Anyone interested in full-time MBA programs hopefully already knows that most institutions have Round 1 application deadlines in or near the month of October. Yet, it is likely that a sizable percentage of those interested, perhaps even the majority, do not know anything about business school application rounds at all, much less when the deadlines are.
This bit of b-school trivia is all too often something folks begin figuring out over the summer months. When people do uncover the information, they will likely feel that they have all the time in the world. They might even congratulate themselves for starting so early!
Then, when the grindstone really gets leaned into and all the aspects of an application package begin to take shape, it hits countless aspirants: they really ought to have begun the process much, much sooner.
Time flies and there is a lot to be done. Those looking to begin grad school in the fall of 2015 should position themselves for successful application submission for October 2014 starting in January 2014. And, yes, I know it is now February. See my point?
The following is a list of everything that must be accomplished in order to apply to business school:
- Research, research, research. Everyone is different and so is every program. Finding a fit is both crucial and difficult. It is also important that research extends beyond a bottle of wine and Google. Research includes networking, MBA fairs, friends/family, campus visits, class audits, phone calls, emails, etc., etc.
- Clarify goals. A strong narrative must be identified and communicated. Why you? Why them? Why this? Why now? Thinking this narrative through, honing it down, and learning to articulate such a story in writing and speech takes time. Plus, it might result in answers to the above questions that stop the process all together!
- Academics. Of course, transcripts must be acquired, but more than copies of what was done, an honest assessment of how it was done is requisite. Would, for example, a summer stats class help?
- The GMAT. For many, this is the lynchpin of a stellar application package. Always underestimated but never subverted, the GMAT needs months of preparation. It also needs time cushion in the event of a retake(s).
- Work experience. Most importantly here, leadership experience. If a resume is thin on this point, then it is time to either talk to the boss about leading a project/team or go find the experience outside of work. Speaking of which…
- Volunteer experience. B-schools like well-rounded citizens. Spending an evening at a soup kitchen the week before an application is due won’t cut it. Find opportunities to get involved in something meaningful for an extended period of time.
- Travel. Beyond campus visits, a trip may well be in order if an applicant lacks international travel experience. The world is shrinking, business is global, and schools train from this perspective. Get out of your comfort zone.
- Hobbies. Please be more interesting than your profession!
- Résumé. A tormenting endeavor that inevitably takes a thousand hours more than it should.
- Recommendations. Relationships with the individuals targeted to write letters of recommendation have, hopefully, already been built. But, perhaps nurturing those relationships in the run-up to the request for a letter is in order. Additionally, writers will be inexorably busy people that need a long runway to compose beaming prose.
- Essays. Every school wants several. Canned responses don’t work. Deep introspection is a must. Many, many drafts are unavoidable.
It is of critical importance that graduate aspirants wholly understand what goes into simply asking for a seat at the table. “Start yesterday” is the mantra for applying to b-school.
Items on the above list overlap mercilessly. A January-through-October timeline is the most reasonable timeline in order to accomplish everything in the way and to the degree each deserves. Oh, and just in case you forgot, it is already February.
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