January 3 2020
Recently, an MBA candidate came to me in a frantic state after being rejected by all 5 of his Top B-Schools. He had stellar work experience and a pretty awesome GMAT score of 760. It had been a dream of his to attend a Top B-School in the States and was very keen on gaining admission this year. He applied Round 1 and worked with a rather lackluster MBA Admissions Consultant that clearly didn't know what he was doing. Additionally, the candidate kept seeking advice from his peers who weren't well versed with the MBA Admission process. It seems both the coach and the candidate were convinced that with his big brand name companies he had worked for and strong test scores, he would be a shoo-in for his Dream Schools! Sadly (but not surprising to me after reviewing what he submitted), he was rejected by all his Top Schools. He wanted to understand how this could happen? He told me he felt the Earth shift beneath his feet when he received the news.
After reviewing his applications, I came away with a few key takeaways that I would like to share here (with his permission):
Every MBA Admissions Committee (ADCOM) seeks to create a beautiful Artwork from an empty canvas by selecting those colors that will enrich and balance the canvas. The Key for the MBA ADCOM lies in selecting an incoming MBA class that will provide the greatest experience for the entire community- the students, professors, other faculty, affiliated organizations, and hiring firms (in the classroom, team work, socials, volunteer, student club events, MBA community giveback, networking and professional events).
Based on the above, there is no ONE criteria that guarantees anyone admission to a Top MBA Program. In fact, it's the culmination of many criteria that the MBA Adcom uses to decipher how much value a particular candidate will add to the MBA community- college career, standardized test scores (GMAT or GRE), resume, personal/motivational essays, optional essay, recommendations, and interview.
The GMAT serves two general purposes: (1) It's an 'aptitude' scoring system that levels the playing field as applicants hail from all over the world and from different education systems, and (2) It's an indicator of success at the MBA program's rigorous curriculum- a person with a high MBA score is generally regarded as someone who will do well re academics and vice versa...generally.
However, just because a candidate can do well academically at the B-School CERTAINLY DOES NOT mean he/she belongs at the program or community. The candidate has to prove that he/she can add value to the classroom and beyond in what we like to call 'FIT'. Does this person's PERSONAL STORY and track record of success, leadership, teamwork, passion for the school, and vision for the future embody all that the B-School stands for? This is where I find a lot of candidates don't quite understand the MBA ADCOM's requirements.
Candidates should never take their PERSONAL STORY for granted. If shown properly, this can be a candidate's single biggest weapon in his/her arsenal when applying to B-School. Showcasing a deep understanding of who the candidate is, self-reflecting on their life and deriving meaningful lessons learned, and connecting all touchpoints within their application reveals a wisdom highly valued by ADCOMS. These candidates know exactly who they are, why they are, and where they are going!
Coming back to the 760 candidate in question, his PERSONAL STORY was incredibly disappointing. It showed almost no self-reflection, wisdom, future vision or passion of any kind. Though he had all the big brands on his resume and a 760, his personal brand was crafted in a very dull manner. Imagine Michael Jordan running from one end of the court to jump from the free-throw line and dunk- only he never gets off the ground! I was incredibly sad to see this as the candidate has potential.
Interestingly, he kept going on and on about his super GMAT score- this made me chuckle. It's almost as if he was saying, "I'm clever now let me in!" lol. After convincing him to put the GMAT aside for a moment, I took him through the flaws in his applications and where he clearly fell short. At first he didn't understand, but slowly I could see several 'AHAs' going off in his head. He came around eventually and felt very humbled after reviewing everything I showed him. He finally realized that the GMAT is one indicator of success, but that's it.
There is an ART and SCIENCE to a WINNING MBA application- the correct Marketing/Branding is required and correct Data/Scores are required too.
While Top B-Schools tend to have high average GMAT (and GRE) scores, there are candidates who:
Get into the Top B-Schools with a lower GMAT because their PERSONAL STORY is so memorable and compelling - they are unique.
Do not get into the Top B-Schools with a high GMAT because their PERSONAL STORY is poorly crafted and doesn't convince the MBA ADCOM that the person will add value to the community.
MORAL OF THE STORY: Run Your Race! Don't Compare Yourself With Others! Create The Best Application For You! Cover All The Bases! Don't Be Shy- Show The MBA ADCOM Exactly Who You Are! That's Precisely What They Want To See!
Average GMAT Scores:
Harvard Business School: 730
Stanford Graduate School of Business: 732
UPenn Wharton School: 732
Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management: 732
UChicago Booth School: 731
MIT Sloan School of Management: 728
Columbia Graduate School of Business: 732
London Business School: 708
HEC Paris: 691
by Val Misra
Founder @ MBA Accepted