Ready, Set, Strategize! The nuts & bolts of planning your application season!
With applications for the MBA classes of 2017 coming out shortly, now is the perfect time to start developing your application strategy! The process is challenging and, unfortunately, schools haven’t made it any easier. A well articulated plan is not a “nice-to-have”, but rather a critical tool in helping you aggressively approach your applications. It will ensure that you have enough time to develop your story, visit your target schools, prepare your recommenders, and, last but not least, write your essays. These are all essential aspects of the process that need to be done well in order to earn your acceptance letter to your dream school.
In the spirit of the season, here are a few key things to keep in mind when developing your plan!
Programs will begin posting deadlines and essay topics as early as May or June and will continue through September. That means you should already be developing your story, holding initial conversations with your key table pounders (the folks who will provide recommendations), and, if necessary, improving your GMAT scores. A strong, competitive application takes almost 20 weeks (almost 5 months!) from start to finish including story development and school visits. Starting early is the key to making sure you have ample time to get everything done!
Take the GMATs
Before you begin the application process, strive to have your GMATs complete and a score you are comfortable with. Holding your full time job, studying for the GMATs, applying to schools, and staying involved will be incredibly challenging. It also introduces the risk that in doing so many things at once, you might not be able to do all of them well. Additionally, having your GMAT completed gives you a realistic assessment of that part of your candidacy. Do you need to position your story to offset a lower GMAT or is it incredibly high and a point of differentiation? By having this part of your application complete, you’ll have one of the key building blocks for your story.
The application process is like a full time job. It will take a significant time commitment and there is no way around this. From developing the perfect essays to visiting your target schools, your schedule will become increasingly hectic. There is your fair warning. Now you know. So, plan ahead. Look at your bandwidth during the months leading up to your application deadlines and begin setting yourself up for success. If you’re extensively involved in extracurricular activities, perhaps set realistic expectations for your involvement or coach your team members to take on expanded responsibilities. Professional obligations can be harder to predict and manage but constantly look for ways to work ahead or more actively manage upwards.
Start researching the schools you’re considering applying to. By that, we don’t mean open up their US News profile and peruse the rankings. We mean really research these schools. Read through their websites, identify their focus areas, specialties and concentrations, look at their faculty, and explore their reputations across the criteria most important to you. To do this effectively, you’ll need to have an idea of both your short and long term goals after you complete your MBA. What industry do you see yourself in? What role or function do you want to be engaged in? Map your goals to the focus areas of each school. By doing most of the leg work in advance, you’ll be able to short list the programs that best fit your personality and goals so that when it comes to school visits, you’ll be looking at programs right up your alley.
Take Your Time
It’s true what you hear from admissions committees, each portion of your application is just as important as the others. To do any of it well will take more time than you expect, but that’s ok. Rushing through your application or even just a part of it will be evident to the admissions committees. Don’t do yourself a disservice. Once you decide to pursue an MBA, give every aspect of the application the time and attention it deserves. Give your recommenders the time they need to complete a thorough recommendation. Make sure you build in time for checkpoints so that you can make sure they’re on schedule and that they’re aware of any changes you might have made to your story. Take the time to write essays and throw them away. That will happen. Your real (or virtual) trashcan will overflow with discarded drafts. Engage the people that know you best to help by giving their feedback. All of this will result in a stronger application.
By looking forward and planning ahead, you’ll gain an understanding of what’s to come and how best to manage towards those deadlines. The process starts now!
Good luck to everyone applying and if you want to chat about the path ahead, don't hesitate to [sign up for a free consultation] with us! It's free, awesome, and super useful!