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Best MBA application tips?

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Re: Best MBA application tips? [#permalink] New post 03 Nov 2010, 17:48
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Hi liyinghan,

I generally advise applicants to provide examples of firms that interest them "...like Microsoft" vs. writing "I want to work at Microsoft."

Also, answering the question "why" can help with the issue of being too broad/generic. Why are you interested in marketing and product management and if you name a company or two why have you designated those companies specifically? The "why" is almost always more personal, illuminating, and interesting than the "what".
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Re: Best MBA application tips? [#permalink] New post 01 Dec 2010, 15:56
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Hi USCTrojan2006 (from a fellow Trojan - Master's in Writing 2004),

It is certainly a good idea to add to your leadership portfolio the year before you apply. Remember quality trumps quantity when it comes to involvement/leadership outside of work. Contributing your leadership energy to making a difference for an organization or cause that you care deeply about is what admissions committees want to see. So "beefing" your resume up isn't as good as having a seriously great story about making an impact for an organization that really matters to you. (Hint: That story can also be told in one of your essays.)

Best of luck!

p.s. If you'd like additional insight on what to do to strengthen your application before you apply, our admissions consultants created a video course on the subject. You can check it out here: http://mbaprepschool.com/course-catalog ... you-apply/
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Re: Best MBA application tips? [#permalink] New post 04 Dec 2010, 21:34
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Not sure if this qualifies as a tip, but it helped me immensely when I wrote my essays.

Turn on ‘Show Readability Statistics’ and select ‘Grammar and Style’ from the accompanying dropdown menu in Microsoft Word. You can do this by clicking on the Office button (Word 2007 onwards) -> Word Options -> Proofing.

What this does is suggest changes to the style elements of your essay, along with checking the grammar. It suggests you to change ‘but’ to ‘however’, ‘also’ to ‘in addition’ and so on depending on the context and red flags anything passive. I have this habit of writing long sentences and this tool ensured that I broke them up. At the end of all checks, it shows a couple of scales that measure how easy it is to read your essay.

You can launch the tool after enabling it by pressing Function 7 (F7) in your keyboard.

The readability stats for the last four paragraphs are:
Passive Sentences: 0%
Flesch Reading Ease: 67.7
Flesch-Kincaid Grad Level: 8.3

Here is more on the two scales mentions above: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flesch%E2% ... ading_Ease
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Re: Best MBA application tips? [#permalink] New post 01 Jan 2011, 20:26
Not sure if anyone starting the process has thought about this one too much - but really flesh out your every incident in life - from going on vacation to falling and injuring yourself like you are trying to chronicle every key moment ever - THEN, you can identify stories and relevant facts much easier just from the process of having accessed those memories recently.

I'd draw a Potteresque analogy to a Pensieve or to pulling stored memories out from the "hard drive" to the RAM / current memories!
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Re: Best MBA application tips? [#permalink] New post 24 Jan 2011, 21:05
know the difference between things that you can say for yourself and things that are better off said by your recommender. for example, may be better to let your recommender talk about certain strengths - more credible and less show-offy. however, may be better to speak for yourself when discussing career goals. I never really thought about using recommenders strategically like that and thought it was a pretty good tip.
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Re: Best MBA application tips? [#permalink] New post 19 Mar 2011, 16:27
1. The recommender packets take a quite a bit of time to put together. You should include a summary of why you want to go to bschool, impressive details about yourself in the context of your work with your recommender and some background behind the schools your recommender will be submitting letters to. Pulling all of that together requires that you ALREADY have your story about "why bschool" and convincing anecdotes from work down pat, both which will require some work. I didn't expect that my recommender packs would take so much time and effort. I tried to give my recommenders 3-4 weeks to write their letters.

2. Remember that the whole process is a black box. The final outcome is determined by a myriad of things out of your control (other candidates, etc), so don't lose heart if you get dinged! It's great that you've set a goal for yourself and have made a serious commitment to achieve it. Some people are too intimidated to even try. If you haven't been trying your best, well then you shouldn't be disappointed about getting dinged.

3. GMATs - when you take the test, bring a favorite snack, photo, object - a little something that will make you smile during a break. It will give you some perspective and encouragement when you're feeling stressed.
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Re: Best MBA application tips? [#permalink] New post 20 Mar 2011, 09:07
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I wanted to document and share my lessons learned over the course of this process, for whatever benefit it can have for future applicants. I'm no expert and don't have any inside information. I don't have a comprehensive system, just some tips. But if I could travel back in time nine months and give myself advice, it would be this:

1) MBA admissions is a subjective process. To the extent there are "rules" or a "checklist" they are minimum necessary requirements, not sufficient reason for admission. You have to accept this and embrace it. Get used to living with uncertainty and don't let it consume you. Know what your backup plan is if you get rejected everywhere - your mind will run there during the darker moments in the process. (Mine was to stay on at current job and reapply next year.) If you don't have a backup plan, apply to multiple safeties, as that is the only way to ensure admissions. And define safety very conservatively.

