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Admissions Tip: Avoiding Red Flags

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When applying to the top schools, it is important to avoid “red flags” in your application.  For the uninitiated, red flags are negative items that stand out in your file and may result in rejection from business school.  While most applicants understand the basic red flags, like a 2.4 GPA or a recommendation letter that raises serious concerns about the candidate’s maturity, there are many less obvious triggers.

Some time ago, an Admissions Director Symposium organized by the Graduate Management Admissions Council produced an interesting publication on the subject of admissions policy and red flags.  Here is an excerpt from their report:

Identifying ‘Red Flags’ in the Application Process

The Directors Symposium participants found that many of the markers of less successful students can be identified in the application process but are often overlooked – everything from numerous job changes in a short period of time to strange personal interactions or difficulty communicating.  These signals should not be ignored, said participants.  It may be useful to discuss any ‘red flags’ with other colleagues, to determine which shortcomings can be mitigated by other qualities and which should be reasons not to offer admission.

One red flag that is often ignored but should be taken seriously, said some symposium participants, is excessive contact with the admissions office.  Termed “Hassler Syndrome” by one participant, extreme dependency on the admissions office may signal a lack of self-confidence that manifests itself as neediness.  This trait may show up later in the learning environment, when the student is unable to contribute meaningfully to classes and work groups and becomes known as a “net taker”.  The same person may be a drain on career services, unable to take initiative in a job search.

Although the article was aimed at the admissions community, this information is recommended reading for applicants to the top schools.  At minimum, it should make applicants think twice before placing repeated phone calls to the admissions office!