The Myth of the Flawless Applicant

Once upon a time there was a beautiful b-school applicant who had a perfect GMAT score, a 4.0 GPA, a dazzling resume, and glowing recommendations. She devoted all her spare time to serving her community, that is, when she wasn’t dabbling in her hobby of bassoon-tuning or spinning wool into gold to hand out to needy orphans. To top it all off, she had the glossiest, longest hair, to-die-for eyelashes, and the straightest, whitest teeth – and she had never even had braces!

As the most perfect specimen of human beings, this goddess-like applicant sent the most impressive applications one could possible imagine to Harvard, Wharton, and Stanford. She was an obvious shoo-in at all three, no doubt.

Harvard Business School

Wait, don’t be jealous…

When the admissions decisions came out, our heroine received three dings.

WHAT?! How can that be?

Well, the adcoms are no fools. They know a mythical creature when they see one, and they knew that this flawless applicant wasn’t real.

NEWSFLASH: Flaws make you real.

The flawless MBA applicant isn’t the best applicant. In fact, the presentation of a perfect, or even near-perfect application, usually raises a red flag that something is wrong. There are several possibilities. Perhaps the applicant is a fake. Or perhaps the applicant has never really stretched herself or left her comfort zone. Or maybe the applicant can’t assess success and failure and admit to the latter.

Why else do you think that top business schools generally ask you to address a failure, character flaw, or weakness? They want you to realize for yourself and to show others that you are an authentic, real human being. Not a robot. Not a lab-produced human clone. Not a mythical god or goddess. But a person who needs to persevere to play that healthy hand of talents and flaws that we’re all dealt at birth, or later on. That person has the resilience to pick himself up after he falls down and the ability to recognize that he hasn’t reached his goal and will take responsibility for the outcome.

Recognizing and talking about your flaws shows the adcom that you are a mature, self-aware individual. It reveals that you have striven and taken risks. You are willing to own up to your errors, reflect upon them, and then improve. After all, this is what is required if you want to succeed in the business world.

It’s time to get real!

Please see MBA Application Weaknesses 101, a tip-filled resource guide, for more advice on how to approach your strengths and weaknesses in your MBA application.

By Linda Abraham, president and founder of and author of MBA Admission for Smarties, the premier admissions consultancy and essay editing company that has helped applicants around the world gain admissions to over 450+ top schools since 1994. Visit for all your MBA admissions consulting needs today!


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