Attention MBA Applicants: Beware of Friendly Advice!

As Round 1 deadlines near, you’ll probably think about asking a trusted friend or family member to review your materials. There are obvious benefits to having a fresh set of eyes on your work, but there can also be a few drawbacks.

The upside to someone new looking at your essays and data forms is that they may be more likely to spot a typo, missing word or extra period at the end of a sentence. At some point you’ll have read your responses so many times that errors will no longer jump out at you. This is where a friend or family member’s assistance is undoubtedly valuable.

However, it’s really tough for someone to read through your materials and not also want to give “advice.” Human beings are full of opinions, after all, and anyone close to you would just be trying to help. But the issue is that if you’ve already planned out your application strategy—especially if you’ve worked on that strategy with an admissions consultant—it would be a shame to derail your progress just because a well-meaning friend made you doubt yourself.

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If someone who has an MBA reviews your materials, they may be under the incorrect assumption that since they were accepted to a program, the way they approached certain essay questions is the only guaranteed path to admission. Or maybe your parents attended business school decades ago and want to give you advice. That can be problematic because the programs themselves—not to mention the qualities AdComs are looking for in candidates—have changed pretty dramatically over the years.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, if someone who’s completely unfamiliar with the business school application process reviews your documents, they may be confused if you included personal stories or otherwise let your personality come through in your essays. There’s a stereotype that MBAs need to be all business, all the time, and this leads to an expectation of essays filled with lists of achievements, not-so-subtle bragging and loads of buzzwords.

That’s why you should consider: 1) limiting the people you involve to no more than two, and 2) telling those reviewers up front that they would be helping you most if they could focus solely on spelling, grammar, or other obvious mistakes when they do their read-through.

They’ll probably still give you unsolicited advice, and you can always listen politely and share any concerns you may have with your admissions consultant. Just keep in mind that it’s hardly ever a good idea to switch things up at the last minute after putting significant effort into your positioning.

Remember: “All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great deal more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic & argument than others”

Take tips from Stacy Blackman. Follow Stacy Blackman Consulting discussions on LEAP.

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