2) Start early. Researching schools takes time. Essay writing takes time. A lot of time. And by time, I don't mean number of hours spent in front of a computer. By time, I mean number of days where you are thinking about essays. Good essays take time to marinate in your subconscious over several weeks. The more weeks you spend thinking about essays, the more good ideas will pop into your head. You can't compress that process of good idea generation into a few months of hectic essay writing. Spread it out over as long a period as you can. Start brainstorming before essay topics even come out. Now (March 2011) is a good time to start brainstorming and planning for class of 2014 admissions. Start now and make a little progress each week. It will save you time, and stress, over the long run.

3) Be clearly unique. Formulate a clear brand about who you are, why you're unique, and what unique value you would bring to an MBA class. It should be multifaceted but coherent. Build your application around that brand. Give your draft essay to a confidante and ask them to "reverse engineer" what your brand is - ie, ask them to write the 3 bullet summary of what comes across in your essays. You'll be surprised at how unclear and opaque you're actually being in communicating your brand. Themes that seem obvious to you are likely to be completely missed or at least misinterpreted by the uninitiated reader. Keep clarifying until you pass this "reverse engineering" test. If you're friends and family can't do it, a total stranger on the admissions committee definitely can't.

4) Be authentically unique. Never, ever, ever write what you think they want to hear, or what other people have successfully written in the past. Admissions directors love to be surprised. They love to see something they've never seen before. And you can only find that uniqueness inside yourself. As you read these forums and other sources of information, you will be pulled towards the seductive false logic of copying other models that have proven successful. It's only natural, but it's still a losing strategy. Everyone is unique, so don't despair, even if you think you're the most boring person on earth. If you get stuck, look at the full range of your experiences, and synthesize a few key themes. There are certainly other people who have each of your individual experiences, but no one else has your exact portfolio of experiences. It's the connections and interactions between your experiences that make you unique.

5) Keep your writing simple. Write like you're writing for the AP, not for the Economist. Use short, simple sentences. Don't use fancy vocabulary or jargon. If the average man on the street won't immediately grasp a concept, you have to explain it or, better yet, not use it. You want to be remembered for the content of your ideas, not the fanciness of your communication. If they're focusing on the medium they're not focusing on the message.

6) Use stories to convey leadership. A very large percentage of your word count should be spent telling vivid, moment-in-time stories. Stories should be your primary venue for communicating information whenever possible. Why MBA? Tell the story of when you realized you needed an MBA. etc. Stories are powerful. Stories are primal - they play a central role in pretty much every human culture that has evolved. When we hear a story, we project ourselves into the protagonist's role. We feel what they feel. And, we fill in the gaps with our own imagination, turning a two dimensional anecdote into a three dimensional shared experience. That is why admissions readers like stories. It lets them make the "blink" (as in Malcolm Gladwell) style assessments it takes to evaluate something subjective like leadership. Some schools explicitly ask for stories, but I think it's a pretty surefire approach for most any school. Stories are the only way for admissions readers to put themselves in your shoes and understand your leadership. So use plenty of stories to give them plenty of evidence about your leadership.

7) Practice. Don't write your dream school's essay first. You WILL get better at essay writing with each essay you write. You should go sequentially, finishing one school before moving on to the next, so you can focus on giving each school a logically coherent package. But, I'm telling you right now, your first application will be pretty bad, no matter how much time you spend on it. You might even consider doing a dummy "practice" application to get that first bad one out of your system. What the heck, here's a set of dummy essay topics for you: A) Assume you are admitted, and are attending your 5 year MBA reunion. Describe what you have accomplished since graduating, how your MBA helped you achieve it, and what your plans for the future are. B) Write a leadership autobiography, describing the key moments in your life that shaped your leadership style. C) Assume that, once admitted, you will have to "apply" to a learning team. What would you say to your fellow classmates to convince them that you would be a valuable addition to their learning team?

Try to enjoy the process. Treat it like a fun autobiographical exercise. It'll help you do better, and help maintain your sanity.

Best of luck everyone! Work hard, be passionate, do well.
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Re: Best MBA application tips? [#permalink] New post 13 Apr 2011, 23:28
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I have a different view towards the 'starting early' from others, so it depends on your working style.

