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Best MBA application tips?

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Re: Best app tips? [#permalink] New post 09 May 2009, 03:42
Just a couple tips from me.

1) Find an extracurricular activity that will keep your mind occupied during the application process. I took up marathon training and it tremendously helped to keep my stress level in check.

2) Be yourself and let your personality show on your application. Your GMAT, GPA, past extracurriculars, awards, duty position is what it is. Above all else, the application essays is your clay to mold and really show the adcom who you are, as a human.

3) Finally, believe in yourself and have faith that you will prevail. But at the same time, you have to be very honest with yourself.

During the application process, the Stockdale Paradox came to mind. For those of you who have read Jim Collins' Good To Great, you should be familiar with it. Here's the best quote: Another long pause, and more walking. Then he turned to me and said, “This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” - Admiral Stockdale (retired)

You can read that excerpt here from the website: http://www.jimcollins.com/lib/goodToGreat/ch4_p83.html
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Re: Best app tips? [#permalink] New post 11 May 2009, 18:40
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pmenon wrote:
1. When you're told to be specific in your career goals, how specific did you really get ?


I didn't identify specific job titles I wanted but did describe the type of short and long term functions I wanted, at specific types of firms. In my case, it was something like "lead strategic planning and business development at firms that specialize in xyz".

pmenon wrote:
2. To what extent did you go to explain WHY you had the career goals you do, if at all ? Not sure if this is even necessary, but I read somewhere that it was a good idea to let adcoms in on this information


I explained the "why" behind my career goals. Depending on the essay length, I used anywhere between one and three sentences to show that it was a long term interest (ie not a goal that sounded good on apps), show why I'd been passionate about my field (healthcare) for a long period of time. I also thought it would be a good way to distinguish myself from other applicants interested in the same field.

pmenon wrote:
3. How much did you discuss WHAT you wanted to do in your position(s) post-MBA ?


So the Duke "leader of consequence" essay was mostly around What I wanted to do. For other essays, I spent maybe 1-2 paragraphs discussing long term career goals. The "what" discussion was part of that.

pmenon wrote:
4. When you tie school resources into your essays (i.e. to answer the 'why our school' question), how did you go about doing that ? Did you simply mention a few clubs and classes, mention your discussions with alumni/current students ?


Nearly every essay had an element of "why x" in it. In reviewing each school's essay set (that is all the essays pulled together for that school), across the essays, I covered: professors + specific classes, clubs I'd want to lead, clubs I'd want to start, relevant alumni, misc other benefits of the school (e.g. "tight-knit community" for Tuck). I hadn't spoken with too many current students, so I didn't mention them in essays. I did bring them up in the interviews though. (That also helped ensure that my interviews weren't a rehash of my essays but instead contributed new information to my application)

pmenon wrote:
5. How much did you get into your past work experience ? I know that youre supposed to do this and draw a clear line between what you have, and what you want, in terms of goals, but some questions, like LBS's essay 1 question, dont give you too much room to really get into it, given the question:

In what role do you see yourself working immediately after graduation? Why? How will your past and present experiences help you achieve this? How will the London Business School MBA Programme contribute to this goal? Why is this the right time for you to pursue an MBA? (600 words)


A LOT. By the end, I had paragraphs that gave the 45-second view of my career path and key accomplishments, as well as longer anecdotal ones that went into specific examples of leadership/mentoring/obstacles/etc. In the LBS essay, I'd spend something like 150 words on post-graduation goals, 200 words on past/present WE, 200 on why LBS.

hope this helps!
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Re: Best app tips? [#permalink] New post 12 May 2009, 03:23
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pmenon wrote:
Hey guys, great tips ! Did have a couple of questions though:

1. When you're told to be specific in your career goals, how specific did you really get ?


I was very specific, down to the functions and specific companies I wanted to work for (as well as a brief explanation why those companies).

pmenon wrote:
2. To what extent did you go to explain WHY you had the career goals you do, if at all ? Not sure if this is even necessary, but I read somewhere that it was a good idea to let adcoms in on this information


Because I was switching careers I thought it was important to explain both a) why I didn't want to continue in my current career path, and b) why I was interested in my proposed new career path. I think the 'why' element gives the adcom a much deeper insight into who you are and what makes you tick, and makes for much more interesting essays.

pmenon wrote:
3. How much did you discuss WHAT you wanted to do in your position(s) post-MBA ?


