5 Things To Do Before You Start Your MBA Applications

Consider this your pre-application checklist for business school.

Businessman On Plane

Your MBA applications are due in a few months and it’s time to get to work. But… where do you begin? What do you do? How do you… uh… get started?

Let us help. There’s a lot of work to do before you sit down at your computer and start typing away at those essays. Applying to and attending business school is a huge decision, after all, and it requires a lot of thought, planning, preparing… and then some more thought.

So before you actually start on the apps, give yourself some time to tackle our pre-application checklist:

1. Talk to ten current or former MBA students.

Ask them about getting jobs, if they liked their school and why, if they’d go again, etc.  The saddest thing ever is people who go to B-School thinking that one thing’s going to happen, and after a week, they realize they’ve made a huge mistake. Life’s too short (and MBAs are too expensive.) Why do you want get an MBA? Whatever vision you have upon graduation… does it REALLY work that way?  You’ve got to be absolutely sure, and to make that happen you’ve got to reach out to as many folks as possible. You will be able to write about these conversations in your apps, by the way…

2.  Look at your MBA target school options realistically.

If your GMAT is well below that of the schools you are targeting, you’re doing it wrong. If you only have one year of experience and you are applying to Cornell (which makes no secret about the fact that they prefer people with work experience) you are doing it wrong.

Make sure that you are targeting schools that are realistic; schools you MAY ACTUALLY get into. And once you do, make sure you want to go. Just because you can get into a school in a small town/big city/foreign country doesn’t mean you’ll actually be happy there. And after spending all that time and money on your application, do you really want to find yourself holding your admission letter and thinking, “Gosh it never occurred to me that I’d have to actually GO here.” So be smart, but be honest and realistic.

3.  Make plans to visit your schools of choice.

If you are in the US, there is NO excuse to not visit EVERY SINGLE ONE of the schools that you are applying to in the US.  And, just an FYI, European schools will be even MORE concerned if you haven’t visited their schools. How could you ever make a compelling argument for any school… that you’ve never seen? And how can you really know you want to go to that school if you haven’t experienced it? You can’t; it’s impossible. So make your travel plans NOW, people. School is out over Thanksgiving and Christmas, and your apps are due in early January.  Your window is… closing. Fast. And here’s some additional advice for your visits.

4.  Find someone to help you with your applications.

This does NOT have to be a professional consultant; we aren’t the only people out there who know our stuff, after all. Alums, parents, teachers — you will need a stable of people to read your work. Some will, of course, be more helpful than others, but do yourselves a favor and do NOT try to go it alone. Show your work to a select group of people as it develops. Trust me, it will be worth it (even if somewhat damaging to your ego along the way). At the same time, it’s worth noting that you should avoid sharing your app with everyone and their brother. Be somewhat selective, because too much input from too many people is what we call having too many cooks in the kitchen.

5.  Reach out to your recommenders.

Nothing says “you won’t get into B-School” more clearly than a recommender who writes a lukewarm (or even ice cold?) LOR.  Feel these folks out; see if they are eager to help you, if they tell you that they want to work with you, if they will share some drafts of their work, etc. Pick the RIGHT people.

Nine times out of ten, LORs do not make a difference in your apps. Of that one time out of ten times, occasionally they have a NEGATIVE effect on apps. Let’s be that OTHER one out of ten. Let’s prepare our LOR writers well, give them time to write, and make sure that they’ve got our back.

Yes, it’s a lot of work, but for an investment this big, it’s well worth your time. And considering how much work is still yet to come with the actual applications… this part is a breeze.

  • sam

    Is 10 a necessary number. Can it be 3-4 students to discuss

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