So, Round 2. Let’s get busy, shall we?
We already offered some guidelines for how many apps might be appropriate to try for Round 2, given the time remaining.
And of course you need to know which schools are on this list that you are targeting, and hopefully you have vetted these to be realistic for the purpose of actually getting in for your profile and future post-MBA interests. (Not vetted them yet? The Comprehensive Profile Review offers exactly that, and more!)
So then you’d think you should just start writing some essays, right?
Not so fast.
There are better ways, and not-so-better ways, to get from here (middle of December with no apps submitted) to there (middle of January with some really good and hopefully even admissible apps submitted).
The first warning which we warn about all the time and will warn about forevermore: Please do not do Harvard Business School as your first application.
Their essay questions are just too difficult. You will be tackling the hardest task of them all without having the skillset you need to attack it. Don’t do that.
Instead, you want to optimize.
That optimization should happen along a number of axes:
1. Learn on the easier school: Do the school on your list with the “easiest” essay questions as your first project — and obviously “easiest” is in quotes, because none of them are easy! However, schools in this category might be ones with more straightforward career goals questions, like perhaps Columbia, or LBS, and maybe even Wharton, or possibly Chicago Booth, among a few others.
2. Difficulty and/or selectivity: Do those schools with the hardest questions (like Harvard and Stanford) and also do those schools that are the hardest to get into (Harvard and Stanford and Wharton and maybe a few others like MIT or Kellogg too) as your second and third projects
3. Your highest preference: Do the school that you are most in love with as your second or third project
4. “Just tossing my hat in the ring” schools and “This school should be a walk in the park” schools: Deprioritize these. Tackle them later. Some people end up tackling them never.
Note that this attempt at optimization cannot be perfectly optimized in many cases because of the competing priorities.
Most important to optimize around is this: Your probable burnout factor.
If you’re like most people, that will start to hit hard after your third or fourth project! You will become seriously demotivated and it will be a complete slog. You will begin to cut corners. You will get sloppy. You won’t bother to pull in the details on “why this school” that are so crucial for many adcoms to see in order to be convinced of your fit there.
Another tactic to maximize on: If you got some apps in during Round 1 and those apps are actually popping for you, and you’re feeling buoyed by the confidence and optimism of a win: Do the more selective and competitive schools now. Obviously you must’ve done something right in the essays on your first round of apps in order to be sitting pretty now. Use that good energy to push into this next pile of work.
As you can see, tactics are malleable and should shift and adjust based on circumstances.
The one that we’re a true stickler for: Don’t set yourself up for an even greater challenge than necessary by trying to write essays for questions that are exceptionally challenging when you don’t yet have the skill of writing good essays under your belt.
Most people’s best application is project #3, if they’re not too rushed and not too burned out by then. If Project #3 happens on January 3rd, then we’re less confident it’s going to be your best work. If you finish it on December 23, it very well might be.
And yes, you could get to your third set of essays in 10 days’ time (we’ve helped folks do it before!).
Most important is to dive in right now. Stop procrastinating. This is your time!