As isa said, the Duke leader of consequence essay was 2 pages of what I wanted to achieve post-MBA. For the other essays, I used 2-3 sentences to explain both WHAT I wanted to accomplish over the course of my post-MBA career, and WHY this is important to me.

pmenon wrote:
4. When you tie school resources into your essays (i.e. to answer the 'why our school' question), how did you go about doing that ? Did you simply mention a few clubs and classes, mention your discussions with alumni/current students ?


In my 'why our school' section, I discussed specific clubs and classes and how the knowledge/skills/experience I gained from them would help me achieve my career goals. I didn't mention too much about specific professors or alumni more because I was running out of room in my essay and couldn't get it to sound like much more than name dropping. Outside the 'why our school' section, when I talked about some of my current extracurricular activities, I talked about wanting to continue similar activities in the X Club at the school, or if the school didn't have a relevant club I said I'd be interested in starting a club that focused on X.

pmenon wrote:
5. How much did you get into your past work experience ? I know that youre supposed to do this and draw a clear line between what you have, and what you want, in terms of goals, but some questions, like LBS's essay 1 question, dont give you too much room to really get into it, given the question:

In what role do you see yourself working immediately after graduation? Why? How will your past and present experiences help you achieve this? How will the London Business School MBA Programme contribute to this goal? Why is this the right time for you to pursue an MBA? (600 words)

Thanks for all your replies in advance :). Im sure I'll be back with more questions eventually :-D


In all my career goals essays I talked about prior work experience, what skills it has provided me with and how those skills will help me achieve my career goals. Because I was proposing to switch careers, I thought showing this link was pretty important. Also, since the LBS question specifically asks about how your experience will help you achieve your goals, I think you have to address it. In some of my essays where space was a concern, I used 3-4 sentences to talk very succinctly about my experience and the linkage. However, I also used space in other essays to give more detailed examples and anecdotes to tell stories about leadership, teamwork, innovation, etc.
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Re: Calling all HBS Fall 2010 Candidates [#permalink] New post 04 Jun 2009, 08:58
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Paret asked me to post this in this thread as well, hopefully you will all find this useful..



you are welcome..remember try to find examples of leadership ..you still have time to ..so go do something about it!

First tip, you dont have to apply r1 and compromise on the quality of your application, remember saying you are leader isnt going to cut it, you need to give examples. Dont hesitate to reach out to the CEO and get him to notice you and hopefully come R2 he will write your LOR.

Second tip, make sure your essays are not boring, dont appear monotone; make em exciting and lively. Key to any good essay is that the first line is catchy ..and as I read it I get more involved and i want to get to the end of it!

Third tip, contrary to popular belief you dont need to get a letter from the manager who has known you since child birth..the big names matter PERIOD! if some guy happens to advice the President of the USA, his letter/phone call will get the Deans of these schools scrambling to get you!

Fourth tip, HBS really doenst give much weight to GMAT, they care more about GPA, they are willing to overlook a subpar gmat score if your GPA is solid..i got this from own experience, I asked the adcom during my interview, why she hadn't asked about my sub-rockstar gmat score and she plainly said, we care more about your UG/Grad GPA. So if you went to a decent academic UG school, your GPA will carry you!

Fifth tip, please prepare for the B-school interview! I realize it was a bad idea for me to stop my kellogg interviewer halfway in the interview and tell her she is wasting her time asking me mundane questions that really are not very important to my profile.. I will say spend $$$ and call HBSguru, his coaching helped me stay to the point, not go into story telling and yet be very high-level, details are boring and only you like em cause you went thru em...unless of course you are talking about your experience being shot at by the taliban in the swat valley while you were trying to protect kids in the school you had helped build (true story by the way)!
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Re: Best app tips? [#permalink] New post 04 Jun 2009, 09:01
lots of folks have PMed asking about what I did to get accepted in R3..

here is something i wrote on another thread but pretty much here it is..

you are welcome..remember try to find examples of leadership ..you still have time to ..so go do something about it!

