Rescue Your Round-One MBA Application

I did an online Q&A recently with Dr. Marlena Corcoran, one of our educational consultants who counsels international MBA applicants. Marlena is based out of Boston, Massachusetts, and Munich, Germany.

Marlena, what's the biggest mistake you see non-US applicants make in applying to the top U.S. MBA programs?

They do not allow enough time to compose a convincing application. If your goal is to start at a top U.S. MBA program in the fall of 2010, I sincerely hope that you began preparing your application last winter. If you didn't, this newsletter is for you! Please remember that we will not be discussing an ideal scenario, but how to rescue your round-one application.

That sounds dramatic. Just to put this in context, how do non-U.S. applicants fall into this predicament?

Here in Germany, the problem arises from the difference between the general university admissions processes in Germany and the United States. German secondary-school students must wait until they have their diploma, or Abitur, before they can apply to university.

So that means they apply in, say, July, to begin their bachelor's studies in the fall?

That's right, Anna. And from the German point of view, it is just as startling to hear that the American admissions process is so complicated—and so long. In Germany, it's pretty much point-and-click. Unless you want to study, for example, medicine at a popular location, you can expect to be accepted at the university you designate. People will tell me smugly, "I want to do my MBA at Stanford." They assume that all they need to do is let Stanford know they are coming.

Do MBA-hopefuls still have a chance to prepare for Round One, if they begin today?

Yes. Sit down right now and make yourself a schedule for the next months. Fill in the big rocks, such as:

  • take the GMAT
  • take it again
  • research programs
  • draft your essays
  • choose and approach your recommenders
  • submit transcripts
  • enter program deadlines

You'll be surprised at how few weeks are left in which to accomplish all of this before the October deadlines are upon us.

They had better start practicing for the GMAT soon . . .

Today would be good. Go to and download the free test preparation software. Set aside time to complete a full-length test. The full test is more grueling than you think. It's not only about content. In fact, a large part of success on the exam is developing habits of delivering consistently correct responses over a long period of time and under a great deal of pressure. This can be trained! As one of our GMAT trainers, a brilliant woman from Beijing, says: "I have been taking tests all my life." No wonder she has nerves of steel! You should start training today.

(Read Part II of our Q&A here and Part III here.) 

Marlena Corcoran studied for two years at the Ecole normale superieure in Paris and holds a Ph.D. in English from Brown University. She has held research appointments at Harvard, Princeton, and Brown Universities, and at Wolfson College, Oxford. She has many years' experience teaching and has also worked in the business world. In 2004, she published two novels designed to help non-native speakers improve their English. In 2003, she received an award from Brown for her work with the international community. Marlena speaks fluent German and French in addition to her native English.

Former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and a recovering lawyer, Anna Ivey founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process. Read more admissions tips in The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions, recently updated and available as an e-book. Follow Anna on Twitter (@annaivey).