This afternoon, while browsing the internet, I came across a person who has been blogging about his experiences applying to top MBA programs this year. He didn’t get into a single one. Granted, they were extremely selective schools, but I feel really bad for him. Not only is it disappointing not to get something you’ve wanted for a long time, but he shared this disappointment with the world. That takes courage, so I thought I’d offer some advice that will hopefully be helpful.
Dear Grant [the blog is called Grant Me Admission, so I’m going to do what another website did and shorten it to Grant],
You don’t know me, and I don’t know you, so it might be a bit strange that I’m writing this. I saw your latest blog post today and wanted to offer you some advice that popped into my brain after an admittedly cursory glance at your website.
First off, I think it’s great you applied to such a high-ranked cohort of schools. Seriously, grad school applications are not easy—I know this from personal experience—so good for you for actually sending in five of them. You also chose very high-ranked schools, which I do think is the right thing to do if one is applying for an MBA in this day and age.
Before I offer advice, I want to explain a bit about why you should take what I’m going to say into consideration. I’ve applied to many academic programs in my life and been admitted to quite a few of them. I have prepared applications, studied for standardized tests, etc. I also have done a lot of reading about successful students who accomplished a lot without working themselves to exhaustion (see: Cal Newport’s blog circa 2009-2010, before he became a professor). And, perhaps most importantly, I don’t know you, so I can truly be an objective observer in this situation.
I obviously haven’t seen your entire application (as in, I have no idea what you wrote in your essays or what your recommenders said about you), but from what I can see, your problem is twofold. You have spread yourself too thin and you need to get your standardized test scores up.
Honestly, I’d say cut back on the volunteer work. It seems like you do a lot of that, which is cool, but there are only so many hours in a day. While business schools want to see some community involvement, I don’t think one should discount the importance of a truly outstanding standardized test score or excellently written essays.
Which sort of leads me to my next point: you say you’ve been getting by on four hours of sleep for many months. Stop. That definitely impacts your GMAT score in a negative manner. People aren’t meant to get by on that few hours of sleep. Without proper rest, your GMAT studying is for naught. Seriously, you are going to have a much harder time retaining and processing information if you are continually sleep deprived.
As far as test prep goes, you need to dump one of the services you use, Magoosh. I used Magoosh for my GMAT prep as well and it sucked. (If anyone from Magoosh is reading this, I hate your product, will never in a million years recommend it to someone, and I want a refund.) The GMAT questions for Magoosh are worlds apart from actual GMAT questions. Actual GMAT questions are much, much tougher. If you’re going to take the GMAT again, I’d recommend prepping with actual, old GMAT tests. It’s the closest you’re going to get to the real thing.
While we’re on the subject of standardized testing, it might be worth taking the GRE instead of the GMAT. I’m pretty sure all your schools accept the GRE in lieu of the GMAT and in my opinion, the GRE is vastly easier than the GMAT.
Finally, it’s important to note that most of the candidates at top business schools received their undergraduate degrees from top schools, too. A negative person would tell you there’s no point in applying because you won’t get in unless you went to an Ivy League school. I think this is the wrong way to think about things, though. There are at least some members of each class who didn’t go to some posh Ivy League school, so why not you?
I wish you best of luck on your future MBA applications.