Applying To B-School: When To Start

The earlier you start, the better off you'll be. Need we say more? (Sigh) Fine then. Read on, friends. There's much to cover.

Wondering when to start applying for business school?

As 2016 drew to (what many folks would deem as) a much anticipated close, we saw a fair amount of messages from prospective B-School applicants that sounded a lot like this one:

“Hi. I’m interested in applying to MBA programs that start in 2018. I know it’s early and essay questions aren’t out yet, but I’m wondering if there’s anything I can start working on now?”

It’s a great question and one that, quite frankly, we wish we got more often around here. Loads of people come to us for help in the 11th hour, when their apps are due in less than a week! It’s ALWAYS better to give yourself more time. Needless to say, we’re big fans of the proactive mindset and getting an early start.

And sure, essay questions for next 2018 won’t be posted for a few months, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get started on the application process now. After all, there’s a LOT to do before you can actually start filling out those apps.

Take the GMAT (and do well on it)

Yes, this one’s a given, but there’s more to it than simply sitting for the test. Think about the schools you want to go to (more on that later) and make sure your GMAT is competitive. If it’s not, sign up for a GMAT prep class and prepare to re-take the exam. If you start now, you could have it all done by April or May… which is perfect timing for those round 1 apps.

Staring doing some research

You want to go to Harvard/Stanford/Wharton? Great! So does the rest of the world. Do yourself and favor and look into some other programs too. There are tons of awesome B-Schools out there beyond H/S/W, and you’d be doing yourself a great disservice if you didn’t consider them. [And don’t forget about Canada!]

What should you be looking for? That depends on what’s important to you, but research where the school is located, what sort of student groups there are, key faculty members and classes, the post-grad employment stats, and all the other aspects of a school that make it a good fit for you.

[We recommend applying to at least 7 schools (2 reach, 2 “safe” and 3 right in the middle), so spend some time and find the 7 schools that work for you.]

Fill in the holes. Do you know what’s required for B-School apps? First, find that out and then make sure you’ve got your ducks in a row. Line up some potential recommenders, get your resume in order, step up to the plate at work and take on a leadership role. Do whatever you have to do NOW so you’re a strong applicant come September.

Visit! We say this all the time… and that’s because it’s important. You’re going to be spending up to two years (and a lot of money!) in business school, so you want to be 100% certain that you’re happy with your choice. How can you be sure if you’ve never stepped foot on campus? So get there. Walk around, sit in on a class, chat with students and just soak up the campus culture (here’s some additional advice from a few of our wizard MBA consultants).

Yyyyep… it’s a lot. And we haven’t even covered the actual applications yet.  Aren’t you glad you’re getting started early? There’s a lot of work to do, friend… The good news is you’ve got plenty of time to do it.