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MBA admission special - Insider tips from the business schools

To round off this admission special MBA Channel has spoken to two leading business schools to get their insider tips for admission to their renowned halls. Sara Neher, the Uni-versity of Virginia Darden School of Business’ assistant dean of MBA admissions and Peter Manasantivongs, director of the full-time MBA programme at Melbourne Business School have answered our questions.

Sara NeherSara Neher, the University of Virginia Darden School of Business’ assistant dean of MBA admissions.

MBA Channel: What are the main reasons for you to decline an applicant? What are the main errors that you note?
Sara Neher: We approach the application review process from the standpoint of criteria that we seek in applicants, rather than reasons to deny applicants. We are looking for students with strong leadership potential who will bring a global mindset and a willingness to share their experiences and perspectives with their classmates. Our students are actively engaged in the case method classroom, as well as in co-curricular activities outside of the classroom, so we are looking for people who want to get involved.

MBA Channel: What are your three top tips for applicants?
Sara Neher:
Tip #1: Be yourself. Don’t present what you think we want to hear. We want to get to know you — your goals and career aspirations, why you want to get an MBA and what’s important to you — throughout the application process.
Tip #2: Do your research about MBA programmes prior to submitting your application. The better you understand the differences between schools and programmes, the better able you will be to communicate your reasons for applying and your “fit” with each school.
Tip #3: Make sure that you answer the essay question. You’d be surprised how many people don’t actually do this.

Peter ManasantivongsPeter Manasantivongs, director of the full-time MBA programme at Melbourne Business School in Australia

MBA Channel: What are the main reasons for you to decline an applicant? What are the main errors that you note?
Peter Manasantivongs: Applicants need an excellent educational background. In terms of errors, we get people from very diverse backgrounds where English is not the first language so we are accommodating of language usage that you would not expect of a native speaker; if there is a clarity of expression and purpose, then that can be overlooked. Having said that, we don’t look favourably on basic spelling mistakes. And we really like you to get the name of the school right – we don’t want some other school appearing on your form! We also decline applicants if we think they won’t be a good fit with the collaborative culture of the programme. Many people who embark on an MBA are ambitious and not shy; but since syndicate work is crucial to the success of a cohort, we want people who are also prepared to work for the benefit of the group, not just ride roughshod over their peers. Really do your research on schools – for example, there’s no point approaching a general management school like MBS if you have your heart set on a deep specialisation with an industry-specific MBA.

MBA Channel: What are your three top tips for applicants?
Peter Manasantivongs: For starters understand what is unique about yourself and know how to articulate it in the personal statement you submit and in the interview. It goes without say-ing that everyone has some trait or characteristic that is unique. The better you can express it, the more memorable your candidacy will be to the selection committee. Secondly be clear about why you’re doing an MBA,. It’s ok to not know what industry you want to work in or role you want to end up in; so if you’re using the MBA to explore those questions, that’s fine. Last but not least: make the case for why the business school you’re applying to is the right fit for you. It’s not just about your credentials – it’s the fit between the candidate and the school.

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