It’s already February, and while it may seem like you have plenty of time before the first round of MBA application deadlines, there are several things that you can be doing right now to give yourself a leg up on applications this year (and reduce your stress level in the fall). We recommend that you take a look at the list below and start laying-out your timeline for the year, assuming that everything will take longer than you think. If you start now, you’ll set yourself up for success in a few months.
1. Schedule Your Class Visits for this Spring
If you plan to apply round 1 (which you should if you’re this early in the process), there’s a very small window of opportunity in the spring to squeeze in class visits before the end of the school year. So, we recommend that you visit over the next few months. School visits help you to assess which schools may be the best fit for you and also give you insight into valuable essay and interview ammunition such as the specifics of clubs, classes and the school’s culture that are challenging to conceptualize from merely reading the website. Those who visit almost always write better essays than those who don’t, from our experience.
2. Take the GMAT ASAP (Seriously – Just Schedule the Exam and Don’t Look Back)
Knowing your GMAT score in advance can help you a) better focus your school research; b) help determine if you need to take extra classes in advance of applying (eg. to offset a weaker score); c) ensure ample time to retake the test if you desire; and d) take that burden off your plate, enabling you to focus on the higher-level, strategic aspects of the application such as defining your story and goals.
3. Get Those Coffee Chats on the Calendar
An MBA is more than an academic degree. It’s a full program with many aspects and attributes that are often hard to understand without having been there yourself. Seek-out those in your network who can talk to you about their MBA experiences. Having these conversations early will help you not only collect information to accelerate your process (eg. information on school cultures, different career paths, etc); but it could also lead to stronger advocacy for you by these individuals as they write your recommendations later on. Everyone likes to see someone being proactive!
4. Be Honest About Your Weaknesses…So You Have Time to Do Something About Them
It’s not too hard to find information on what the schools are looking for. Think through where your areas of weakness are and create an action plan to address those issues over the coming months. Typical areas of weakness include low undergrad grades / GPA, low GMAT score, limited extracurricular involvement, limited leadership experience, etc. Though you can’t change the past, you can always mitigate the potential negative impact of anything that’s less than perfect on your profile.
5. Start Thinking About Your Goals ASAP
Being able to articulate why the MBA is the right degree for you and what you plan to do with it is extremely important. There are limited spaces available in each top MBA program, so they want people who they know will leverage the MBA to do great things. For 75% of the people we work with, defining their goals is one of the hardest parts of the process. It takes time, conversations, research and sometimes more than a little soul searching. We encourage you to start this process early. As a tip, we have most of our clients start by looking at the job placement reports for their target schools and looking at the LinkedIn profiles of people whose careers may interest them (co-workers, family friends, etc). Then we get much more methodical, but this preliminary research helps you to get a sense for the lay of the land.
As always, reach out for an initial consultation if you are wondering what next steps should be for you.