The Round 1 deadlines for the most MBA applications are in September or October. The most successful students are the ones who start their preparation ahead of time, about 6 to 8 months before Fall deadlines. By planning ahead and starting early, you can make the application process rewarding as well as enjoyable.
1. GMAT Score
First and foremost, ace the GMAT. The GMAT is the biggest parameter you need for making a list of your target schools. Take the GMAT in advance, and in case you do not get your desired score, you will still have some time to retake it before you begin focusing on other parts of the application.
However, if your GMAT is more than 700, you may not try to score an extra 20 to 40 points at the cost of the quality of your application. Rather you can spend this time in building your application.
2. Start Researching B-Schools
Selecting your schools is an extremely time-consuming process. Ranking of business schools and brand are important, but it is crucial to find your ‘fit’ with the program where you intend to spend the two years of your life.
With proper planning and research, you can definitely pick out schools that will align with your credentials and aspirations. However, take significant time in researching and selecting your schools. For selecting the right B school, you will have to consider many factors such as geographical location, loans, scholarships, courses, employment, and companies that are regular recruiters over the years.
3. Reach out to Current Students and Alumni
While researching various programs and their offerings, you should also reach out to people with MBA experience: colleagues, friends, current students, and alumni. Their feedback will help you determine if their perspectives and experiences align with your research or not.
Also, attending MBA fairs and school information sessions will provide you relevant information on your shortlisted schools.
4. Visit the B-Schools
If possible, visit the business schools, and meet with faculty or talk to students, and take a tour of the campus. A campus visit will give you a sense of the culture of the school and help you decide if you see yourself spending the two most important years of your life at this school.
The resume is your first introduction to the admission committee. MBA resume is different from a job resume. You will need a significant amount of time and effort in building it. MBA resumes are brief and concise stories of your skills, interests, experience and key accomplishments.
As many schools have reduced the number of required essay questions, resumes play a larger role in evaluating students’ applications. Make sure that your resume tells the full story of your professional, educational and extracurricular achievements.
6. Recommendation Letters
It is also time to reach out to your recommenders. The best recommenders are people who know you well and are interested in your future goals. Once you have chosen your recommenders, apprise them of your plans to apply to B-schools and guide them about how the process works.
Make sure that your recommenders get enough time to write the recommendation letters. As they are busy people, you should request a meeting to discuss the key themes you would like to showcase in your application.
7. Personal and Professional Experiences
Self-awareness and self-reflection are the keys to build stories for MBA essays. So, instead of waiting for the B-schools to roll out their essay questions, begin thinking about your story. Everyone has a unique story, spend some time to think about yours.
Even though B-schools change their essay topics, there are some concepts that are the same among business schools. For example, all schools will expect you to write your goals essay, so take your time to identify your short term and long-term goals. Also, start thinking of your greatest leadership experiences, accomplishments, background, life experiences, strengths and weaknesses, and how these will help you add value to your target school.
Some of the most common themes you can organise your thoughts on are:
- Why do you want to pursue an MBA?
- What is your career goal post-MBA?
- Where do you see yourself 5 to 10 years from now?
- How will you contribute to MBA classroom?
- Why are you interested in the program?
8. Strengthen Your Position at Work
To strengthen your profile, take initiatives at work and look for opportunities to manage challenging projects or teams. Try to go above and beyond your regular job responsibilities and volunteer for leadership roles. For example, you may mentor a junior employee or organise a company-sponsored volunteer event.
Update and refine your LinkedIn profile and make it a strong marketing tool. As you prepare for the application process, make sure you are taking actions that align with your personal and professional goals.
9. Extra-curricular Activities
In order to showcase your well-rounded personality, you should also get involved in extracurricular activities and community service activities. This will add value to your application because top ranked programs are looking for candidates who are not just focused on work but are well-rounded individuals who have other interests as well. So, it is never too late to volunteer for new experiences at work and outside of work. Try to get involved in an activity you are passionate about.