We finished the season to be jolly. Now ‘tis the season for New Year’s resolutions. If you aim to apply in Round 1 of Fall 2012 and matriculate at a top MBA program in Fall 2013, now is the time to get moving.
Here are a few resolutions that will propel your MBA application to success.
1. Hone your post-MBA goals.
Prepping for MBA internships, which are really three-month long tryouts for permanent positions, starts more and more often before you arrive on campus. Schools want people with direction and good reason for an MBA. They want to know they can help you achieve your goals. They will not have that confidence if you are clueless about what you want to do with the degree. Do your research now: Network, request informational interviews, and decide how this MBA goal fits into your broader aspirations.
2. Prepare for and ace the GMAT.
Don’t just “get it out of the way.” And for heaven’s sake, don’t take it on a lark. Take a course, or study intensively on your own. Practice, practice, practice, and then ace this critical element of your application. It’s not everything, but it is important.
3. Make time for community service.
Continue contributing to your community in a volunteer role, and if you do not already have a community service commitment, then now’s the time to find one.
Remember my definition: “Active participation in and assumption of responsibility for your community.” Your community could be geographic, ethnic, professional, arts- or sports-related, religious, political, or many other kinds of groups. The term is intentionally broad. More important than “community” is “service.” It must be active and involve commitment.
If you are already involved, give yourself a pat on the back. Keep it up and maybe assume greater responsibility. If you are not involved, then take on responsibility for something that reflects your values and that you will enjoy. The sooner the better, but it can be after you ace that GMAT.
4. Research the MBA programs.
Scour websites. Talk to and correspond with current students and recent alumni. Visit those that you are most interested in while they are in session. As you research the programs ask yourself:
- How well does this school support my goals? Review placement data, the curriculum, and extracurricular activities related to your goals.
- Are you competitive at this program? Are your stats and profile similar to those of the students in the aggregate (view the class profile) and individually (see the student profiles, videos, and blogs that most websites have)?
- Do you see yourself fitting in and happy at this b-school?
5. Mitigate weaknesses and bolster strengths.
Are you a poet who hasn’t taken math since high school? Enroll in MBAMath.com or a basic Stats class at a local community college. Are you a techie with a less than desirable verbal score? Join Toastmasters or enroll in a Communications for Business class online or at a local college. Lack leadership experience? Assume a leadership role in a not-for-profit. Missing international exposure? See if you can travel outside your home country or seek an assignment that requires multicultural interaction.
You can anticipate first round deadlines in early October. If you resolve and act starting now, working steadily through the spring, summer, and early fall, you will be in great shape when the applications come out and significantly improve your chances to join the MBA class of 2015. In fact, by this time next year, you could be choosing from multiple acceptances.
By Linda Abraham, founder of Accepted.com and author of MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top B-Schools. MBA Admission for Smarties (now available for Kindle and in paperback!) teaches you how to implement these resolutions successfully.