There are a number of steps involved in the MBA application essay writing process: contemplating the questions, choosing the topics, and crafting a collection of short stories that tell a tale and appeal to an admissions committee. Each of these steps takes time. But HOW MUCH time do you actually need? A day? A week? A month?
I think the best way to maximize efficiency is to give yourself plenty of time – about one to two weeks – per application. The following tips should help you get organized:
1. Do the easy stuff first. Before you sit down to focus on your essays, make sure that you’ve already taken care of the application basics – get your GMAT squared away, school selection finalized, transcripts sent out, recommenders lined up, resume polished, etc. There are two benefits to this: First, you’ll be able to focus better on your task at hand after you’ve already crossed off so many things on your to-do list; and second, you’ll have a much clearer idea of your admissions profile once you’ve tackled these objective application elements.
2. Reserve more time for your first application. The first essay and application almost always take the longest to complete. It rarely comes naturally to applicants to think and write about their accomplishments and failures, career background and goals, leadership and teamwork experiences, and turning points in life. Getting used to writing in such a way takes practice. After you’ve forced yourself to think and write in this new way, you’ll find subsequent essays less challenging.
3. Leave time for the tricky ones. There’s always a tricky essay that holds up the schedule, and that essay is different for every applicant. You may be blow through a 500-word career goals essay only to get bogged down in a 200-word culture-shock essay. Mental blocks don’t adhere to a schedule. Be prepared for the unexpected!
4. Understand that life happens. A project at work suddenly requires overtime or travel, a family need suddenly fills a weekend, a recommender suddenly has no time to write a recommendation. Unanticipated events may cause you to put your application on hold, even after diligent and steady progress, leading you to delay submitting several applications until Round 2.
So yes, set a schedule, try to stick to it, but recognize that an application is ready when it’s ready. Recognize that submitting a GREAT application in the second round is far better than submitting a mediocre application in the first round. Mediocrity doesn’t get accepted to top, highly selective business schools.