Are You Ready to Apply For an MBA in Round 1?

By - May 28, 07:08 AM Comments [0]

Columbia and other schools have just released their Round 1 essays and application deadlines.  Are you ready to apply in Round 1?  This comes down to two big questions.

Do You Have Enough Pre-MBA Work Experience?

Schools prefer to recruit applicants who have 4 or 5 years of pre-MBA work experience for several reasons.

  • Experienced students are able to contribute meaningfully to classroom discussions with anecdotes from their professional career.
  • Having 4 or 5 years of experience probably means that you’ve had at least a few leadership experiences.  Even if you haven’t had direct reports yet, then you’ve probably led a project in which you worked with a team of other professionals at your same level.
  • Employers prefer to recruit students with enough pre-MBA experience.  Although there are a few common exceptions -- you’ll see quite a few sponsored management consultants with guaranteed return offers enrolling with only three years of pre-MBA work experience -- most other employers prefer to hire students with 4 or 5 years under their belt before the MBA.
MBA admissions officer

Ultimately, this represents the school looking out for your best interests.  They want you to have a great job when you graduate!

Do You Have Enough Time to Create a Great MBA Application?

Applying in Round 1 is preferred if you are ready to submit your best application then, but if you won’t be able to do your best work you should consider postponing to Round 2, or even to Round 1 next year.

GMAT

For many applicants, the GMAT is one of the most time-consuming parts of the MBA application process.  Raising your GMAT score is time well spent, for the reasons discussed at Is Your GMAT Score Good Enough?, but trying to do your GMAT study at the same time as you are preparing your application materials can be stressful and result in a lower GMAT score and lower-quality application materials than if you had allotted more time to each one.

If you have not already scored near your target score on official practice exams by May, with an eye toward finishing the exam promptly in June, you are setting yourself up for a time crunch later in the summer.  Because… you’ll be pretty busy at work, right?

Busy professionals in finance, consulting and technology

You can learn more about the steps involved in raising your score by checking out the GMAT Club Study Plans.

School Networking

If you can visit schools, you should.  But don’t try to visit in the summer! The best part of a campus visit is interacting with the students, and you probably already know that they will be away during the summer for their internships.

If you haven’t made your campus visits already, there are other ways to network with the schools, such as MBA fairs -- e.g. Centre Court, coming up in San Francisco this June -- information sessions, and cold outreach to students and alumni.  Still, all of these take time and you should allot more time for these activities if you didn’t already make your campus visits.

Writing Your Applications

Don’t underestimate the amount of time that goes into writing a great MBA application!  Before you can even set pen to paper, you need to think clearly about:

  • Your personal identity and story
  • Your career goal
  • How the school will help you to achieve this career goal
  • What you will do to enrich the experience of your MBA classmates (which often means making a contribution to a club, conference or other program)
  • A few examples of your professional successes and failures

Once you’ve done this, you must write your essays, prepare a resume that readers outside of your industry can understand, select your recommenders, give them briefings about what you expect from them, application forms for each school, and get your transcripts and GMAT/GRE score reports arranged.  It makes me feel busy just writing it!

The Decision: Round 1 vs. Round 2 vs. Next Year

We give the full run-down at Round 1 vs. Round 2 vs. Round 3, but in short -- you should apply when you can make your strongest application (and not before).

If you’ve squared away your GMAT and made campus visits already, you are in good shape to apply in Round 1, but if you still have a lot of work to do on those fronts, especially if you’re in a job with brutal hours, you should be seriously considering whether Round 2 or Round 1 next year would give you better odds of acceptance.

You may not like to wait, but the reward is worth it.  The value of a top MBA program will be with you for many years to come.

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