Here is information on researching an MBA program so that you can then generate meaningful interaction with the admissions committee for that school.
Basically there are two areas you should be concentrating on at this point since we are early in the admissions season.
* Researching your programs by conducting ground level research and then reaching out to them to demonstrate a genuine interest.
* This research will make you look an informed buyer when you do make a school visit (for example) - rather than someone who just showed up to ask questions they could have figured out by reading a website.
Conduct ground level b-school research on the initial business school choices.
* Determine how well you fit into the school's demographics and culture. Take you longer term goals and see if the program can get you there. Don't be the person who just applies because a school is in the top 10. Make sure the school can get you there and that you have a reasonable chance at that program. For example, if you have a lower GMAT, how far from the median are you? Too far away from the mean, don't even apply. I wrote a white paper that addresses some of these 'school selection' points for HBS. You can down this white paper from the Amerasia
Consulting website: http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com/mba_resources/
* Another good way to cover more ground with popular MBA programs is to utilize Veritas Prep
's free reports for most of the top programs: http://www.veritasprep.com/annual-reports
. I actually wrote the UCLA Anderson report.
* Clear Admit has school guides that I think are pretty darn good - http://www.clearadmit.com/pub.html
. They are about $30 a piece. A $5 off discount code is 'capreferred'. A good tip is to look at the Interview wiki on the Clear Admit site. If you know the types of questions they ask in the interview (which as fairly similar to the essay questions they ask), you can hit on those points when you are speaking to an admissions committee member. Of course, when it is actually time to interview at a school, make sure to check it out again.
* For a brief synopsis of each school, the 'Your MBA Game Plan
' book does a decent job. I used to work with the author of this book. http://books.google.com/books?id=ED_20h ... q=&f=false
* The age old book for MBA admissions is 'How to Get Into Top MBA Programs.' http://books.google.com/books?id=oOssvc ... q=&f=false
* Use Pipl.com to 'Google' the various Admissions Committee members for your desired schools. See what comes up. These interviews give a really good idea into how each admissions director envisions the culture of their respective program.
* Businessweek often has interviews with the various heads. This type of guerrilla info can help you tailor your essays, so does Accepted.com
. Again, this will help you understand the culture of each school and any nuance in the application process, such as a quasi-rolling admissions process.
* Also research your desired programs on the Businessweek.com business school forums. http://www.businessweek.com/bschools/
. There are legions of anxious b-school applicants on there, posting their stats and sharing their war stories. This is an excellent resource to see what school is handing out scholarship, accepting people off of the waitlist, etc.
* Download relevant mbapodcaster.com broadcasts, put them on your iPod, listen to them at the gym, on a walk, in the car, etc.
* If you have some extra time visit the Veritas
Business School Selector (http://www.veritasprep.com/selector
). I actually created this tool. Keep in mind it is a beta and is not perfect.
Having gained insight into your initial short-list of program choices, log onto the individual b-school websites and request program brochures and materials.
* It's okay to get them early as the apps usually do not change much year over year. The point is to see what is on the applications and get an overview of a programs nuanced process.
* The app should be viewed as a starting point to determining what a school wants to see in its applicants. Most applicants view it as an afterthought until about 2 days before the app is due.
Now start thinking about and planning when you can make a school visit. It's really the best way to both meet the adcom and signal your strong desire to attend that school.
* Sign up for a class visit and/or school tour at all your desired programs. You sign up at each respective b-school website.
* Keep in mind that most tours/class visit sign-ups start in September and take a hiatus in April or May. Some schools, like Haas, actually require you to create a log-in ID before you can gain access to their admissions events. This is why I suggest you just take a look at the application and download all materials in one-shot.
* I would consider reaching out to the school and creating three to four “touch-points.” Meaning, I would attend a class, a group information session, an event/org sponsored by the school and perhaps a talk with an alumni. You will really get to know the program and determine if you are a good fit with what your program choices are all about.