First tip, you dont have to apply r1 and compromise on the quality of your application, remember saying you are leader isnt going to cut it, you need to give examples. Dont hesitate to reach out to the CEO and get him to notice you and hopefully come R2 he will write your LOR.

Second tip, make sure your essays are not boring, dont appear monotone; make em exciting and lively. Key to any good essay is that the first line is catchy ..and as I read it I get more involved and i want to get to the end of it!

Third tip, contrary to popular belief you dont need to get a letter from the manager who has known you since child birth..the big names matter PERIOD! if some guy happens to advice the President of the USA, his letter/phone call will get the Deans of these schools scrambling to get you!

Fourth tip, HBS really doenst give much weight to GMAT, they care more about GPA, they are willing to overlook a subpar gmat score if your GPA is solid..i got this from own experience, I asked the adcom during my interview, why she hadn't asked about my sub-rockstar gmat score and she plainly said, we care more about your UG/Grad GPA. So if you went to a decent academic UG school, your GPA will carry you!

Fifth tip, please prepare for the B-school interview! I realize it was a bad idea for me to stop my kellogg interviewer halfway in the interview and tell her she is wasting her time asking me mundane questions that really are not very important to my profile.. I will say spend $$$ and call HBSguru, his coaching helped me stay to the point, not go into story telling and yet be very high-level, details are boring and only you like em cause you went thru em...unless of course you are talking about your experience being shot at by the taliban in the swat valley while you were trying to protect kids in the school you had helped build (true story by the way)!
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Re: Calling all HBS Fall 2010 Candidates [#permalink] New post 04 Jun 2009, 14:40
you could get a LOR from your mom and get into HBS..if you happen to work for your mother! My perspective is from my own experience, I applied R3..and I got into both Wharton and HBS, I dont need to call my friends from MCK or BCG, whats the point? I am telling you stuff that worked for me!


I applied R2 to NYU and Kellogg and had my director (mr.nobody) write my LOR..and result I got dinged! I reached out to my CEO ( I have worked with him on a few occasions) and he gladly agreed to write my LOR. You do your part in providing him enough material to author a well rounded document! dont expect him to have the time to remember the time you worked 36 hours straight to get something done, he just remembers the results..so its your job to remind him that you worked your butt off..and the details behind the scene

Moral of the story..Title matters, prestige matters, pedigree matters..

The best recommender is the one who is well known, who is willing to take pointers from you on areas you want to stress in your profile and above all is willing to make a phone call to the Dean of the school on your behalf.


B-school admissions are not whole lot different from how corporate america works...if you were ever in sales, remember relationships are critical to sealing the deal and you have to take the same approach with your applications. Your application is like your sales pitch ,you bring in the top guns from your company to impress the client, your CEO goes golfing with the Client, you bring referrals and you run a very pointed image/branding campaign

I will very strongly recommend everyone to really prep for an interview, be it with a consultant. its the most overlooked part in the admissions process. interview on campus with adcom if possible, try to build a repo with the adcom team when you visit the campus..small stuff like this matters!
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Re: Calling all HBS Fall 2010 Candidates [#permalink] New post 05 Jun 2009, 05:37
Get recommendations from supervisors who you worked the most closely with. The title doesn't really matter - don't reach out to your CEO just because he/she is the CEO. If you know the CEO really well and have worked closely with him/her, then by all means go ahead.

Moral of the story: FN's strategy worked for him (apparently) but I can almost guarantee that it will backfire for the "traditional" applicant, which many of us are. Title doesn't matter - just ask people who you believe will write you a good recommendation letter.
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Re: Calling all HBS Fall 2010 Candidates [#permalink] New post 05 Jun 2009, 09:50
To echo what others have said, getting recommended by a prestigious person is not the golden ticket. I had the dean of a top business school (who knows me very well and I actually did work with him pretty closely before he became dean) recommend me to HBS and I got denied. Without interview. Twice.

