Now is a perfect time to set ambitious goals for your career and for business school. You can bring these dreams much closer to reality by avoiding these 4 roadblocks to business school.
Roadblock #1: Impatience / desire to move on
Don't be a statistic: too many business school candidates decide to apply with insufficient time and information to make themselves optimally competitive. We business-minded and action-oriented folks tend to be impatient. For many b-school applicants, the result is that they decide in September that they want to submit Round 1 applications the following month and couldn't possibly tolerate hanging around in their job another year. It doesn't work well.
The lack of preparation can be attributed to more than human nature. People tend to apply to full-time business schools because they'd like to leave their current work position. After all, if they didn't want to leave their current position, they wouldn't be applying to a full-time program (although part-time might be a consideration). Moreover,
- If you're not sure whether to apply, think of your key decision point for this year to be the first half of the year – now, even – and not the fall.
- If you know you will apply at some point in the next 5 years, prepare for your GMAT as soon as you can make the time (about 3 months).
Roadblock #2: Overconfidence
Almost all business school applicants think they are above average, and a heck of a lot more than the top 10% of applicants think they are part of that set. Applicants tend not to discover how wrong they are until they sit for the GMAT and don't have time to prepare thoroughly and retake it. Others don't find out until they get rejection notes.
- Know your competition. Understand that comparing college competitiveness to b-school competitiveness is fallacious – the b school set is smaller and far more elite.
- Know the facts. GPA and GMAT are the top two admissions factors, as identified in our 2010 survey of admissions officers. See how your GPA and GMAT stack up against the averages at programs you are interested in. The average GMAT at top 10 programs is 715.
- Assess yourself. Take a GMAT practice test, and speak with alums, current MBA students, and admissions officers about your overall competitiveness.
Roadblock #3: Time management
You might feel that you are too busy to spend a lot of time on your applications, and that your demanding job itself is your qualification to be admitted. Once again, your high-powered life puts you in the ballpark for business school, but it alone doesn't put you in the running. The winners in the process will make time for the following:
- GMAT: the average amount of preparation by test-takers scoring 600+ and 700+ is 100 hours. In other words, a 3-month GMAT timetable is a best practice, not a remediation for a subset of poor test-takers.
- Research: talking to alums and visiting schools is the key to knowing what programs you belong at and why.
- Your story: you need to invest in your story, by thinking about it and practicing talking about it. It takes weeks, not days, to be able to describe your goals and motivations in a way that will be universally compelling.
Roadblock #4: Commitment
The last roadblock encapsulates the first three. Commitment is key. Here's an example, one we see as GMAT teachers all the time. Some people walk into GMAT preparation unsure whether they are going to apply to business school. They want to see how well they can do on the GMAT; if they do well enough, they'll apply. The problem is that, since they aren't certain whether they are applying, they don't give GMAT preparation 100%. As a result, they don't score as high on the GMAT as they otherwise could have. Many will give up on business school; others will apply and be rejected.
The culprit here is a lack of commitment. If you want to go to business school, give it 100%. You can't go into a marathon with the plan of running 15 miles and seeing whether you're feeling sprightly at that point. Just the same, the only way to power through 100 hours of GMAT prep – and as much time or more on the other parts of your application – will be to make a commitment to yourself and to anyone who will listen.
Aside from overall planning, your first part of the process is engaging the GMAT. If you're unsure whether you're going to apply, a practice GMAT score will help you gauge competitiveness (we provide one for free). And if you're certain to apply, it's time to get started with GMAT preparation (see Kaplan GMAT to enroll or visit a free class). I encourage you to ask some admissions officers on those points and you'll get the same advice.
Kaplan - www.kaplan.com