Aug 26, 2014

How to Avoid Common Applicant Mistakes

When you think about this topic, it’s easy to come up with a lot of “don’ts”. But I believe in being positive, so instead of telling you what you shouldn’t do, let’s focus on what you should do.

1. Read the directions. Admissions offices spend a great deal of time crafting application materials, instructions, and FAQs that explain pretty much everything you need to know to complete your application. So read carefully and thoroughly. You will not create a positive impression by asking a question you could have easily found the answer to elsewhere. If you have a question you can’t find the answer to, ask.

2. Answer the question you’re asked. This goes for interview and essay questions as well as other parts of the application. We ask these questions because we want to know the answer. Fill out the application completely. Be aware that your interviewer will know when you’re avoiding a question. And while many schools may ask about your goals, for example, each might ask in a different way. Writing one essay to fit every school will come across as insincere (see #3).

3. Be yourself. The Admissions Committee wants to know the real you, not who you think we want you to be. It’s hard to write compelling essays and speak cogently about your experiences and goals when you’re busy trying to get into the admissions officer’s or interviewer’s head. And you’ll come across as canned and dull. Tell us who you are, what drives you every day in and out of work, and why the MBA program at Tuck is key to achieving your aspirations.

4. Proofread. Proofread everything, and I mean everything, you write – emails, letters, your application, your resume, and your essays. They are reflections of you as an applicant and we look at them all. Make them great representations of the student you will be.

5. Explain anything that isn’t clear. Most schools offer you the opportunity to explain anything unusual in your application through an optional essay. Please use it if you think you need to. So those of you with a big career switch, a job gap, an unusual choice of recommenders, or an outlier grade or semester in your academic record can feel free to write a line or two explaining the situation to the Admissions Committee.

6. Show interest, but don’t stalk. OK, I tried to stay positive, but some things just need to be said. We want to get to know you, each of you; however, there are THOUSANDS of you. Literally. So talk to us at events, schedule a campus visit, ask pertinent questions, and demonstrate your interest in our school. But that doesn’t mean stopping by without a purpose, asking meaningless questions, or sending profuse amounts of extraneous materials with your application. It may help you stand out, but not in a good way.

7. Pay attention to what we’ve asked for and when. We set policies and deadlines because there are thousands of you and we could not do justice to each of your applications if everyone had different requirements. So please ask for exceptions only for a very, very good reason. That said, if you have a very, very good reason – for example, a hurricane affecting large sections of the East Coast (yes, I’m looking at you, Hurricane Sandy) – don’t stress out. Just communicate with us.

We host a multitude of events around the world, at Tuck, and online to help you connect, learn more about Tuck and the admissions process, and ask questions. Keep up-to-date on what’s happening through our events calendar and by following us on social media. Good luck!