Application deadlines for MBA programs that start in 2013 are a looong ways away. Hell, b-schools haven’t even finalized their class lists for 2012 yet, so there’s no reason to start thinking about those 2013 apps, right?
Round 1 deadlines may not be coming for 6 months, but that doesn’t mean you have 6 months to sit around and twiddle your thumbs. On the contrary, it means you have 6 extra months to improve your profile and increase your chances of success next year. And if you’re serious about getting an MBA, that’s exactly how you should be thinking.
Use the time you’ve got wisely, folks. There are plenty of things you can do now to get a head start on your applications, from starting your school research to beefing up that resume, and a few of our MBA consultants are gonna lay ‘em all out for ya right here, right now.
Grab a pen and take some notes.
You can (1) start articulating – in your head or on paper – what your “value proposition” to schools will be, then (2) use the next year to build the credentials that will support your argument. Are you “a McKinsey consultant who dreams of starting a public health NGO in India”? Well, sign up for a consulting engagement in public health, or in India… or volunteer at a public health NGO on the weekends. Are you “a hardware engineer at Dell who dreams of one day heading the Strategy group”? Seek out projects and people at your firm that can teach you about the strategic management side of the business.
Having compelling and powerful letters of recommendations are a critical part one’s business school application. Too often prospective students leave this to the last minute, getting either a generic (and completely empty) letter from the most senior manager available, or are forced to write the letter themselves, getting the manager to sign off on it (it’s not kosher but it happens). Either path is far less than optimal.
Take an MBA style approach to getting your letters of recommendation, folks. Map out a strategy by finding those contacts which offer compelling anecdotes about how amazing you are from as many different perspectives as possible. For those senior level managers that might not know you as intimately as you’d like, prepare a package for them to review, outlining your achievements at your firm, what projects you guys worked together on, your contributions, anything and everything they can use to create a vivid narrative of your accomplishments.
With a little time and foresight, you can have some passionate advocates on your behalf, helping you get into your dream school.
Gosh, there’s so much you can do. I don’t even know where to begin…
Try this on for size:
1. Research the schools
2. Set yourself up with Students and Alumni of the schools you are interested in. And talk to them.
3. VISIT the schools
4. Start a document with notes on each school (people’s names, courses, professors, aspects of the school that fit your needs, etc.) so when it’s time to write your essays, you’ve got all that information readily available and can work it right in there.
Oh yeah, and get that GMAT done by May at latest! That way if things don’t go as planned, you have time to re-take.
One of the most productive things to do is to go for a campus visit, to see if you even want to go to there in the first place. Clearly, if you’re in Asia or somewhere far away, this takes some planning. It is a significant cost too; but take it from us, the benefits far outweigh the cost, for you can then use that as strong evidence of your interest in the school.
What’s going to make a big difference in your app is how carefully you’ve thought through your short- and long-term goals, so now’s the time to do some soul searching — and research — to 1) put into words what you would love to be doing 20 years down the road and 2) put some meat on the bones of these lofty professional aspirations.
To flesh out your career trajectory from here to there, start working backwards from the goal and figure out what the prior stepping-stones need to be. If the path isn’t clear — or even if it is — I recommend doing informational interviews: picking the brains of alumni from your target schools who’ve already blazed trails in your chosen field and asking them how they got to where they are today. You’ll be surprised by how willing they are to share their story. (If I’ve learned one thing in life, it’s that most people love to talk about themselves.)
With 8-11 months of planning, it’s time to figure out your gameplan for what kind of leadership and impact related activities you can throw yourself into, in and out of the work environment. Seek every opportunity possible to make a real difference. And stay busy with cool extracurriculars to really separate you from the pack of other applicants. Remember that the theme here is leadership in everything that you do!
How’s that for a to-do list, friends? Aren’t you glad you’ve got 6 months to make it all happen?