1. Take the GMAT before, but other than that, it is possible to write apps for a few schools within a short period
The entire Bschool app process is long - from the GMAT and application to interview and finally decision time. I decided to take my GMAT in beginning of August, took my GMAT in the end of August (note that I had studied on/off before over a longer period though). I then wrote three apps essentially in the next 1.5 months. This isn't for everyone, but I can be pretty disciplined and there are economies of scale from writing all your essays at the same time. If you are good at working under a deadline and not sure a long, drawn-out app process is for you, it may not be necessary to start too early. Things I WOULD try to get out of the way, looking back, are the GMAT, resume, etc.

2. Have prior accepted students read your essays
I didn't ask many people to read my essays, essentially 1 person for all three schools, and 1 person for each school (who is currently studying there).

3. A regret I had - not hiring an admissions consultant for the interview
I ultimately ended up doing well in my app season, but I had a moment of panic post-interview where I thought I didn't do well and should have employed a consultant for just the interviews. Your cost is purely monetary.

4. Have backup plans - the process is very subjective
As we learned from the shift in acceptances for HBS this year, there is no perfect profile and subjectivity and demographics play a huge role. As such, unless you are dead set on Bschool, I'd look into other options - promotions, switching to another field, etc.

5. Speak to recommenders early
I thought I had it all planned out, but minutes before the deadline, I was calling a recommender asking if she could submit it soon. This is one aspect of the app process you can't control and of which you should be very, very wary.
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Re: Best MBA application tips? [#permalink] New post 10 May 2011, 14:28
The one thing I wished I did differently was to not be so hard on myself during the whole process
and to appreciate those little blessings in disguise. I was not happy with my 690 GMAT score and after wasting 5 more months studying only to get a lower score the second time, I was pretty depressed. But now I think if I had gotten that 700+ score I probably wouldn't have felt the need to hire an admissions consultant and my essays would not have been as strong as a result. I fully believe my essays are what made the difference in my application and what got me admitted.

More tips: I would wait to visit the schools for the interview if possible. I think the benefit from visiting before applying just so you can say you visited in your essays is overrated, unless you are closeby and know you can get out there more than once. Plus I would try to interview during one of the school's big interview weekends. I got so much info from just hanging out with current students that proved very useful in my interviews

For recommenders, I think it is actually better to get two different viewpoints. People advised me against using a former co-worker, but I already had a letter from 1 direct supervisor and I felt getting a letter from another supervisor (current or former) would not add much new perspective to my application. Instead my former co-worker (who happened to be a lower position than I was) really knocked it out of the park for me and talked extensively about how I took her under my wing and led projects we worked on together in a team setting. She went on to get promoted and recently landed a director role in another company, and credited me as inspiring her to that path. I think that was pretty powerful.
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Re: Best MBA application tips? [#permalink] New post 28 May 2011, 00:51
For me a big eye-opener and research breakthrough was... the list of school clubs!
That infomation provides you several important insights:
- an idea about a school demographics
- an impression about school's culture
- a great overview of what are the strong specializations of a school
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Re: Best MBA application tips? [#permalink] New post 08 Jul 2011, 18:35
gijoedude wrote:
I have hammered out my goals essay and am pretty specific on which field I wish to enter and the companies I hope to work for. Any idea if one should include why you want to what you want to do in goals essay? Or is it better to just stick to what is asked in the question?


GIJoeDude, you absolutely must include the "why" as part of your answer. The AdCom wants to see that your career goals are well thought out. Too many applicants take the approach that they can get away with merely writing about what they want to do with their MBA and sweep the rest under the rug.

One AdCom member told me that they need to feel like they "know" an applicant before admitting him or her. That means understanding the applicant's philosophies on life / career, what brings him satisfaction, what has he enjoyed doing, what motivates him, why does he want to do the things he does.

In every essay you should strive to answering the "why" question even if it's not asked. For example, in HBS' application, the AdCom doesn't just care about your 3 accomplishments. They want to know why these accomplishments are particularly meaningful to you, hence the second part of that question.
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Re: Best MBA application tips? [#permalink] New post 08 Jul 2011, 18:46
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Vorskl wrote:
For me a big eye-opener and research breakthrough was... the list of school clubs!
That infomation provides you several important insights:
- an idea about a school demographics
- an impression about school's culture
- a great overview of what are the strong specializations of a school


Absolutely agree that researching a school's clubs gives very valuable insight into the student culture and the school's strengths / weaknesses.

One additional point I'll add: also look into the club leadership. See if you can find an email address of a student leader. Most of the time, these people will be willing to speak with you at the very least about their club if not about the school overall.

