It’s time for my annual harangue/plea/rant.
If you are planning to apply Round 1 in the fall, but have not yet thought about why you want an MBA, taken the GMAT/GRE, researched schools, or evaluated your qualifications, please please please keep reading. And then get started!
I would like to help you avoid the harried hassle and diminished application quality that accompany rushed applications. Just to be clear: Rushed applications are started just a few weeks before the deadlines by applicants who cogitate, procrastinate, or just start thinking about applying late in the cycle. Instead follow the example of those many applicants who start their applications months before applying and who work steadily to complete them by their deadlines.
Those people are getting started now.
My 20+ years in this business tell me that those who start the application process 9-12 months before they apply:
• Get into more and “better” schools.
• Are more likely to get scholarships.
• Are more prepared for b-school when they arrive on campus.
They simply do better in the MBA application process than those who wait until the eleventh hour (or even the tenth).
Those better prepared applicants – they are your real competition. And the best way to compete is to start the race now.
Not tomorrow. Not next week or month or quarter. Now.
Start Your GMAT or GRE Prep
Once you determine that you have a goal that requires an MBA, start preparing for the GMAT or GRE. Don’t wait for the summer or “later.” Your test score is a critical element in your application. Choosing schools without knowing that number leads to all kinds of aggravation, stress, and unpleasant surprises.
Every year I get calls, emails, and comments from applicants who bombed the GRE or the GMAT and don’t have time to retake it. They are torn between applying to the programs they really want to attend but where their test score (and perhaps other elements) are less than competitive, and applying to programs where they are competitive but where they aren’t dying to go.
It’s a dilemma you can avoid by allowing yourself the time to retake the GRE/GMAT, if necessary.
Lower than expected test scores can throw a major monkey wrench in your plans when you take the test within two months of your target deadlines. However, if you bomb it in the spring, you will still have months to prepare again and retake the exam before the deadlines – even the first round deadlines.
Where to Apply: Dartboard vs. Intent
And then there are the applicants who don’t understand the importance of fit in the application process. They just know they want an MBA from a Top X-ranked school. They may or may not have a specific goal or reason to pursue an MBA, and they really could just as easily be throwing darts at a list of schools to determine where to invest their time and money.
Or maybe they just started too late to do the research and reflection that they could’ve and should’ve done had they started earlier. Like now.
In any case, this superficial approach could lead to rejection, a very expensive mistake, or a less-than-optimal MBA experience.
Apply purposefully to specific programs that support your goals and at which you are competitive. Don’t apply to rankings. You won’t attend rankings. You’ll attend a graduate business school.
Writing is Rewriting & Requires Time
Some of you know why you want an MBA, have good reasons for selecting the school you will apply to, and will get the GMAT or GRE score that you want the first time you take the exam; so you may be feeling a little smug. Okay, so you got the first part of the application process done. Fantastic!
However, if you slack off and wait for the last minute to complete your applications, you will end up hurrying the writing process for your essays, short answer questions, and resume, or the practice/filming process for video options on your application. Either way, you will end up rushing.
Bad idea. And bad ideas lead to bad results.
Writing – whether long essays, short essays, scripts, activity descriptions, or resumes – benefits from time. Temporal distance between revisions improves critical analysis and editing. In contrast, scrambling to slap something together leads to sloppy thinking and writing.
Getting the GMAT or GRE out of the way, thinking profoundly about fit, and starting your essays early are all important steps, but you can’t just assume that ticking items off your checklist will get you into b-school. You need something more comprehensive than that…
A Holistic, Purposeful Approach to the MBA Application Process
New Year’s Resolution: Proceed purposefully, methodically, and thoughtfully so that you submit a superior MBA application to the most appropriate schools at the most desirable deadline for you.
We’ve all made resolutions this year and in years past, but do yourself a favor and make the resolution above the 2018 resolution that you stick to.
I’m going to help you keep this one by laying out the process holistically from January through September so that you can present a superior application. It’s not just the test score or the GPA or the years of work experience or solid extracurriculars. It’s all of the above.
I’ve mapped out the process for you here.
If you are aiming for the Round 1 deadlines, you can download the PDF, print it, and tape it on your mirror, wall, fridge, or wherever you’ll regularly see it. Alternatively we have created a public Google doc that you can copy and paste and modify to suit your needs. Then using the timeline as a guide, add the above tasks to your calendar. And do them.
If you follow this MBA timeline, your MBA dreams will not be a mad, breathless sprint to the finish line, but a long, steady jog that allows you to successfully complete the MBA application marathon.
• MBA Action Plan: 6 Steps for the 6 Months Before You Apply, a free guide
• Business School Selectivity Index [Can I Get Into My Dream School?]
• Why MBA?, a guide to writing about your MBA goals