This post was published in 2015, so any EssaySnark products or pricing referenced within may not be available under the same terms, or at all, and the schools may have changed their application policies. The planning advice should still be very relevant, whenever you come across it, though! Please doublecheck details on any EssaySnark products or school-specific application requirements before proceeding.
It’s time! In about a month, essay questions and MBA applications from some of the leading U.S. bschools will start to be released. [UPDATE: COLUMBIA RELEASED THEIRS ON 4/22/15! And Stanford and MIT and Harvard and Ross have now, too.] If you’re planning on applying in the Fall for the Class of 2018, then we’re here to help you get started.
This week we’re going to embark on a series about what you need to do and when you should be doing it, to get all of your application ducks in a row and be primed and ready for when Round 1 rolls around. Even though September seems like it’s forever away, given that we’re sitting here in early April, you will be amazed and likely a little dismayed at how quickly the time passes from here to Round 1 MBA deadlines. Committing to starting early, and working regularly on the different elements of your profile and pitch, is going to help you immensely. There’s nothing quite like the stress of facing the Round 1 deadlines on something so crucially important to your life, and you don’t want that pressure to be compounded by the feeling that you have screwed yourself by letting this stuff go till the last minute!
Plus, the obvious point which may not be so obvious: Good applications take time to develop. The stuff that is most likely to move the needle for the adcoms are things that you need to be working on over time – not things that you can cram out in a weekend of Red Bull.
So let’s get started: What do you need to do to get this MBA admissions thing to happen this year?
1. GMAT (or GRE)
That’s the obvious first step, right? As part of this series, we’ll go into some details on when to take the test (hint: AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!!! provided you’re prepared), and also which test to take.
1a. TOEFL if needed
We don’t talk about the TOEFL much here on the blahg but we’ll manage to do so in this series, to lay out what we can about who needs to worry about it and a strategy or two for how to manage it (here’s one! Timing for a TOEFL).
2. School Targets
There’s a lot of great schools out there. Which ones should you be focusing on? The best advice we can offer is that BRAND NAME DOES NOT MATTER. Or at least, it does not matter nearly as much as people think. Anyone reading this blahg is interested in the very best schools, and whether one ranking places your school of interest at #4, or #14 (or even #24), you’re going to be set up pretty with opportunities and an excellent education. In this series, we will be identifying which other factors are useful in narrowing down all the choices available.
3. Grades and GPA
How much do undergraduate grades matter in MBA admissions? Sometimes, a lot – but don’t worry, if your college transcript is riddled with craters and cavities and other sore spots, you can still make it into a great business school – provided you take action. Like, now.
4. Career Goals
You are not expected to know definitively what you plan to do post-MBA at this point … but before too much time passes, you’re going to want to sit down and figure that out. Too often, the MBA comes across as the tail wagging the dog – meaning, BSers say they want an MBA but they don’t have a good answer for why. The MBA is a means to an end, not an end unto itself. If you don’t have clarity on what that end state looks like (or at least a very strong working hypothesis) then you’re likely to run into problems navigating this process.
5. Accomplishments & Achievements
One of the best predictors of bschool admissions success comes down to this very simple question: Are you an overachiever? What have you accomplished in life? We have a standalone App Accelerator for any of you who are interested in diving in with these self-evaluations now. Suffice it to say, you need to have shown some motivation in how you’ve approached your educational and career opportunities; you need evidence of progression in your career to date, whether in a history of promotions or at minimum, greater and greater responsibilities; and you’ll need to have some fans and allies from the workplace who are queued up and ready to offer letters of recommendations on your behalf. These qualitative measures are at least as important to the adcoms – and often dramatically more so – than the quantitative elements of GMAT and GPA.
In the lead-up to their MBA apps, many Brave Supplicants get fixated on volunteering and charity work – but truly, extracurriculars are not the make-or-break factor that so many seem to think they are. Instead, the adcoms want evidence that you’re a well-rounded type of person, and often having some volunteer experience can show that. But it’s not the only way to show it. It certainly helps to have SOMETHING to enter in those fields in the MBA apps, and this is one important area that you may want to dive into, if it’s currently a weakness in your profile. Starting some volunteer work in April of the same year you’re applying to bschool will be very transparent, but it’s better than having nothing to report.
7. “What are my chances?”
Ha! The perennial BSer question – and one which is actually very difficult to answer when you’re too early in the process. We’re going to warn you against asking this question of any bschool admissions people since we’ve heard many times over the years that it’s their #1 unfavoritist question from candidates. Instead, we will shamelessly plug our Comprehensive Profile Review service which offers a detailed review of your candidacy and, yes, a preliminary answer to that question (we say “preliminary” because without seeing a completed app, including final essays, nobody can actually tell you how you might fare at any given program – be wary of anyone who claims that they can).
Those are the broad-strokes subject areas that you should be concerning yourself with – plus of course actually writing the essays (see posts on writing essays or check out the Essay Decimator if you have some drafts ready to roll) and securing the letters of recommendation (see posts on recommendations or check out the Letters of Recommendation App Accelerator) and overhauling your resume (see posts on the MBA resume or check out the Reworking the Resume App Accelerator). We will discuss each and every point as we move along in the next few weeks, and obviously we’ve discussed them all before here, too, all available to you through the Category dropdown menu and the Search box in the right-hand panel of the home page of this site.
If you have specific questions or concerns that you want us to address as we move through these topics, feel free to post in the comments and we’ll tailor some answers around those as we go.
To you Brave Supplicants who are gearing up for the MBA adventure: Good luck to you! We will be here to ride along with you as you make this dream a reality in the coming months.
All posts in this series:
- The #1 Mistake Applicants Make
- GMAT or GRE – which is best?
- Important Factors on GMAT Timing
- When are MBA essay questions coming out?
- But when will HARVARD release their essays?
- What should you NOT be working on first?
- Undergraduate GPA not so great?
- Have you considered the Columbia J-Term?
- Which schools tend NOT to change their essay questions each year?
- The best timing for the TOEFL
- The value of volunteering on an MBA app
- A great career goals question to practice with
- How long is all of this gonna take?
- “How do I tell my boss I’m applying to bschool?”
- Talking about transcripts