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Is An MBA In Your Future? Here’s How To Prepare NOW.

January 09, 2019 :: Admissionado

So, you’re a spritely recent college graduate, or maybe you’ve already been crushing it as a ‘real’ adult, and you’ve decided that you want to go to b-school in some years. Firstly, congrats on coming to this epiphany sooner rather than later!

Setting your sights on b-school this early in the game will bring a level of intentionality to the story you tell in your application that so many candidates scramble to put together at the last minute. On that note, your first order of business should be patting yourself on the back, and maybe even treating yourself to that overpriced smoothie.

Now, you’re ready to tackle the million dollar question — “What should I be doing NOW to make sure that I put my best foot forward when I apply to b-school in X years?” Quite frankly, b-school adcoms aren’t really going to be interested in what you did 4+ years prior to applying anyway. So the good news is that you have plenty of time to make that career move that might resemble a Hail Mary for credibility if done too late in the game, as well as compensate for any component of your application that is not currently up to par with your dream school’s standards.

Recommended Reading: When to Apply for an MBA

To that end, we’re gonna give you some quick tips on how to start building up each key component of the MBA application now so that you show the admissions committee that you are nothing short of a no-brainer for admissions.

1. Compensate for a low GPA

Maybe you were initially a pre-med student until the rigorous pre-med curriculum crushed your grades (and your soul), or maybe you were too focused on your old dream of becoming a ballerina to care about your performance in your math class. Regardless of why your undergraduate GPA fell below the benchmark, the important thing is that there are lots of moves you can make to compensate for that low GPA and prove to the adcom that you’ve got killer quantitative skills before applying.

Take some quantitative courses at a local college, or even an online university. Start flipping through old textbooks and shamelessly pick up that copy of Finance for Dummies from your local Barnes & Noble’s so that you’ll be ready to snag that finance certification.

All the adcom really wants to see from your transcript is that you’ll succeed in the b-school classroom, especially in quantitative courses like statistics and economics. Passing classes and certification tests a couple years after undergrad is a better indicator of your academic performance at b-school than that C you got in Econ 101 sophomore year of college.

2. Crushing the GMAT

More good news! Even if you’ve never taken a business course in your life, you’ve got time to show the adcom your business-savvy potential by crawling through books, splurging money on prep classes and seeking however much advice is necessary to make sure you crush the GMAT. You’ll want to do some research on the average scores of your dream school to know how high you should be aiming. But you’ll want to aim for at least the 720-730 range in order to fall into the average range for most top schools.

3. Activities and Interests

A key mistake that so many candidates make on their applications is failing to show that they are, well…how should be put this? Interesting! Especially if you come from a more traditional b-school candidate sector, you are going to need to set yourself apart from the next finance or consulting or product manager guy by showing that you care about getting involved in your local community and have a life outside of work. The last thing you want to do is cram a bunch of random volunteer activities into the last 3 months before you submit your b-school application, so you’ve got time to weigh your options and pursue activities that are meaningful to you.

These ‘extra-professional’ activities can be as simple as coaching a middle school basketball team, fundraising for a cause you care about, performing at weekly stand-up comedy nights at a local theater, or even maintaining a blog that raises awareness about something close to your heart! How do you decide what additional activities to pursue? The most important thing is that you are legitimately interested in and care about whatever activity you choose. Authenticity is key.

Additional activities and interests are also a great way to show off your leadership and managerial skills in an unconventional setting, so you’ll want to seek leadership positions if at all possible. Improving your middle school team’s basketball skills to go from a losing record to league champs in two seasons, or raising 50% more funds than the previous year at a local charity can look preeeettyyy impressive to a b-school adcom.

4. Leadership at Work

If you are a recent college graduate and still hold an entry-level role at work, chances are that you are not going to get a title change or promotion that lets you manage a team, take the lead on deals or otherwise show conventional ‘leadership’ in your current role. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t start showing some key leadership traits, such as taking initiative, navigating ambiguous situations and motivating others.

Tell your manager that you want to take on additional responsibilities — request to be put on that major project that is usually reserved for more senior analysts, propose a new internal initiative to improve employee satisfaction or get a team together to pursue a side-project that will bring long-term value to company. Managers are more receptive to this sort of thing than you might think. Who wouldn’t want to enable their employee to bring even more value to the company?

5. Letters of Recommendation

Don’t have any strong relationships with your manager or other mentors? Fear not. You’ve got time to cozy up to those individuals who are situated to write the strongest letters of recommendation for you. When deciding who you want to write your letters, the most important aspect is that they know you intimately enough to comment on your performance as an employee as well as your character as a person. The biggest mistake b-school applicants make when choosing their recommenders is going for people who’ve got fancy titles and seniority, but who do not know them well enough to give specific examples and insights into who they are.

Recommended Reading: How to Choose an MBA Recommender That Strikes the Right Balance

So start with your current direct supervisor. Shoot her an email asking to discuss your b-school plans over coffee so that she knows that b-school is on your radar, or tell your manager that you want to set up one-on-one mentorship meetings to really hone in on your leadership skills.

6. Self Reflection

And off to the final major component of your future b-school application…the essays! Believe it or not, b-school essays need not be some daunting task, shrouded in mystery of deciphering what the adcom wants to hear. The essays are an act of self-reflection and a chance for you to link your current experience to your post-MBA goals. That’s it. Start doing some research now into your dream school so that you already know what to expect from the essays. You’ll be able to find the exact prompts, which tend to be the same from year-to-year, so you won’t be taken by surprise.

Recommended Reading: Crafting Sharp MBA Goals

Do you know you want to go to b-school in 3, 4, 5 years, but you’re not quite sure exactly what you want to do afterward? That’s okay! You have time now to do some serious introspection and think deeply about what your short-term and long-term career goals are, and why you absolutely need an MBA to fulfill them. You will want to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses, gaps in your managerial and strategic savvy, as well as any skill-sets or industry expertise that you don’t currently have but will need to attain your goals, whatever they are. Once you have reached this level of self-aware in these areas, telling your story in the essays will be a cakewalk. 


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