* Look for conferences held at the school that are relevant to your future goals. Attend the conference or event, meet some alumni, exchange cards and see if you can set up a lunch, call or email to talk about the school. This goes a long way in eventually convincing the admissions committee that their school is first on your list.
* When contacting alumni it is best to reach out to someone who is a recent alumnus (or a current student if you can indeed choose). You possibly have more chances to form a connection.
* Once you know the name of your school contact, use Pipl.com or Google to see if you can find out more about their background. Then shape your interests and talking points around this.
* I also recommend reaching out to the varying student associations at the programs you are applying to. Using UCLA Anderson as an example, research the Anderson Student Association. Specifically, I recommend researching the clubs and orgs that will build upon your passions and current work experiences. Once you identify what organizations you can see yourself engaging as an Anderson MBA, drop a line to a member of that club. Set up a meeting for when you are on campus, if possible. As an example, UCLA Anderson is a friendly place, the students are engaged, expect to hear a response back. http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/zone/asa/
* Prepare an elevator pitch of about 30 to 60 seconds. This is your branding for the purposes of applying to business school. It's like a mini version of the career goals essay.
* Remember, the framework for this story is - this is my long term goal, this is my short term, this is what I am doing now, this is what I did before and this is why I need an MBA now and from your great MBA program. More on this later in this email.
* I always use the Costco hot dog example; most people would not even buy a pack of hot dogs at Costco without sampling a piece first. So how are you going to convince an admissions committee that their program is the only place you have ever, always wanted to go to, if you don't visit, sample their stuff and then articulate a story. Get out there and get your story down pat.
Remember that each of the major US business school programs will travel to host their own admissions committee events:
* Again, log onto each school's site to see when and if they will travel and if they are coming to a major city near you.
* This schedule will most likely be posted later in the summer and at the beginning of each new application season.
Sign up for a recognized MBA Tours.
* The premier tour now is the QS World MBA Tour (http://www.topmba.com/mba_fairs/
* The waning, but still relevant tour, is literally the MBA Tour (http://www.thembatour.com/
* I go to the QS World MBA Tour every year to keep it real. They come to several major cities near you.
Taking it a step further - Start identifying your recommenders.
* Most of my clients cannot remember what they ate for dinner a week ago. In most cases a recommender is going to remember all the great milestones you executed on a year ago.
* I will provide you recommendation examples to aid in this process should you elect to go forward.
* Confirm that your recommenders will work with you collaboratively. I always recommend going with your bosses if possible. Hopefully this will not be an issue if you decide to leave. If it is, then let me know and we can discuss how to handle this.
* Remember some schools require 3 recommendations, like Harvard. This is why it is critical you log onto the applications for your schools early and start reaching out early.
* Also most schools only want recs submitted electronically and in their specific format. Again, this is why you log on as early as possible so that you can see their format. Many schools use a 'grid' format. Do not get caught at the end of the application process with a recommendation in the wrong format.
* Remember a good recommendation can be ruined by a recommender who is not given the proper guidance from you. The recs should be collaborative. If you are not comfortable with this arrangement, you need to find another recommender.
* Always waive your right to view your recommendations.
Request your transcripts from your undergraduate school.
* Do it this ASAP as we don't know how long it will take for the schools to deliver them to you. Just get it out of the way early if you do apply.
In preparation for your elevator pitch (and subsequent interaction with the admissions committee, students and alumni), and for your eventual essays and interview, begin formulating examples or have answers to these questions. Remember, it is important to have 2 - 3 'ready to go' stories or examples that can address most of these questions. That is, these stories need to tie everything together, flow, have common themes and reinforce your 'personal brand'.
Finally, remember these points:
* You are trying to create your own personal brand, we need to get your work, extracurricular and school choices to meld together. You need to get into this mindset that these schools are the only places you have ever wanted to go to, that you know exactly why you want to go now and what you will accomplish.
* If asked about other schools you are applying to, do not state schools that are culturally opposed to the school you are visiting. For example, do not tell HBS that you are applying to Stanford. These schools are complete opposites culturally. Keep it to programs that are culturally similar or else you look like a rankings monger.