So of course, use whatever tools are at your disposal to present yourself as best you can, but don't think that if you can't get a well-known impressive person to recommend you that you won't get in, or vise versa.
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Re: Best app tips? [#permalink] New post 11 Jun 2009, 07:57
Couple of pointers from a different angle:

If you are an international applicant:

1) Be aware about the student and post-study work visa formalities of the country that you are applying to. ESPECIALLY the student visa.
2) Be aware about funding options - a lot of internationals had to decline their seats this year as citi bank had to withdraw their loan.

If you have a family:

1) Start the process early enough so that you can spend time with your family. Trust me - you would need that to recharge in between apps.

Funny story related to the above advice - My 2 year old literally pushed me out of bed the first day after all my apps were submitted as he thought daddy coming to bed early meant that mommy is not going read him his bedtime story.

Tips for scheduling interviews:

1) Make sure that there are atleast a couple of weeks in between the interview date and the deadline. That would help if you need to cancel the interview due to unexpected developments.
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Re: Best app tips? [#permalink] New post 14 Jun 2009, 02:40
pmenon wrote:
This post here is just golden. Thanks so much Jerz. With respect to future plans and why Kellogg, did you try to hammer home any key messages, as you did in the career progress to date part of your essay ?


I think it's very important in the career progress/goals/why MBA essay to draw clear links between those sections so your career arc (pre-MBA -> MBA -> post-MBA) reads like a seamless story. So in the 'why our school' portion, my key message was to describe how my 2 years at School X will build on my current experience and prepare me for my post-MBA career. Essentially the essay as a whole said that my career to date has gotten me to point Y, I want my career to be at point Z, the best way to get from Y to Z is with an MBA from your school.

Of course, implicit in all the talk of 'why our school' is the key message of: "I've done a lot of research about your program, I understand what makes it unique and I would be a valuable addition to the class."
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Re: Best app tips? [#permalink] New post 18 Jun 2009, 17:28
So out of curiosity, as many of you have been through this process now, what are your top resume tips for new applicants? I figured I'd ask since most applications require a resume. :)

Some suggestions from previous threads:
- keep the font size larger than 10
- don't use passive voice
- each bullet point should be results-oriented, and show what you did to help achieve that result

What other pointers do you have?
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Re: Best app tips? [#permalink] New post 22 Jun 2009, 15:29
Jerz wrote:
I would definitely keep it to one page, unless a school explicitly says it can/should be longer. For me the only difference was I flipped the order of education and work experience to have education be the first thing on my resume.


I did the same. I also left out a couple of college internships, to give myself more space to talk about my full time job.

I also made sure that the dates on my resume matched up with any mentioned in my essays. for instance, if in the essays I said that I worked at place x in April, I checked to see it said April in the resume as well.
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Re: Best app tips? [#permalink] New post 22 Jun 2009, 19:17
If you are writing a resume for MBA recruiting (i.e. you're in b-school and you're looking for a job/intern), then I think Education before Work Experience makes sense.

If you are writing a resume for MBA admissions (i.e. you're an applicant), I think Work Experience should be placed before Education.

My tips for resumes are (although I have not applied them to my most current resume):
- Spend more bullet points on your recent achievements.
- Make sure your resume is well rounded, e.g. is there an example of teamwork, leadership, etc.?
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Re: Best app tips? [#permalink] New post 29 Sep 2009, 21:59
Just wanted to add a useful tip coming from a software developer...

I am putting all my app materials in the cloud, so I can work from multiple computers and make changes whenever I am near an Internet connection.

I am currently using Google Docs to store my spreadsheet of dates and deadlines and my master list of accomplishments and general key themes, and use Dropbox to store my scanned transcripts, resume, and essays. Dropbox is nice because it automatically stores revision history, so I can easily roll back to old versions of any document.
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Re: Best MBA application tips? [#permalink] New post 10 Feb 2010, 10:15
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My best advice has been mentioned several times and is super-common, but it's hard to remeber sometimes: BE YOURSELF. Be honest. I am a totally a-typical applicant and I felt enormous pressure to try and seem like a "business school student." But that means nothing. Who know what a "business school student" should be? Thankfully, my rebellious inner teenager usually took over and gave me an outward attitude of "This is who I am, if you don't like me I don't care." (Although I resisted the urge to dye my hair blue.... this time....) That kept me true to myself. If I had gotten accepted somewhere based on false pretense, chances are I wouldn't be happy there anyhow.

