In this second article in our 5 Steps to Applying for an MBA series, you will decide which business schools you want to apply to and progress from Foundation Building to Capabilities Building. In an ideal world, the activities we describe will be completed 6 – 12 months prior to MBA application deadlines.
Choose Your Schools
During this six-month period, one of your primary objectives is to intensify your school research and select the schools you’re going to apply to. We can’t stress enough how important it is to go beyond magazine rankings and stereotypes and find the schools that are the best match for you. At MBA Prep School, all our students go through an intensive period of school due diligence. The case you build about why you’re applying to a particular school will be central to your essays and interviews because admissions committee are going to expect personal and specific answers about why you want to be part of their program. “You were ranked #1 in Business Week” – isn’t going to cut it.
Visit Business Schools
To choose your final list of business schools, you should attend information sessions and, if at possible, visit the MBA programs on your short list. School visits are critical because things like culture and campus dynamics are impossible to ascertain from afar. A quick tip, if you plan to apply for an MBA in Round 1 then conducting your school visit in the academic year prior to submitting your application is necessary if you want to visit the school while it’s in session. Keep a journal of all your school research and take careful notes about who you meet, what you learn, and what impresses you. First hand observations are many times more powerful than quoting the school’s website and other people’s opinions.
Identify Each School’s Fit Qualities
One aspect of Capability Building that is unique to MBA Prep School’s process is the ability our students have to identify each school’s “Fit Qualities.” The general qualities that top-tier MBA programs value are fairly well understood and intuitive: leadership, teamwork, a global outlook, etc … But in addition to these general qualities, schools tend to have certain qualities that they value more than others. We call these a school’s specific “Fit Qualities” — you might consider these the “highest common denominators” among students who are accepted. It’s your job to identify what these fit qualities might be because a school isn’t going to publish a definitive list. Listen carefully whenever admissions officers, professors, alumni, and current students say things like “intellectual vitality is really important at our school” or “we are looking for students who possess drive and the ability to defend their beliefs.” Signals like these are very important because they will help you to customize your resume, essays, and interview answers to feature qualities that the business school values most.
Improve Your Writing Skills
We often compare an MBA application to a marathon. At the Capabilities Building stage, you want to progress from general conditioning to building specific muscle groups that will get you to the finish line; the most important of these are your writing muscles. If the last essay you wrote was in college, it’s time to start hitting the “writing gym.” At MBA Prep School, our students actually complete a comprehensive course on MBA essay writing to improve their writing skills and prepare to tackle the MBA application essay questions.
Study Typical MBA Essay Questions
Along the same lines, MBA application essay questions for the next application season are released in June or early July, but the questions don’t change much from year; so you can get a head start in the Capabilities Building stage by familiarizing yourself with past years’ questions and brainstorming answers to commonly asked question like “What are your short-term and long-term career goals?”
Sign up for Online Accounts and Newsfeeds
The marathon’s starting gun really sounds on the day you sign up for your online MBA application accounts. We suggest you create your online account as early as possible so that you’ll receive notifications about school events and information sessions in your area. Another useful step is to sign up for newsfeeds and admissions officers’ blogs. These will keep you informed and provide answers to many of your common application questions.
Coming Attractions: Strategy Formulation
In the next article in this 5 Steps to Applying for an MBA series, we’ll reveal step 3. In Step 3, three to six months from the deadline, you will take the first definitive steps to applying to your dream MBA program: formulating your MBA application strategy.