It is completely normal to find the business school admissions process challenging. After all, nobody is perfect and most people who apply to business school will do so just once in their lifetime. However, there are some basic MBA application mistakes that professionals could easily avoid.

This is also the topic of PrepAdviser’s webinar hosted on 7 February with guest speaker Dr. Don Martin, former admissions dean at Columbia (US), Chicago Booth (US), and Northwestern (US).

Free webinar: Avoiding the biggest mistake MBA applicants make

If you want to walk the extra mile in improving your MBA application, take a look at these common, yet easily avoidable, mistakes.

Before you apply

Some business school candidates forget that preparing to submit a successful application starts with crafting the right application strategy. Here’s what you need to keep in mind.

Mistake #1: Limiting your study options

Some professionals set their mind on applying to one business school due to its reputation in the MBA world. While having a clear goal is commendable, you also need to remember that some MBA programs can be very competitive and thousands of international applicants might be doing their best to gain admission to that same program. Carefully weigh up your chances of getting in and consider if it might be better to apply to one or more additional universities that make sense for you.

Mistake #2: Making a poor impression when meeting schools

Today’s globalized world enables international MBA candidates to get to know different schools and programs in person by meeting their representatives during education fairs and webinars. These events can be a great opportunity to ask important questions about your MBA experience in a particular school. If this sounds appealing, remember that preparation for such events is key. Do not miss out on the chance to make a good impression—come prepared, arrive on time, be friendly and professional, and show your genuine interest in the school.

Check out: How to Present Your MBA Career Goals to AdComs

Mistake #3: Starting your preparation too late

Application deadlines are tight and they obviously differ per school and program. This is why MBA candidates should never underestimate the time needed to prepare a successful application package which not only fulfills the basic university requirements but also demonstrates their exceptional qualities.

Some parts of the application are also not entirely in your control. For example, you might have to submit one or two letters of recommendation written by an employer, mentor, or business partner who knows you well. Elements such as these are always time-consuming so make sure you have a proper head start instead of rushing your application.

During the application process

Even if you have successfully overcome the challenges mentioned above, you still have work to do in preparing a winning business school application. Check out these common mistakes and learn how to avoid them so that you secure your MBA seat.

Mistake #1: Trying to be someone you are not

There is a fine line between presenting a good picture of yourself and losing the authenticity of your business school application. The MBA admissions committee can usually tell the difference. Make a list of your post-MBA career aspirations and expectations about how business school will help you accomplish them. Be sure to stick to your genuine story.

Here’s what Andrea Coulis, a senior tutor at GMAT tutoring provider MyGuru, advises for BusinessBecause:

If you’re a positive go-getter with a passion for unconventional education in one essay, and a reserved, cynical rule-follower in the next, it can be confusing and might make you appear inauthentic. Try to weave your essays, statements of purpose, and even your recommendations together to tell a unified story about who you are […].

Check out: How to Stand Out When You Apply for an MBA

Mistake #2: Sending the same essay to different schools

You might be tempted to send one general version of your essay to each university on your list but this will hurt your admission chances severely. Crystal Grant, Head of Admissions at Imperial College Business School (UK), reiterated the importance of crafting a unique essay for each MBA program you apply to. She told U.S. News & World Report:

We know that application forms can be lengthy, but every section is there for a reason. If you copy and paste your answers between schools, you’re missing a great opportunity to demonstrate how you fit with the culture and values of each institution.

Check out: MBA Essay Topics at Top Schools and Their Tips

Mistake #3: Dismissing one part of the application for the sake of another

If you think a high GMAT score is enough to guarantee your admission in a competitive MBA program, you are wrong. Admissions tests such as GMAT and GRE help MBA admissions committees get an idea of your analytical skills but they will be just as interested in your professional goals, personality, and career background through the other elements of your application.

The same rule applies for other scenarios. Try not to stress over a particular requirement too much, because your essays or admissions interview might suffer in the process and diminish your admission chances.

Hopefully, you feel more prepared to start your business school research and plan your MBA application process. Good luck!