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Spooky Admissions Mistakes: Nightmares for AdCom Members

adcom nightmares

Let’s pumpkin spice things up! As Halloween approaches, we wanted to take a look at some of the most chilling nightmares that adcom members can face when evaluating MBA applicants.

So, what are the scariest mistakes an MBA applicant can make? Clear Admit co-founder Graham Richmond shares his insights below so you can avoid admissions missteps like the houses that hand out raisins for Halloween treats.

1. Don’t Wear an Icarus Costume

One of the scariest things for an admissions office is to encounter an applicant with a warped sense of entitlement.  These candidates reveal themselves in many different ways from the subtle to the overt, but here are a few examples:

Ignoring application essay instructions: Submitting an application essay that is more than 10% over the word limit or that doesn’t really address the question is no treat for the adcom. Pile on extra scary points if the non-response to the essay question is clearly the response to another school’s essay.

Stop goblin up all my time: Dominating an admissions representative’s time at an online fair (or in-person event), but without asking substantive questions is not the spell you want to cast. Instead, it reveals a clear attempt to merely get ‘face time.’  Add on extra scary points if the candidate is oblivious to the fact that others are waiting to speak to the admissions representative as well. 

Here ghost nothing: Submitting applications to the very top schools when you have glaring weaknesses that could have been easily addressed isn’t fa-boo-lous.  It can be pretty off-putting for the adcom to encounter a candidate with a far below average test score and no attempt at a retake to improve upon that score.  Similarly, a candidate with a sub-3.0 GPA who does zero ‘transcript repair’ and doesn’t really have much of an explanation for their poor marks, begs the question as to whether or not there was more they could have done.  In this era of online courses, it’s not a stretch to complete outside coursework (like HBS Online CORe or MBA Math), or to even just take a couple of local college classes in MBA foundational coursework like calculus, statistics, economics, accounting.

2. Don’t Get Caught in Zombieland

Beyond entitled candidates, another common horror story is what I would call the ‘zombie’ interview.  This is when the candidate has pre-scripted his or her responses to each and every question the interviewer asks.  These answers are given without feeling, and these candidates have a vacant look in their eyes as they surreptitiously read from notes pasted on the wall behind their webcam.  Practicing your responses is a great thing, but scripting them out will virtually guarantee that you fail to connect with your interviewer.

3. Avoid a Tech Poltergeist

And finally, nothing is more painful than an interview with tech problems, where it sounds like the candidate is speaking from inside Darth Vader’s mask or where all kinds of Stranger Things are happening to the video feed. Don’t let potential tech problems haunt you! Practice with your tech before your scheduled virtual interview.

Help us reduce nightmares for adcom members this holiday season. Have a fang-tastic Halloween and don’t forget to share your admissions news with fellow MBA trick or treaters.

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Posted in: Application Tips, General, Interview Tips, Interviews

About the Author


Lauren Wakal

Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.

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