My second best advice came from one of my essay editors: she pointed out that I was undermining my accomplishments with my hesitation to sound conceited. I tend to be pretty self-depricating, and it was coming through in my essays. NOT a good time for it! Don't be afraid to talk about how awesome you are. And extend that confidence into your interviews. (Although there is, of course, a limit to this, and humility is important too!)
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Re: Best MBA application tips? [#permalink] New post 19 Mar 2010, 09:57
sniperssk wrote:
azule45 wrote:
Quick question:

When it comes to getting your essays proofread, who is/are the best people to go to? who are some examples of people to approach when it comes to getting someone to read them (specifically someone who would be critical/helpful of the essay). i graduated my UG almost 3 years ago, so i'm not sure if i should go back to school and track down professors.


Parents, friends - someone who has another point of view, more objective than yours when it comes to you and your stories. Be mindful of using girlfriends/boyfriends though. Sometimes they tend to think that you are the best in the world, which might make for a not so objective assessment. :)


First, def agree with using SOs to review. I got a lot of, "wow, this is so great" where other people tore apart the same content.

I found it was helpful to use two groups of people. First, I'd use parents, close friends and coworkers. That really got me to relax and find the right voice to write in. I sounded like a robot in my early drafts as I tried to make every sentence perfect and complex.

The second group, which I used as a check at the end, was made up of people who don't know my story. Think of the adcom member who is going to read your essays. They have no idea who you are. I'm not saying that you should walk up to random people on the street yelling, "Read about my career goals!" Just find someone who won't be able to use outside information to fill in possible holes. For example, you may have missed explaining something in an essay but told your mom/dad/friend the missing piece over dinner two months ago. So, they may not pick up on it. It's also important that this person is outside your industry (obvi if they do what you do, they will be able to fill in holes). A good gauge to use is to ask yourself, "is it awkward to ask this person." If the answer is yes, than that person is prob a good fit. Think sibling's friend, friends coworker that you've met once, etc.
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Re: Best MBA application tips? [#permalink] New post 06 Jul 2010, 00:06
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staind wrote:
Keeping this great post alive, what is the consensus of having an "Objective" section in the resume? Should it be left out?


I can't comment from an admissions or HR POV, but I can tell you that when we get candidates for analyst or director positions, their "objectives" usually don't help them at all, but that's because their delivery is usually bottom-of-the-barrel, not a matter of principle regarding "objectives".

Like all things, it's about coherence and pitch. A bland "objectives" statement that is full of meaningless, verbose platitudes with suspicious diction such as "I crave the opportunity to utilize all my skills and experiences in your esteemed and dynamic organization, where I believe I can contribute my proven people skills, leadership, entrepreneurship, responsibility, diligence, professionalism, enthusiasm, quantitative abilities, presentation skills, and other"... is going straight to the recycling bin. Believe me, I see that kind of sh!t more often than is mentally healthy.

I know that when I applied for one of my first successful internships, my objectives were directly focused on the actual firm and position: "I am seeking an entry-level position in Western Europe involving the gathering of intelligence in multiple languages... etc etc etc". It probably helped, because the MD who called me and interviewed me over the phone made a reference to my goals ("I see that you're interested in intelligence and investigations").

The goals have to make sense. I interviewed a poor kid who told me that "if I can't get work-study with you, I think I'll enroll in Sandhurst", as if the two were commonly interchangeable. That told me that he had no clue what we did, didn't do his homework, and that he himself had no clue what he wanted.

