Here’s the wrap-up post containing very practical advice offered by a successful Brave Supplicant – you can catch up with Part 1 on “Fundamentals” if you missed it.
Attending business school is a big decision that deserves a fair amount of primary research. Rankings and guides are a fine place to start, but to really get a feel for a school’s culture, talk to current students and alumni. Evaluate how responsive they are, how enthusiastic they are about the school, and if there’s a broad commonality they share. These are the people that you’re going to be studying with, learning from, traveling with, pounding shots at 2am with, and relying upon in your network for the rest of your career. It pays to get an idea of what they might be like, and what they thought of their MBA experience.
Visiting campus is another effective way to evaluate a school, and one that I’ll admit I didn’t appreciate. For the school I ended up choosing, I participated in a campus tour immediately prior to my on-campus interview partially just to avoid the negative signaling of not doing so (like, who interviews on campus and doesn’t do a tour?). However, the experience was much more compelling than I expected. The campus was impressive. I got a sense of what kind of applicants the school was attracting, and what kind were getting interviews. The most powerful part of the visit though, was experiencing first-hand the personalities and warmth of current students who had volunteered to make the on-campus programming possible. I felt as if I’d found “my people,” and left with a stronger sense that this school was the right fit for me.
In terms of your candidacy, the more data points you gather on school fit and can effectively weave into your application, the better your chances of impressing the adcom. Applicants who are competitive at top MBA programs have very impressive stats, and members of admissions committees have seas of 720+ GMAT scorers at brand-name employers and significant community contributions to wade through. If you can effectively show that you understand what their school’s about, and that you contribute to that mission, they will be that much more likely to give you a shot. In the interests of protecting their yield rates, adcoms also like to see serious applicants who’ve done their homework on the school (and are more likely to matriculate if admitted).
This is an area where a good admissions consultant can be additive. Each school may have a preference for what types of content appear in applicant essays. For example, one school may want mostly hardcore professional achievements, while another school may be more open to your sharing of personal interests. These nuances are not immediately obvious (or very obvious at all), and a good consultant can steer you in the right direction. Showcasing fit can also factor into merit scholarship awards.
Applying to business school is an incredibly stressful experience. For the typical MBA applicant who’s used to driving success and accomplishment through sheer force of will, it can be frightening to undergo a process with such opacity and uncertainty. I mean, you’re submitting a bunch of words to a group of strangers who will judge you and decide if you’re “good enough” to interview or to “reject” you. The lack of control and transparency is very frustrating. Compounding this stress is the fact that a lot of us have fairly demanding jobs and other commitments. I drank a lot of whisky.
It’s important to maintain a healthy attitude and perspective during these trying times. In order to be competitive for a top MBA program, you already have an impressive list of achievements and would do fine even without an MBA. Don’t neglect your health – exercise, eat well, and don’t forget proper sleep hygiene. Build in some buffer in your application timeline so that you can afford to take a weekend or two completely off to maintain your sanity. Don’t forget to express your appreciation to your partner for putting up with the nervous wreck that is you. Reflect on all the hard work you’ve done in order to get to where you are. Don’t forget to be grateful to those who’ve helped you out along the way.
Everything will work out. Yes, I got into a top school…but I was also rejected by three others along the way. (Granted, I didn’t beat myself up too badly about it – these were some of the best programs in the world, all finance-heavy schools on the East Coast. This does drive home a point though: you must diversify your application set – there are no guarantees when it comes to elite MBA admissions.) I was not in a happy place as I stared down the barrel of possibly having to crank out Round 2 apps over Christmas.
Remember that an admit is just one potential step in your journey, and not the endgame. You have accomplished much to get to this point, and will continue to do so. The cream always rises to the top.
Amen brother (or, uh, sister…) – you said it as good as we ever could! Now in hopes that this message will get across to the huddled masses of yearning Brave Supplicants coming across tumultuous seas in a journey towards the promised land this year… 😀
Thanks again for the great advice, and once more, CONGRATULATIONS – not just on the admit but the happy granting of bschool dollars, too! Those will come in handy. You clearly ended up exactly where you should be!!!!