But it’s only February! Applications aren’t released until July! There’s nothing I can do now!
Our clients give us countless explanations for why they must postpone their work on applications, some good, some bad. We have only have one reason for starting now: clients that start earlier do better. It’s just that simple!
So while it’s true that we don’t yet have the questions for next year’s Round 1 applications, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a TON that can be done. Here are six things you can do NOW to improve your application.
1. Add leadership experience to your application
After a few months at a job, it’s easy to think that there isn’t much you can do to take on additional responsibility. Your MBA applications are a good reason to rethink this approach. Even if you work in a highly structured corporate environment in a role with no managerial duties, there are likely far more opportunities for leadership than you are aware of. The best MBA candidates are always on the lookout – you may not be able to ask your boss for 10 employees to lead, but you CAN start NEW initiatives, you CAN lead social/volunteer efforts, you CAN take on mentoring roles, you CAN run a fundraiser, or organize a department outing. Anything and everything you do helps.
2. Showcase diversity in your application
Often the biggest weaknesses in otherwise good profiles is lack of diversity. We often see great candidates with great GMATs and work experience who are dinged because they lack any interests outside of work and school. If this describes you, NOW is the time to address the problem. Don’t give up just because you haven’t volunteered for the local boys and girls club for 10 years – every little bit helps! Do some community service, take up a hobby, or found a new recreational or service organization. It may not seem like much, but adding 1-2 strong activities, even six months before application, can provide you with fresher, broader experiences for your profile.
3. Go visit the business schools you’re applying to
School visits can be an INCREDIBLE way to get to know the schools you are applying to, while also improving your chances of admission. Visiting is really a fantastic way to start building a network at the school and demonstrate the seriousness of your application. The insights you gain on campus will also allow you write extremely personalized essays that stand out from the crowd. It’s best to visit while school is in session, so this is something you HAVE to start working on now, especially if you’re aiming for an early round.
4. Network with people at the MBA programs you’re applying to
Whether you do this in-person during a campus visit, by email through friends and colleagues, or on LinkedIn, networking with current students, alumni and faculty at your target schools is one of the best ways to improve your application. This is a long-term work that, if done right and early, will provide you with TONS of extremely useful information for when you do ultimately have to write those “Why our school” essays. Being able to quote a current student or alumni by name in your essays shows the school that you already operate in their circles and (if the student/alumni knows you well) can give the adcom a compelling, customized argument for your admission. There are few things more valuable than a current student vouching for you.
5. Get started on you application strategy
From understanding your competitiveness, to school selection, to coming up with your overall application strategy, it is never too early to get started. The sooner you get these aspects started, the more time you will have once essay questions are released.
6. Getting started on elements of the application
It may be a bit too early to start writing essays, but there are many elements of the application that you CAN start working on – from your resume to your letters of recommendation, which stay the same from year to year. If you plan to get a letter of recommendation from someone you haven’t seen in a while, now is a good time to reach out and get back in touch.
Don’t wait until the last minute! Start now so that you have more time and flexibility during the application season. Getting started before other applicants is key to getting accepted over them.