The original title of my blog post was going to be "5 Application Fallacies That I Straight Up Debunk Cuz That's How We Roll at Anderson", but the more conservative "me" took hold and I went with the plain vanilla title. There is a latin phrase "res ipsa loquitur" which means "the thing speaks for itself." This blog post hopefully does just that and helps all of you out there to approach your applications with correct expectations.
1. If I don't get a 700 on the GMAT I have no chance and should lock myself in a dark, damp closet as punishment.
Have you ever seen those "Keep Calm and..." signs? They should make one that says "Keep Calm and Be Happy with Your 690." Let me qualify this. If you have taken the GMAT multiple times and you max out in the 670-690 range, calm down and realize that the GMAT is but one of many measurements the admissions committee takes into consideration when evaluating your candidacy. Here is some basic information about how the adcom looks at the GMAT. The more balanced the score, the better. If you have to be better off in one section, be better in quant. Why? They want to make sure you don't have a nervous breakdown when you dive into the very quantitative courseload. If you only take the GMAT once and your high score is 670, take it again. The adcom will appreciate that you attempted improving your score, even if it goes up a mere 10 points. If your GMAT is a 590, you're in trouble. However, each top business school admits someone with a very poor GMAT score, but that's probably because they had an AMAZING story to tell in their essays, work experience, or recommendation letters (i.e. you were a member of Seal Team Six, you made a career out of saving stray animals and turning them into trained acrobats, etc.). Here's the bottom line--remember that the GMAT is but a piece in the puzzle. Don't let it discourage you.
In some cases this may be true. Some schools have what's called an "Early Action Round." However, this is a double-edged sword. In effect, by applying in the early action round you are telling the school that you are 100% committed to going and you sign a letter of intent that commits you to the school if you are admitted even if you receive ZERO grants/fellowships/scholarships. If you do find yourself enamored with an early action school, by all means apply in the early round. It will show that you are completely loyal to their program (and we all know how warm and fuzzy it makes adcoms feel when we tell them they are the lamb to our tuna fish--Big Daddy reference anyone?!?!?). However, at most other schools, the admission committees make it very clear that first round applicants do not get an "edge" on second round applicants. The only benefit to applying first round is finding out that you are either accepted or rejected in a timely manner, giving you time to apply in the second round at your other schools of interest. The big difference in how your application is treated is if you apply in the third round. Typically, adcoms use the third round to fill in the "gaps" in the student body by admitting candidates from unique backgrounds and with special experience, giving diversity and depth to the incoming class. If you decide to apply in the third round, your application should be very competitive if you hope to be considered.
3. I should choose recommenders that have fancy titles.
If you work at Goldman Sachs as an analyst and you think you need Lloyd Blankfein to write your recs, you should check yourself before you wreck yourself. Ok, obviously none of you out there would try to do something so extreme, but it is important to understand the nature of recommendation letters. Adcoms use these to understand how YOU work and who YOU are. They aren't as concerned with the job title of your recommender. Focus more on selecting someone that knows your work product thoroughly and can speak about you on a very familiar level. This is not a license to have your buddy at work write you a glowing review. Your recommender should be a superior with whom you have a good working relationship. Be sure to give your recommender a few months of prep time, if possible, to write the best recommendation letter of all time.
4. My work experience has to be so cool that the adcom reading about it catches a cold.
Sure, there are some candidates that have created successful iPhone apps, saved countless third world citizens from hunger and dirty water, built a multi-million dollar company from the ground up, or worked at the most elite companies in the world. This doesn't mean your experience at Dunder Mifflin, Scranton Branch won't justify being accepted to a top business school like UCLA! With work experience, it's not so much the "where", but the "what." What did you do? Did you have leadership responsibility? Did you show progression (i.e. promotions) at work? Did you acquire a useful skill set (public speaking, sales, programming, Excel)? Don't fret if your post-undergrad work experience doesn't sound sexy. Just be sure to convey how that experience was the impetus for you coming back to school and how it will help catapult you into a better/different/successful career after completing your MBA.
5. I need to drop $2,500 for an admissions consultant.
Have confidence in yourself and complete your applications independently. Don't think that you have to do this to "even the playing field." Most b-school applicants don't need Stacy Blackman to tell them how to write about themselves. Do yourself a favor and let the application process push and stretch you rather than letting it defeat you. Think of all the cool pre-MBA trips you could take by choosing NOT to drop thousands of dollars on admissions consultants.
Let me publicly shout my love for UCLA Anderson from the mountain tops of blogdom. If you are searching for a great school, your search has ended. Apply now at UCLA Anderson. First round deadlines are around the corner!
This great blog piece is brought to you by an amazingly smooth collection of songs on my "A Tribe Called Quest" Pandora station. So what's, so what's, so what's the scenario!?!??!