Not only will you be able to gain valuable insight into the school, but you can also reference your meeting / discussion with the student leader in your essay. For example, you can mention your meeting with the President of the Marketing Club if consumer marketing just so happens to be your career interest. That would really show commitment and interest in the school!
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Re: Best MBA application tips? [#permalink] New post 25 Jul 2011, 06:57
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This is not originally mine, but here are some great tips I read on Poets & Quants and thought I should post here for everyone's benefit:

10 most common mistakes I have seen as an admissions consultant and how you should avoid them:

- Overemphasizing your business experience in your application essays – Top MBA programs want to get to know you as a person. What are your passions? What has shaped you into the person you are today? Simply listing one professional accomplishment after another you will not lead to an acceptance letter.

- Overemphasizing the GMAT/GRE – We’ve helped students with GMATs in the 500s gain entry into HBS. We’ve also worked with clients who seek our help when reapplying after applying on their own and being rejected from HBS despite scoring a 750+ on the GMAT. Unlike other undergraduate and graduate programs, admission to MBA programs is based as much as or more on qualitative factors than quantitative factors.

- Presenting a career vision that is disconnected from your current and prior experience – Certainly many people get an MBA in order to pivot in their careers. But trying to convince a school that you could start an AIDS awareness nonprofit in Zimbabwe after working on Wall Street for 10 years is unlikely to be successful. Schools want to be sure they will be able to place you into a job at graduation, so if the pivot is too significant they may not admit you.

- Not having a focused career vision – Many students think they will explore a number of different career options during their first year in an MBA program. But admissions officers know the reality of the situation: There is very little time for exploration, since you’ll start searching for summer jobs by October of your first year. So make sure you have a focused career plan and convey it in your application.

- Sending the same essay to multiple schools when they ask the same or similar questions – Each top school is looking for VERY different student profile; you’ll need to “sell” them what they’re looking to “buy.” When we work with clients applying to schools that have similar essay questions, we insist the clients write completely unique essays that best position them for acceptance to each individual school.

- Misunderstanding the importance of extracurricular activities – Many students think schools just want to see that you give back to your community through extracurricular activities. In reality, schools are assessing your leadership potential through your extracurricular involvement. They want to see what projects you have spearheaded and what teams you have led. Depth of involvement is much more important than breadth.

- Choosing a recommender because you feel like you have to – The #1 reason applicants do not get into schools that they should is a lukewarm or average recommendation. Choose recommenders who will say that you are the most incredible professional and individual they have worked with in their career. Don’t choose people who you know are tough recommenders just because they are direct supervisors or would be offended if you didn’t ask them.

- Not prepping for admissions interviews – MBA admissions interviews are very different from job interviews. They emphasize substance and are about much more than just connecting with the interviewer. Many applicants have been so successful at “schmoozing” in job interviews that they do not prepare properly for the hard questions—and often less personable interviewers—they are likely to encounter in MBA admissions interviews.

- Deviating from your “story” in the interview – Interviewers may push back on your career vision during an interview. Do NOT concede that your career vision was not well thought out or suggest that it is just one option. Do NOT try to change your career vision during the interview. Instead be prepared to defend your professional plans, as that is what admissions officers want to see.

- Not thinking through your list of schools before you apply – The top MBA programs are quite diverse. You will be more personally and professionally fulfilled at some and less so at others. While ranking is important (see my previous article on the ROI of MBA programs), do NOT choose a school that is ranked only a couple places higher than another school that would be a much better fit for you. Also, always apply to a safety school even if you don’t think you would go there. You might earn a merit-based scholarship which, as I often advise my clients, you can parlay into financial aid at the school of your choice.
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Re: Best MBA application tips? [#permalink] New post 05 Oct 2011, 16:10
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My tip... be a USED CAR SALESMAN. I mean this very seriously. Think of a blend of a used car salesman (not fat white dude with 80's porn beard and yellow shirt) and a real estate agent. You want to make sure your listing matches the buyer (adcom) and then make sure your salespitch is convincing enough to get them to buy that PoShit 1988 civic with 398K miles for a premium price. In all seriousness guys... you should make sure you're selling all your best qualities and explaining why you're the right person for them to choose. Also, make sure all 3, 4, or 5 essays you're writing for each school tell the same story. Clearly they have different questions/objectives.. but when you read them each one should be a subsequent chapter of your life/story within the same book (application package).

Best of luck... stay focused, stay humble, and realize... almost everyone gets a ding :)
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Re: Best MBA application tips? [#permalink] New post 07 Oct 2011, 07:43
My biggest tip is to visit the schools prior to applying.

I've completed two interviews thus far, and I think that out of all I said during those interviews, what impressed the interviewers the most was when I told them about my campus visit.

