Prepare for MBA Applications Now With These 5 Tips

MBA Planning Timeline

It’s time for the Class of 2021!

Even while many applicants from the 2017-18 season are still weighing offers, MBA admissions committees are already moving on to the next season.

Harvard Business School and Columbia Business School recently announced their 2018-19 deadlines and prompts, and by mid-June, most round one applications will be open. So what should an aspiring applicant be doing NOW, in May? Here are a few helpful tips from the Admissionado MBA team:

Prepare for the GMAT

It goes without saying that more time is always better when it comes to a high-stakes test like the GMAT. By not procrastinating, you give yourself a better chance of getting a high score and a second chance (or more) if things go wrong. You also ensure that your studying will be done before you start writing your application, allowing you to devote more time to your essays.

Most applicants understand these factors; less appreciated is the impact your GMAT score can have on the rest of your application. Your score can shape your target school list, which should shape the networking and career choices you make over the next few months. For example, say you only realize that you have the numbers for Stanford GSB a month before their round one deadline. At the point, it may be impossible to get in contact with GSB alumni, attend GSB admissions events, fill GSB-specific gaps in your profile or otherwise prove your fit for GSB’s specific program. Because these other aspects of the application may be contingent on your score, it’s vital to get the test done as early as possible.

Research Potential Target Schools

Successful admissions essays rely on research. We need to prove that you know what an MBA is all about, why you need one, and what makes “School X” the perfect fit for your needs. All of these things require in-depth research. You should follow the admissions blogs and forums for your target schools, visit campuses, attend events and (most importantly) talk to your network. Reach out to MBA students, alumni or professors in your network and talk to them about their experiences, their schools, and their careers.

Try to gain insights that a person Googling online couldn’t get and write them down—those concrete, personal touches are the foundation of a strong MBA admissions essay. Also, consider your own goals. If you plan to found a tech company post-graduation, but you haven’t thought much about what industry or market you’d like to focus on, now is the time to start thinking! If you want to transition to a new career but you aren’t sure what firms you’ll target in your new industry, now is the time to do that research! You need a firm career/business plan to convince an MBA adcom that you’re serious about your future.

>> Recommended Reading: How Badass MBA Applicants Write About Their Goals

Explore Firm Sponsorship Programs

If you’re considering getting sponsorship from your current firm for your MBA, look into the details of the program as soon as possible. If you work at a large company, getting sponsorship can be a lengthy bureaucratic process involving many factors outside your direct control. Even at a smaller company, all it takes is one manager shuffling your application to the bottom of their inbox to put you weeks behind. Adcoms love applicants with a secure post-graduation job offer, so you want this done in time for your round one application essays.

Fill in the Gaps on Your Profile

Applicants often make the false assumption that the spring before their application is too late to address gaps in their profile. There’s still a lot that you can do! For example, if you’re worried that you have no extraprofessional activities on your resume, start one now. If you don’t have any leadership at work, ask your boss if you can take the lead on a project. If you have some academic weaknesses in your undergraduate record, consider taking a summer course on your weak points (if and only if you’re sure you can get an A).

>> Recommended Reading: Leadership Experience and Your MBA Application

Talk to Your Recommenders

Letters of recommendation are often logistically complex, especially when your recommender is a busy and important person, or someone you haven’t talked to in a while. By planning ahead, you can overcome a lot of these hurdles and leave a good impression with a person whose impression of you matters. At the very least, try to identify who your recommenders will be by the end of May. If you’re not sure about someone, try talking to current or former colleagues about their experience getting a recommendation from that person. If you already know you’ll be using your current supervisor, the next step is obvious: Lay the groundwork for a stellar recommendation by going the extra mile at work.

Applying to an MBA program can seem daunting, but it can be easy and even enjoyable if divided into manageable pieces. The professionals know this; that’s why admissions committees start their side of the process in May. You should do the same!

Secrets of 700+ Scorers on the GMAT