Allegedly, I’m supposed to get some satisfaction out of this whole b-school app process. People love to talk about how you’ll go through these intense periods of life-altering introspection as you craft your essays. Well, in less than a week, I’ll be submitting my final Round 1 app, and I haven’t experienced those magical moments. Sure, I’ve had to be incredibly introspective, but I could do that same touchy-feely stuff in a diary that wouldn't be critiqued by an admissions committee. Anyway, as I near the end of this part of my journey, I’d like to offer some advice to future applicants. 1. Start early: I thought I started early, yet, I still feel the pressure of looming deadlines. 2. Finish the GMAT and move on: Essays and apps are a lot of work. And so is the GMAT (don’t forget, I took the exam three times). Determine an efficient study plan and get it done so that you can focus on all of the other stuff. 3. Apply to 2-3 schools per round: I am in the process of applying to… erm… a few more than 2 schools in Round 1. Alas, that’s significantly compounded my stress. 4. Determine your story: You’re competing against numerous other applicants – about 9,000, in fact, if you apply to HBS. So, what makes you special and what will you contribute to a b-school class? Figure out the themes that you want to convey. 5. Talk to current students: There’s so much more to schools than what’s published in admissions brochures and what adcoms will tell you. 6. Find a buddy: Misery loves company, right? Seriously though, it’s been incredibly beneficial for me to have a friend who’s also going through this process – someone who understands when I don’t go out for drinks after work because I want to revise my essays. 7. Don’t forget all of the other stuff: Short-answer questions, resumes, extracurricular activities... Yes, essays are a major component of your application, but make sure that you allot sufficient time to work on all of those other little things. No matter what, applying to b-school is not fun. In fact, it kinda sucks. But if you plan accordingly, it can suck less. And hey, when those magical acceptance letters (hopefully) roll in, it’ll all be worth it. Michelle’s what we like to call a “non-traditional” applicant. You know, she’s not a banker or a consultant, and she doesn’t want to BE a banker or a consultant. So she’s different. And her goal, which is the goal of ALL non-traditional applicants, is to show how she’s different (in a good way) but not THAT different (as in…not right for business school.) Follow along with her as she tackles this process.