We all know the MBA application process is a tough one. Between researching programs, writing essays, visiting schools, finding recommenders, and, oh yeah, holding a job simultaneously, it’s all too easy to get lost in the shuffle. Like most things in life, it helps to have a plan. And to stick to it. Because, trust us, the last thing you want to do is try and cram everything in the month before those deadlines. [It’s ugly. Very, very ugly.]
The good news is, if you’re targeting Round 1 for 2013, you’ve got the perfect amount of time to tackle everything. And we’re gonna lay out a plan to use that time effectively.
So let’s get to it: your MBA Application Timeline.
Visit Schools: Visiting schools is very important, not only so you can get a feel for the schools and make sure you actually, you know, wanna go there, but also to give you material to later use in your essays. And you are gonna wanna visit when classes are still in session so you can sit in on a few, talk to some people, and really experience the school. That means you gotta get those done by May, before classes end for the summer.
GMAT: Why May? Well, that will give you about a month and a half before the essays are released and, should you have to re-take the test, you’ll still have time to do so before you need to buckle down and write those essays.
Of course, if you can’t take the GMAT by May, it’s not the end of the world. Plenty of people have prepared for the exam while simultaneously working on their application essays, but it’s ideal to separate those two beasts so you can give ‘em both everything you’ve got.
Start Approaching Recommenders: Depending on how many schools you’re targeting, writing LORs can be a very timely task for a recommender. Be considerate and approach your recommenders early so they have some time to work on those letters. And if you’re still not sure what schools you want to target (and can’t actually have anyone start writing just yet), at least approach your recommenders and give them a heads up.
School Research: Between May and June, you should spend time researching your target programs. Just open up a separate Word doc for each school and write down the aspects of each school that you like (specific classes and professors, student groups, companies that recruit there, etc) and how that specific program will help you reach your career goals.
Reach Out to People: This is also an ideal time to contact students/alumni/professors/etc. from each school to get their take on the program to better inform your decision. (Bonus: you can name-drop….erm… mention these contacts in your application later, which will only help ya.)
All of this research will be mega-useful when it comes time for your interview and your “Why our school” essay, but will also help you be more sure about your choice of schools.
Resume: There’s a big difference between the resume you use to apply for a job and the resume you’ll use to apply to b-school. Take advantage of this time before the essays are released to tweak that sucker, and get it ready for the adcoms.
Organize your Thoughts: Sure, you don’t know the essay prompts yet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start preparing. Write down your short-term and long-term career goals. Start thinking of your greatest leadership experiences (or, as we call ’em, your ‘greatest hits’), both inside and outside the office. Ask yourself WHY you need an MBA, and why NOW? Get all those things down on paper. These are the foundation to any and all MBA application essays, and having some clear thoughts and ideas early is going to make for a much easier writing process.
Essays: The questions start rolling out in the middle of June, so now it’s crunch time. Ideally, you will set yourself internal deadlines and get the schools done one by one, all before the first deadlines in September and October. Yes, you have 2 months or more until the deadlines hit, but you’re gonna need all the time you can get to draft, review, edit and edit again. You never know what’s gonna pop up at work or in life that could set you back, so give yourself TIME.
Keep in mind, this is an IDEAL timeline. We know it’s not gonna work for everyone, but it’s something to aim for. A basic framework for YOU to make your own. At the end of the day, the key is to give yourself as much time a possible and to set mini-goals for yourself along the way. Good luck!