Another graduate degree, poor undergraduate grades, a police record? There are many things that MBA applicants would rather not discuss or put on their MBA applications. In the same vein, in an effort to stand out, applicants may choose to go for exaggeration and embellishment. It wasn’t just you who landed that multi-million-dollar contract for your company; it was the team you were a member of, and you were not the second author on that peer-reviewed journal article; you were the third co-author.
As you prepare your applications, you may grapple with what you should share with the admissions committee and what you should leave out: Should I volunteer information that hasn’t been asked for? Should I only share information that helps me stand out? I mean, it is not like the adcoms will carry out a background check, or something?
The short answer? Do. Not. Lie. Answer every question truthfully, i.e. do not deceive by omission and do not exaggerate or embellish.
Every school asks its applicants to sign an honor code confirming that everything stated in their application is true (to the best of their knowledge). So lying would be in direct violation of the honor code, opening up the applicant (if they were to become a student) to a slew of unwanted consequences –– it isn’t unusual for students to be expelled if it is later realized that the student’s initial application contained misleading information. Furthermore, some top schools carry out background checks on all accepted applicants, while others investigate only those applicants whose applications raise red flags or concerns
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business(SGSB) conducts thorough background checks on all accepted students to verify education, past employers and roles, and essay content, enlisting the expertise of investigation firms when necessary. Columbia Business School thoroughly vets every accepted student, as does the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. Applicants who misrepresent themselves may end up with rescinded offers; for example, two SGSB applicants had their offers rescinded in 2014 because they omitted information about their education in their application. In fact, SGSB rescinds the applications of about 0.75% of the accepted cohort every year due to issues with misrepresentation and deception, and according to an article in Bloomberg, 1% of MBA applicants are caught in a lie every year.
Getting into a top tier business school is tough and ultra-competitive, but it should not come at the cost of your integrity. Every applicant is different and imperfect, with different strengths and weaknesses that they can use to create a wonderful, authentic, endearing narrative. And believe it or not, most applicants are accepted on their own merits, warts and all.