I guess I've never seen an "objectives" statement that left me indifferent, or had no bearing on my view of an applicant. So if you're going to put it in, it'll help you a lot, or doom you. The candidates I liked the most didn't include one, and kept their CVs capped at two pages, with lots of relevant details.
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Re: Best MBA application tips? [#permalink] New post 18 Aug 2010, 09:28
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I have two application tips which I doubt anyone else would say:

1. Don't think the current step is the hardest, the next one is harder. I thought my GMAT class was hard, then studying was worse, then the test day itself was terrible to anticipate. After that, picking a school to send scores to, actually applying to schools, telling your boss you need a reference because "you think you might like to go to B-School" in the fall was worse. The post-application process of interviews, letters of decline, and acceptance letters was even more difficult, then choosing among the schools that accepted you was ever harder then all that. And it doesn't get easier when you finally have registered and decided on a school - quitting your job, the months between giving notice and your actual end-date are awkward, finding an apartment, moving, finding loans, applying for scholarships, saying goodbye to life pre-MBA... I'm waiting for classes to start on September 7 so I can finally take a breather (lord knows it's probably even harder)!

2. Don't get psyched by the prodigies on this board. I found this board while preparing for my GMAT exam, and there is a wealth of info, but take it with a grain of salt. In every aspect of life, there are worry-warts who are over-concerned with their future. If they don't get into Harvard, Stanford, or Oxford, life is over! In life, when you hear it, it's ephemeral and easy to ignore, but seeing it in writing weighs on you more and you begin to wonder if your choice of b-school or where you actually end up is worth all the work, or if your behind the game because your applying to the same schools and not doing as much preparatory work. When reading about all-stars who are preparing for the GMAT two years in advance, only applying to LBS, Wharton, HBS, and Stanford, and taking classes they will be taking during their MBA before they actually go to b-school, you can't let it phase you. My GMAT instructor said this on our first day: "To get accepted to undergrad university, you had to be an elite high school student and to graduate from that you had to be an elite university pupil. Now that you're taking the GMAT and applying for b-school, you are the cream of the crop in the workforce. But the rest of the people are also the cream of the crop, so don't get a big head but don't lose confidence in yourself either." Remember that - you're doing great, and some people just like to prepare and plan WAY more than you.
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Re: Best MBA application tips? [#permalink] New post 01 Nov 2010, 05:16
Fill in the online application section well in advance. It's a good idea to actually start this part, before you even start the essays. If you leave it to the last moment, you are in for a lot of trouble - especially if you have held a few jobs, need to work on your resume, have a lot of extracurriculars etc. Kellogg is one of the few schools that actually splits the application into two, so that you are forced to do this. It really helps not having to scramble and fill in all those fields on the online apps. at the last moment.

It is also a good idea to decide on your recommenders well in advance and send out the requests to them at the latest, by the beginning of the round that you are planning to apply in (or even in advance of that, as I'd suggested earlier). Put in a deadline of at least two weeks before the submission date for your recommenders to complete their work. This will save a lot of heartburn for you and a lot of frantic last minute nagging for them.
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Re: Best MBA application tips? [#permalink] New post 02 Nov 2010, 13:49
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There's tons of great application advice on this thread. I will add a tip that is meant for folks who are still twelve months or more from applying. This tip was inspired by a conversation I had with a former admissions board member from Harvard Business School. He told me that a successful application to a highly competitive MBA school didn’t start a few months before the application deadline; it really started a few years before the deadline.

His point was that by the time the application deadline was in sight, everything was pretty much a given – the candidate’s academic record, GMAT score, resume, and even the experiences they’d eventually write about in the essays. His tip was to start building the foundation for a great application long before it’s time to sit down and put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard to start writing it. With enough lead time you can take action to counterbalance flaws, such as a low GPA, and to strengthen your story by doing things like getting involved with a cause you care about and making an impact. If you don't follow this advice, then you can still get into a competitive school but that assumes that you've managed to make all the right moves naturally. That's really hard to do.

In summary, think about your candidacy holistically well in advance of applying and build a plan about ways you can make it stronger in the years and months before you apply. If you have any specific questions about how you can do so post them on the Ask MBA Prep School thread on this site: http://gmatclub.com/forum/ask-mba-prep-school-103129.html#p802605
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Re: Best MBA application tips?   [#permalink] 02 Nov 2010, 13:49
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