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Admissions Tip: Submitting Additional Materials

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For those of you who applied in Round 1, your applications are now submitted and you are ideally hearing from some of your target schools regarding interview invites. You should be feeling good about all the work you put in and are perhaps even a bit excited about any upcoming interview opportunities, but something is nagging at you. Ever since you clicked ‘submit’ in the online applications, you feel you now have less control over the process. As one applicant put it: “It’s like a black hole, an emptiness – you race to submit everything and have all this energy – then nothing; radio silence, waiting, wondering.” This leads us to a logical question: is there is anything you can do now – post-submission – in order to increase the quality of your application? Should you initiate communications with the admissions committees of the schools to which you have applied, or should you simply wait to learn your fate?

For many applicants, the latter is very difficult to do.

Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You

Some schools, like Harvard Business School, are explicit on this issue. Admissions Director Dee Leopold states in her blog that they do not want additional information once the application has been submitted. As such, if you have applied to Harvard, it behooves you to follow their guidance. The last thing you want to do is send a message that a set of rules don’t apply to you – that you somehow believe you merit special treatment while other applicants follow the guidelines. This sort of behavior will not paint you as the kind of future leader that a leading business school seeks.

Keep Us Posted…If it’s a Material Update

Other schools are less clear about this issue, with some even encouraging the submission of additional materials. Of course, most programs fall in more of a gray area, where contact is not prohibited, but is restricted to specific kinds of updates. Here’s Berkeley’s Haas School of Business policy as an example:

Can I submit corrections or updates to my application after it has been submitted?

Once your application has been submitted, you may not make changes or adjustments to the content. The Admissions Committee asks that you do not send additional material other than what is requested as part of the application.  However, you may provide an update if you have a change in your employment status or position, if you completed a quantitative course and are providing the grade, or if your contact information has changed.  Please send an email to [email protected] with the updated information.

And here is what Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management has to say on the matter:

Updates to Your Application

You may submit employment changes, grades for recent classes, or new GMAT, GRE or TOEFL scores to your application after submitting it. However, there is no guarantee that we will consider this information prior to rendering a decision. Please scan and email new test scores and/or grades to [email protected].  

If you have applied to a school that allows for supplemental materials and you have an update that is material/meets their guidelines for what is acceptable, you should absolutely take them up on their offer and send news via the appropriate channel that is provided.

Effective Updates

So what types of additional information should be submitted, if a school appears to be willing to accept those materials? While you need to follow the guidelines that each school sets, we have provided a review of the most common types of updates candidates submit.

An improved test score is an obvious answer. While the GMAT or TOEFL test scores you submitted when your application went complete are the test scores you will be initially judged, if for some reason you have retaken the test(s) and improved the score(s), then alert the school of the new score(s). Along the same lines, if you are taking classes at a local college in order to prepare for the quantitative rigors of an MBA program, and have received new grades, submit those grades to bolster your academic profile.

A change in employment status would be another example of new relevant information for the application. If you have been promoted, or changed jobs, then a note to alert the committee of the change would be appropriate.

Additional recommendations are another source of potential material. Perhaps you just wrapped up a 3-month project with a new boss who is very supportive of your MBA plans but didn’t know you well enough when you initially applied to school? Perhaps the project earned you a promotion? In that instance, asking your new boss to craft a supplemental recommendation could be a great move – assuming the school is open to receiving additional recommendation letters, of course.

While we’re on the subject of supplemental letters of recommendation, we should mention that there is another category of less formal letters – typically referred to as ‘Letters of Support’ – that usually come from current MBA students, alumni of the target program or current professors. These letters are submitted in support of the applicant – but are wholly independent of the applicant (the candidate may or may not know of their submission). We’ll save our thoughts on Letters of Support for a separate post, but wanted to mention their existence here.

Going Overboard

This is likely obvious advice, but when it comes to supplemental materials and updates, you should exercise good judgment and aim to ensure that anything that is submitted to your file is truly adding value. For example, if ten additional recommendations appear from those supporting your candidacy, the admissions committee would clearly determine that you have overstepped what is considered reasonable and your judgment would be questioned.

General Risks

If you do send in additional information to a school you run two risks:

The first risk is that the new information does not make it to your file in time for it to be included in any review. This does not hurt your candidacy, but you should understand that the admissions committees will begin the review process once a file is complete, and won’t delay their process in order to wait for additional materials to be submitted. In short, sending updates days before a final admissions decision is set for release is likely not going to be very effective.

The second risk you run with supplemental materials is that you bother the admissions team by over-communicating once the review process has started. This is a bigger risk, and again focuses on your judgment in the application process. To mitigate this risk, only send additional information to schools that are actually willing to accept this type of communication, and only send in material changes to your application – e.g. content that will alter the competitiveness of your candidacy.

As always, we wish you the best of luck as you anxiously await your admissions decisions!

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