Start With Your Brain
Interested in business school? If so, now’s the time to start thinking about your application, even if you don’t want to apply until 2010. Sure, that’s a long way away, but sometimes really good ideas take a long time to hatch.
Please note—I wrote “thinking about your application.” I’m not one of those admissions consultants that say you have to be rigorous with your timeline: if it’s the third week in June then you must be half-way through the GMAT quant section. No, that’s not me.
What I do to suggest, though, is to start thinking about starting to think about business school. That’s not a typo. Start thinking about thinking.
By putting even a fragment of an idea into your head, you are inspiring your brain. And it’s your brain, that big mass of grey matter that nobody quite understands, that is going to get you into the school of your choice.
Indeed, it’s your brain, with a little push from that part of you that knows how to meet deadlines, that’s going to make your application stand out from a competitive pool.
I don’t want to scare anybody, but getting into business school is competitive. Kirsten Moss, Director of Admissions at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, told me that applications there have risen 50% over the last three years. “The bar is getting higher,” she said.
To put yourself firmly in the running, start thinking about what the admissions committees want to know about you. They want to know about your career history, your goals, your achievements, and your character. So why not give your brain a little exercise, and let it mull over what you think you might want to say?
Here’s what turning it over to the brain can do for you (Part 1):
1. You can ponder
You’ve heard that some people get their best ideas in the shower, or while running, or even by mediating. Researchers at the University of British Columbia have found that daydreaming is a great tool for creativity. Think of these next few months—or years—as one long meditation session. But make sure you feed your brain the problem, for example, “What do I want to say about my brilliant career?” before heading off to that monastery in Tibet.
2. You open yourself up to new ideas
Have you ever had someone talk about something, say Uganda for example, and suddenly it’s everywhere? For awhile, everyone I knew was talking about Uganda. My brain was now alerted to Uganda and it started giving me ideas: maybe I should travel there and take a trek in the mountains. Maybe I should work with my friend who is supporting a microfinance project in Kampala, or another who is has just started a non-profit there to help reunite war-torn families there. I don’t know, but my brain is processing Uganda in a different way than it did before because now it’s on my radar.
If you read through the school websites early, explore the curricula, and start talking to current MBA students, you give yourself the chance to bump into some new concepts while you are doing your research. The more time you allow yourself to open yourself up to new experiences, the more you will be able to differentiate yourself.
3. You can brainstorm
Throw ideas out there. Go crazy with thoughts like “I’m going to take Digital Anthropology at Sloan” or “I’m going to apply to INCAE in Costa Rica because that way I can study sustainability up close” or even “I’m going to meet my girlfriend’s brother’s uncle’s neighbor who just graduated from Columbia and is excited about working in Mongolia next year.” That way you might discover something about a course of action or about yourself that you hadn’t even thought about before.
That’s all for this installment. I’ll be writing a column after July 4 (US Independence Day) to pick up on this idea of starting early. As for me, I started planning three years before I actually applied to business school. But that, as they say, is another story.