The First MBA Tip: Start Early
This is “acceptance” week – by now most people who applied to school by Round 2 have a pretty good idea where they are going to go. It’s been a long haul for some folks, longer and more complicated than most people realize. So if you are thinking of applying in the coming year, now is the time to start planning.
There’s really no downside to starting your research now. This part is actually quite fun. You get to surf the Internet and read websites, blogs, tweets, watch YouTube channels, figure out what mailing lists to get on… the list is endless. The business school admissions process is getting increasingly transparent. Admissions committee members blog, tweet, and get out on the road to tell potential students about the benefits of the MBA and the benefits of their own school. As a potential student, you are the beneficiary of all this social and traditional networking.
So why not start early? I would recommend that you visit a campus while it is in session. You want to sit in on a class, have lunch with students, and get the feel of a program. The only cost is time – but I like to think of it as an investment. It’s such a personal decision, that you owe it to yourself to visit as many campuses as you can. Your application will be so much richer for having met each school “in person.” Those visits will inform your thinking about business school, your career, and your overall future.
Then there is the GMAT, no small undertaking. No matter how good a test taker you are, I would guess that you need to study twice as long as you think you should. My friend Doug Barg, a master GMAT teacher at Kaplan, recommends that you study at least three months – and if you want to break into the 700s, he recommends about 114 hours. How does he compute it? Check out his classic blogpost here. The more you study, the more confident you will feel. And the more genuinely confident you are, the better you’ll score.
It’s also good to think about courses to fill in any academic gaps. You don’t want to find yourself looking at your transcript mid-summer and realizing that you should have signed up for a statistics/calculus/accounting course last spring. And if your undergraduate record has been spotty, its especially important that you prove to yourself that you can work full time, study for the GMAT, and take an undergraduate course to prove that you know how to excel in a classroom.
Start With Your Brain
Now is a good time to start thinking about the essays. Even if the schools change the specific questions, they are looking for ways you have demonstrated leadership. Start thinking of the stories you will be telling about yourself. Get your brain working on it. Last July, I wrote a blog post called “Start With Your Brain.”. You will open yourself up to creativity, you may bump into some new ideas you hadn’t thought you were capable of, or you might refine something that you’ve been mulling over for months. Your brain is smarter than you even know. Give it the material to make you shine.
Remember, all you have to do is start exploring. This is the fun part. Enjoy yourself!