Get MBA Application Advice From the Trenches

As one group of nervous MBA candidates becomes enrolled business school students, another group gets ready to apply. Why not learn from the successes, failures, and decisions of those who came before you?

Here, you'll find advice culled from past clients who reflected on their own experiences to provide insights that could help future applicants.

1. What is the biggest potential mistake applicants make in the b-school admissions process?

Procrastination and a lack of organization and planning are the biggest mistakes applicants make. Don't underestimate the amount of time various aspects of the process take, such as writing and rewriting your essays. Plan ahead.

Also, don't miss the forest for the trees. When you first decide to apply to business school, it's easy to get bogged down in the details and focus only on the many tasks at hand. However, it's important to look at the bigger picture and start thinking about other aspects of applying to business school, such as how you're going to fund your education, as well as researching the many scholarship and fellowship opportunities available.

[Get tips on how to pay for your MBA.]

2. How did you select and prepare your recommenders?

Your best bet is to select recommenders who know you on both a professional and personal level. People who know the quality of your work, your strengths and weaknesses, and various contributions can cite very specific examples to support their points. Choosing recommenders with whom you have a personal relationship almost guarantees they will put forth great effort while working on your recommendations.

Provide your recommenders with a package that includes an overview of your career goals and a statement about why you want to attend business school, a résumé, a copy of your application essays, and deadlines for recommendation submissions. You should also include a document outlining your work experience, accomplishments, volunteer work, interests, hobbies, etc.

[Try these tips to organize the MBA recommendation process.]

3. What was most helpful in your interview preparations?

Opting for alumni interviews whenever possible is a great strategy. Some may consider this a bit of a risk, as you never know what you'll get when interviewing with alumni, but this type of interview can often feel more casual and relaxed.

One truth of interviews is that people hire others that they like on a personal level. If you can develop a good rapport with your interviewer and get him or her to like you as a person, you stand a much better chance of getting hired. The same holds true for business school interviews.

Consider doing a thorough Google search of your interviewers and see what you can find out about them online. The more information you come armed with, the better you'll be able to develop a good rapport.

Also, go over your entire application, including essays and résumé. Finally, compile a list of potential interview questions from various sources and think about examples and stories you can use in your responses.

[Prepare for MBA interviews with these tips.]

4. What might applicants find especially challenging?

For most applicants, it's not easy staying on top of everything while juggling a huge project at work and somehow keeping up your involvement with extracurricular activities. Applying to business school while working long hours and maintaining hobbies is no easy feat, but you'll need to be able to prioritize responsibilities in business school and beyond--so you may as well learn now.

It's often difficult to stay motivated because the process is so long. You'll likely encounter many frustrations and stumbling blocks along the way, so it's important to remind yourself why you're applying to business school, what you hope to get out of the experience, and how an MBA will ultimately help you achieve your goals.