Last year, before we began working together, a client applied to 4 business schools in the top 15, and got only one interview invite, after which she was denied admission.

Here’s her background: international student with a 720+ GMAT; excellent undergrad performance, strong community work, working in finance in a leading global brand in an area of the world that is experiencing growth. Her written English was strong; however, she wasn’t confident about her ability to present herself in interviews and networking sessions.

We started working together early in the summer of 2013, when she was figuring out her list of schools to try again.

What had gone wrong with her MBA application?

The first step was for us to identify what went wrong last year – why didn’t she get the 3 other interviews? Why didn’t she do well in the interview she got?

I went over her essays and recommendation letters. What I realized, after reading her essays, was that she was so focused on selling herself and showing her accomplishments that she barely showed any personality in the essays. Also, in many essays she spent too much time talking about her work, including technical details that were not important or interesting to the reader.
We went over her interview notes from her MBA interview. She was called for an interview at a school that is very selective in its interview invites. When she re-counted her interview experience, she realized that she didn’t do well on the behavioral questions, and that she wasn’t able to answer “why us.” Overall, she didn’t do any professional preparation for the interview and so she missed this opportunity. What a shame!

To see how she went from 4 dings last year to a $60K scholarship this year, come back soon to read the second part of this post – re-applicant success story.