This is another most excellent write-up from a most excellent
BSer Soon-To-Be-Bschool-Student that we have hung onto for far too long. Thank you for this great contribution to the blahg, STBBS!! These 8 Steps are pretty much perfect.
I started planning to apply back in 2010, like a nutcase. To be fair, I was planning on applying in fall 2011, but I started a new job and put it off. But this was great, because I had years to mull over MBA things.
Here are my 8 Steps of Applying to Business School, and All the Ways I Was Annoyed During Them.
Step 1: GMAT, early 2011. Choked the first time (640), took it again a month later fortified with more caffeine. Barely studied during my month off; I needed sanity, not studying. 740, but a low-ish quant score. I had never scored that high overall on a practice test, though! [This is pretty amazing – a 100-point improvement in just one month is practically unheard of! For all you BSers out there, don’t be fooled: YOU NEED TO STUDY! -EssaySnark]
Step 2: Choose schools. I visited a few schools and I didn’t get the gut feeling I had hoped for. Axed those schools. I met with students/alums. I tried forums and blogs, which were so neurotic that I stopped. In the end, I applied where students seemed most similar to me in terms of personality and interests—NOT just profile. I applied to 2 top 5 schools, and 1 in the top 7 (5? 10? Depends who you ask and what industry you’re in, so I roughly averaged).
Step 3: Essays. For me, essays were the biggest headache. First and foremost, I barely write these days. “Rusty” would be an understatement. Also, I don’t think I had opened Word since college. I found, inexplicably, that it wasn’t even installed on my laptop anymore, and it took me days to locate my Office installation CDs. They were at my parents’ house…250 miles away, so, that was an unexpected setback. No one said applying to bschool is glamorous.
Also, I simply could not think of topics. I struggled with introspection. I was having a self-esteem crisis…bschool apps will do that to you. None of my experiences seemed impressive or unique. Once, I found myself noticing that I was the only one among several friends on an email chain who hadn’t completed a marathon/triathlon. You would think that would show me these experiences were common enough to be rote (isn’t that crazy?). Instead, I worried, which is unproductive because I hear we are all special in our own way.
EssaySnark was kind enough to critique an early draft of my first essay. [Find out how you can submit yours for a free review too.] I had pros and cons for each section of the essay I sent in. EssaySnark commented on each section separately, so I knew exactly where I was on the right track and where I wasn’t. So, the first lesson from the critique: I used that general roadmap, and info from tons of blahg posts, for every essay I wrote and every topic I brainstormed.
The second HUGE lesson: Overall, I felt the events in my essay occurred too long ago (middle school) and discussed an un-bschool-like trait (being shy). Surprisingly to me, EssaySnark okayed it. I realized there is no specific story the schools want. [emphasis added. -EssaySnark] Instead, I brainstormed the times that I had stuck with something despite the hassle or difficulty. Those times may seem mundane to others, but they were significant to me, so I could write about my motivations with feeling… and with specific anecdotes to “show, not tell.” For example, overcoming shyness was a crucial, but unheralded, fight in my life. You don’t put that on your resume. I also thought about some volunteering that had been wildly inconvenient and terribly frustrating, but so worthy. It’s listed on my resume, but I don’t note why it was so important to me. I’m not going to pretend that I was suddenly flush with topics—I recycled only a few stories through all my essays—but I stopped worrying about the “right” way to do things.
Note: I just glanced back over my essays. Some themes that jump out at me: determination, curiosity, a little girl power, the messy politics of int’l business & globalization. These themes were inadvertent, but they are a great reflection of who I am and what I think about. I guess my introspection process worked!
Step 4: The actual online application, which was the biggest shock to me. No one talks about it, and it’s incredibly time consuming! It’s very. very. difficult to effectively boil down years of your life into a few hundred characters, so starting early is key. This is also relevant to crafting your resume. There is so much to say and so little space; I wanted every single word in my application to count.
Step 5-7: Resume and Recommendations and Interviews. [Hmmm… did someone get sick of writing a guest post right about here? 😉 -EssaySnark]
Step 8: Waiting. Don’t get me started on All the Ways I Was Annoyed during this step.
Of my 3 schools, I got rejected from one, into the other two with fellowships. My application process worked out far better than I could have expected, and for that, I am lucky that getting into bschool took only one attempt.
Congratulations!! That’s quite an impressive outcome. 😀
We’ve got a few additional takeaways also offered by this superstar STBBS and we will be posting them in future time.