For those of you out there who are still in undergrad, you may be wondering what is the best way to plan the coming years in order to improve your chances of getting into a top business school in the future. This article is for those of you wondering what your 5-year plan should look like. And the good news for those still in undergrad: 20-21 year olds actually have the highest average scores on the GMAT! So there is hope for you, and there are steps you can take NOW to maximize your future career in business.
What should I do NOW? (During Undergrad)
One of the most important steps you can take during undergrad, if you know that you’d like to get your MBA within 5 years, is to go ahead and prepare for and take the GMAT exam while still in (or soon after) college. Test-takers who are closer to their college years tend to score higher, likely due to the fact that math problems and other skills are still fresh in your mind, along with the fact that you are still in “study mode” and used to setting and sticking with a study schedule. Most GMAT test-takers have been out of college several years, and find it hard to get back into that mindset and to prepare for the GMAT alongside working full time (just ask many of the members of the Beat the GMAT site!). Your scores are valid for 5 years, so get it over with now, and then when it comes time to apply to business school in the future, you can focus your energy on your application, as opposed to worrying about the GMAT then.
After college graduation
Aim to gain at least 2-4 years of solid work experience, in most cases. The average MBA applicant has about 3-4 years of experience, but check the stats at the schools you are most interested in. It is possible to get accepted with fewer than that, but most schools feel that having some work experience makes you much more valuable to the class- you’ll have a frame of reference and lot more to contribute. If you have an idea what your long term goals are, gain experience in an industry and position that will best further those goals. Refine those goals over time if needed, and get advice from mentors, colleagues, and supervisors in your chosen career path, and particularly any who’ve gone to the business schools you are interested in. Along the way, consider getting involved in activities outside of work, including professional organizations, and volunteering activities.
1-2 years before you aim to begin b-school
This is the time to really research any schools you are considering, and ultimately to work on your applications! Visit schools and get a feel for the culture and how well you fit with each program. Develop your list of schools, and start brainstorming for your essays.
Be sure you know the deadlines of the programs you are interested in. Ideally, you’ll start brainstorming for and drafting your application essays during the summer, just over a year before you’d begin an MBA program that starts in the fall (which most full time programs do). You’d aim for earlier deadlines if possible. In many cases, first round deadlines are in October, second round in Dec or Jan, and third round later in March or April. Prior to the deadline, you’ll need your GMAT completed (possibly done years ago!), your application complete with essays and resume, your recommendations submitted, and your transcripts sent. After that it’s a matter of submitting those applications and making those long term career goals come true!