What Not to Do When Applying to Business Schools

Each year, business schools review hundreds of applications to their MBA programs and other graduate business programs. George Mason offers seven different graduate programs that serve students from directly out of their undergraduate career to people with forty years of experience in the field. Their background, education, culture, goals, and experience are very different.

We look to craft each class in our masters programs so that the students can learn from one another as well as from our faculty members. After reviewing thousands of applications throughout my career, there are some common business school application mistakes that keep showing up.

Whether you are applying to MBA programs or other business school graduate programs, here are my pieces of advice:

Applying for Business School Mistakes

  1. Make sure you correctly state the name of the business school to which you are applying. I know you are applying to multiple business schools or MBA programs but simply copying and pasting essays and forgetting to change the name of the business school can be a deal breaker. Reviewers will look for that attention to detail as well as the genuine reason you want to attend their MBA program. If you can’t take the time to proofread your essays and make sure the name of the school is correct, how do we know you will put in the time required to be successful in graduate school?
  2. The same rule applies to the name of the program to which you are applying. Make sure you state the name correctly. If you are applying to the MS in Technology Management don’t refer to it as the MS in Management of IT. If you are applying to the Executive MBA program, don’t refer to it as the MBA program. Once again, review committees look to this attention to detail as it can demonstrate your commitment to the program you are applying to.
  3. Don’t make your application too general. Stand out. We want to know about you, what has gotten you here, and what you hope to do with this specific graduate degree. Think about how you can stand out from the crowd of applications to show you will contribute to the classroom in a meaningful way.
  4. Don’t get recommendations from relatives, longtime friends, acquaintances, or your parent’s friends. We want to hear from people who have known you in a professional capacity and can speak to your skills sets, motivation, and work ethic.
  5. Don’t submit essays or a résumé with spelling or grammatical errors. This is especially true if you have a weak undergraduate GPA. This is your chance to show us how you have grown, excelled, and proven yourself in a professional capacity. Use more than just spell check. Spell check does not always pick up things such as the difference between your career in public relations and your career in pubic relations! (I’ve seen it many times!) Always ask for a second reader to any written material you are submitting.

It may seem simply but I see mistakes on business school applications every year. It’s not about meeting the minimum admissions requirements; it’s about showing how you will benefit from us and how we will benefit from having you in the classroom.


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Jackie Buchy

Since 2011, I have served as the assistant dean for graduate enrollment at George Mason University's School of Business. In my role, I work with prospective graduate students to identify and select the best graduate program to meet their career goals.

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