Yes, the Harvard 2012 MBA essay questions are out. But your target programs’ questions are not out. Furthermore you’re busy with work, community service, perhaps GMAT preparation. Even life takes some time. Should you start drafting MBA essays now?
Yes and no. Considering everything on your plate and the fact that questions are likely to change (except for HBS) and you may actually have better stories to relate in two months, I would not start drafting essays now – unless you are applying to the HBS 2+2 July 6 2011 deadline.So no, don’t list “writing MBA essay” on your to-do list. Not yet.
What should you be doing now? Focus on your GMAT prep, school research, excellence at work, volunteering, taking on leadership roles, and everything else. You can start filling in the boxes in the online applications, emphasizing impact. You can finalize your resume. You can talk to your recommenders.
You can also take notes about possible topics for your MBA essays. For now I would jot down anything that comes to mind. When you get serious, you will find yourself with an inventory of material from which to choose. You won’t use it all, but you will then have something much more helpful than a blank screen facing you and a swirl of ideas in your head.
What should your notes consist of? Influential events. Achievements. Experiences that demonstrate your leadership, communications skills, and strength of character. Anything that you would like the admissions reader to know about you. For each topic, jot down the experience, what you did, the result, the lessons you learned, and the traits you revealed.
I created a spreadsheet that you can use for your MBA essay musings. I also find that Evernote, a free tool, is excellent for this kind of project because you can tag all notes and reach them from any place with an Internet connection. Evernote can also serve as the nerve center for your MBA application process. (No I don’t have shares in Evernote and am not an affiliate. I just like it.)
Don’t worry about length, editing, style, or making it pretty. This is just for you, and you don’t have the bandwidth for such niceties. Now it’s back to work.
Download Accepted’s new special report, MBA Action Plan, for more practical tips on what you can do now to increase your chances of getting in to a top business school next year. (P.S. It’s free!)