My friend and colleague in the admissions consulting business, Linda Abraham, recently published an article in the great Poets & Quants about early preparation for your business school application. It was a clever article, highlighting, most of all, GMAT prep, which you definitely want to take care of now.
But say you’ve got that part out of the way, how can you be productive? How can you start early and make it count? Linda suggests also clarifying your goals – and I’ve written about that too in a blog post entitled “Benefits of Starting Your Business School Campaign Now.”
Network while studying for the GMAT
If you want to prepare early for your MBA application, talk to people who are in your company or in your networking circle who have some knowledge about careers, goals and the MBA experience. A lot of times it makes sense just to practice articulating your questions – just to make sure you are on the right track.
Networking can be fun, as long as you do it in the right spirit, and that is to be genuinely interested, rather than trying to force someone to advocate for you. I’ve seen that attitude (shouted down, of course) at Wall Street Oasis; you want to be as much of a giver in the networking relationship as a taker.
Visit Schools during Spring Term!
But here’s the key, and the easiest one to do now, especially in the spring. Go visit schools! There’s simply no reason why you shouldn’t take a few days while you have time to check out target schools. You won’t be so rushed yourself, students will all be in better moods than they will be in the fall, when the first-year students are like deer-in-headlights and the second-years are recruiting like mad. If you start thinking about visiting now, by the time you act the weather will be better and you’ll find students much more welcoming than they will if you try to squeeze your trip in between the summer and the October deadlines.
The other thing you can do is to get yourself on great work projects. Your resume is as important as your GMAT, in MBA admissions land. You want to be on interesting projects where you challenge yourself and get some leadership experience, even if that doesn’t mean running the team. You can still be a leader on the team, by going above and beyond, and really contributing to the bottom line and to the ultimate goals. And to others’ success as well.
And, don’t just go to Thailand for a vacation; see if you can get yourself on an international assignment or at least on an international team. There’s nothing like working across time zones and cultures to test out your communications skills and ability to give and receive feedback in a global environment.
Think about it this way – with the huge number of students from all over the world applying, you want to be able to show that you are able to excel in a diverse team, and that you can add value to recruiters, who are increasingly looking for candidates with international experience and exposure. Why else would HBS have FIELD, or GSB have GMIX?
Don’t Just Sit There
The business school application is a process. Right now you get to work on yourself and on your goals – you get to wrap your brain around the idea of you as a business leader. Not just someone who checks the box to get the MBA, but someone who really wants to make a difference in the world.