As I write this, it's less than six months to the first round deadlines for business school application. And there's plenty you can do to get organized now. This means mapping out a strategy, juggling all the moving parts, executing, following up, and all while performing your day job.
Those who start early will be able to take the time to do the self-reflection for a successful application to business school. You’ll be able to clarify your purpose and challenge yourself to see if getting an MBA is right for you. You will need to use your powers of persuasion to secure help from friends, family, and potential recommenders.
You will also need to do a bunch of things at the same time, like study for your GMAT or GRE, meet current students and alumni, explore career paths, take extra courses, ask for transcripts, reflect on your own future, oh, and figure out how to pay for the privilege of attending an MBA program.
Visit Schools in the Spring
I’m also a huge fan of visiting schools during the spring term rather than waiting until the autumn. You’ll be more relaxed – and so will the students whom you meet. First years will have already settled in or landed summer jobs. Second years will be all smiles. You’ll be able to let the school and students sell themselves to you so you can differentiate between programs, and figure out the right fit for you. Every school has a different personality, which becomes clear when you set foot in a classroom or participate in a social gathering. Almost every student I’ve talked to wishes they could have researched more programs – a hard task when you are also working, trying to write essays and manage your recommendation process.
What to Do When the Application isn’t Ready
Most schools don’t issue their applications until mid-late summer, and it may feel a bit early to start writing essays. But you can do some introspection that will help you gain clarity for the MBA application process. I suggest students do some writing. You will have to answer a version of this question later, so why not start formulating it now? Here’s the assignment:
Reflect on what earning an MBA would bring to your professional life and do for you personally. Jot down your thoughts envisioning the future.
A little scary? Not as scary as the real essay questions, which range from “What is most important to you and why?” (Stanford GSB) to a cover letter to the director of admissions of MIT Sloan, to Harvard’s now classically simple, “Tell us about something you did well.”
Finally, make sure your GMAT is in order. If you are not happy with your score, (in particular, your quant sub-score, which is the only one that matters), take a course and try again. There is no harm in taking more than once, or even twice. You’ve got enough time to reasonably master the material at this stage, and you’ll be glad to get a solid result out of the way.
Use Your Summer Wisely
If you are in the northern hemisphere, you have all summer to get yourself ready. So use your summer wisely; go to MBA events, meet and great, ask questions, and get yourself ready. It's a lot easier now than when deadlines loom.