I think that adcoms think very highly of applicants that visit their school, but more importantly, these visits give you SO much more information than you can find online. This information, which you can incorporate into your essays, will really set you apart from other applicants.

Sure, visiting these schools is costly and takes time, but you're about to make a $150K+ investment, you might as well really make sure you want to go there before spending 50-100hrs preparing your application.

And also remember, schools care about yield, and the more you know about the school your applying to (e.g. information that isn't obvious and that is hard to find without visiting), the more it shows that you've done your research and are committed to attending.
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Re: Best MBA application tips? [#permalink] New post 12 Oct 2011, 08:38
Don't stress out too much about Letter of Recommendations. I think all of us have Type A personalities and get concerned when we don't have complete control over something. But you chose these people for a reason - they are people that you trust and that care about you. So, have some faith in them too.

I'm only saying this after the application process is over (for me at least). Waiting on LORs caused the most anxiety of all but in the end everything came together. No matter how many reminders you send, they will probably come in on the day before apps are due (or hours/minutes/seconds before!), so you need to realize that from the beginning before you freak out. A lot of the businesses we're in (finance, consulting, etc) require people to work around the clock so having 24 hours before a deadline seem like a lot of time to them!
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Re: Best MBA application tips? [#permalink] New post 18 Nov 2011, 00:00
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Two good tips for you all (well... some anyhow :) ):

1. If you are a candidate who comes from a family business, use THIS as your goal. Show the AdCom how you will make this one of the biggest and best firms in your industry.

2. If you can secure a post-MBA return job offer from your current employer, do so and tell the AdCom that you have done so.

Having a secure guarantee at the end of the line makes you a VERY appealing candidate, cause the school no longer has to worry about their single most important stat - Employment. The more impressive your guaranteed post after your MBA, the better schools you can apply to.

If this is relevant to you, you WILL get into B-school.
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Re: Best MBA application tips? [#permalink] New post 20 Dec 2011, 10:20
Now that the application process is finally over, here's my 2 cents on admissions consultants:

Whether you think you need a consultant or whether you think you don't, you're probably right. They can be a great resource to guide you in the right direction if you feel lost or overwhelmed, but may only of marginal help (or sometimes not at all) if you have a clear idea of what your story is. I wrestled with the idea when I first started applying - I didn't mind spending the money if it helped my case, but I couldn't get over the fact that I basically have my whole story ready, and now I have to spend time explaining it someone else when I could be concentrating on the actual app? It became more of an annoyance for me than an ease of mind. But for others, I've heard very positive things on how they didn't know where to start and everything became clear once they engaged an admissions consultant.

I did use some essay editing services - it was good to have another pair of eyes skim for grammar/sentence structure issues. At times they made a suggestion to content and I actually didn't incorporate any of it (further reassuring me that only I know my story). I recommend Proofreading Pal if you just want that - a proofread - it's about $40 per essay.

On the other hand, I found interview prep services to be a great help. There are many more unanticipated things that can happen in a 30min period that serves as a final hurdle (compared to say, hours you can spend thinking and packaging your essays). I used Sandy who made a tremendous difference in the way I approach the questions but I've also heard many positive reviews of others. Compared to other services, $300-$400 is a small price to pay to get into your top choice school. You don't want to mess up when you're "almost there." But again, like I said before, if you're totally confident of your story and have read all the Wiki reports and feel 100% prepared, you're probably fine too.

Best of luck to all.
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Re: Best MBA application tips? [#permalink] New post 08 May 2012, 04:08
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Do not apply to any school that you would not be willing to pay the full price. If the only school you get into is one you would not go to, then all you've done is set yourself up to be a reapplicant next year and waste an application fee. Don't be so consumed with trying to get INTO school that you neglect to consider where you'd actually GO.
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Re: Best MBA application tips? [#permalink] New post 17 May 2012, 07:56
As far as work experience is that an absolutely necessary thing for any worthwhile applicant? Because my most immediate focus is on improving my GPA and earning my Masters in Accounting.

I've worked but mostly related to the pharmacy (as a certified technician). So not exactly business oriented or finance related. So my question is to show that B-School is something I want to do and the next step for me is it absolutely critical that I work as an accountant for a year or 2 before I apply to B-School or can I work part time while completing my masters and that would be enough? And I really need genuine help here. I would like to get all my education completed as soon as possible so I can move and start working. But I also want to be accepted the first time around rather than apply and be rejected because I didn't have a solid portfolio.

My GMAT score is a 690 and I'm taking it one more time before it switches to the new format which includes the retarded IR section.....hoping for a 730 or above this time around.
Re: Best MBA application tips?   [#permalink] 17 May 2012, 07:56
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