You either do the introspective examination of your life or you don’t. You either explore why experience or thought leadership differentiates you, or you don’t. Failing to follow through on these prerequisites is always a recipe for an underwhelming application.

It takes time for a student to discern why patterns or periods of experimentation in their lives will eventually help distinguish them; the unifying of themes, ideas, experiences and contexts across an admission profile is not always linear. In fact, some of the best essays result from a random convergence of personal reflections – which tend to elude procrastinators who are typically consumed by the rush to meet a deadline.

Badly-managed time has another consequence: submitting applications that are riddled with unwitting mistakes. I will give you an example. A couple years ago, someone was referred to me for advice after having previously been rejected everywhere they applied. Upon review of his old applications, I catalogued over 30 major errors or missed opportunities. Granted with my 20-plus years of admission perspective, it was easy for me to spot those issues quickly. However, we both agreed that some could have been avoided if he had managed his time more effectively. On his second attempt, after I guided him on how to reverse errors while seizing opportunities he missed the first time, he got into his top choice: Wharton. Not every reapplicant gets in, of course, but whenever I come across a student who I think should have, it doesn’t take long to identify what went wrong – and (lack of) time management is usually one of the main culprits.