An effective MBA application strategy can make the difference between a collection of acceptance letters and an inbox full of disappointment. In this third article in our 5 Steps to Applying for an MBA series, we describe the steps you can take to formulate a powerful application strategy. This is work you need to start 3 – 6 months ahead of the application deadlines.
Formulate Your Application Strategy
Your application strategy is in essence a communication plan – you might think of it as the executive summary of your answers to the fundamental questions that almost all MBA applications ask. Those questions are:
- Are You a Leader?
- What are Your Career Goals?
- What have you achieved professionally?
- Why are you applying to our school? and
- What can you contribute to our community?
Now, these aren’t the only questions business school admissions officers want answered – but we believe they are the essential ones.
The interesting thing about these questions is that they are deceptively simple — answering them well is a lot trickier than you might think. The goal of your MBA application strategy work is to have a clear, concise, compelling answer to each of these questions. At MBA Prep School, one of our most important missions is to help our students understand what admissions committees are looking for when they ask these five questions. In our How to Apply for an MBA video courses, we show MBA applicants how to formulate authentic answers that are sure to impress the admissions office.
Choose Your References
By the time you reach this step in your MBA application process, we hope you have established excellent relationships with your superiors and mentors and that they are already aware that you’ll be applying to business school in a few months. About three months before the application deadlines, you should meet with the people on your MBA reference letter short list to gauge their enthusiasm for your plans and determine which of them would be willing to write what we call a “top 10%” recommendation letter. The top-ranked business schools only accept the top 10% of applicants; so your reference letters must build the case that this is where you stand relative to your peer group.
Create Your MBA Application Resume
The first step in implementing your MBA application strategy is creating your MBA application resume. Resume experts will advise you to tailor your resume for each job you’re applying to – similarly – you want to tailor your MBA application resume to each school you’re applying to. Remember the “fit qualities” I told you about in the second article in this series? Resume real estate is precious so you want to make sure you allocate that space in a way that supports the themes and qualities you want to feature in all elements of your application.
Draft Your MBA Career Goals Essay
At least one of the schools you’re applying to will want you to connect the dots between your career progress, career aspirations, and motivations for pursuing an MBA. In the months before the application essays have been published, you can get a head start on this kind of essay – commonly referred to as the MBA Career Goals essay. MBA Prep School has created a number of powerful resources that can help you formulate the content of an excellent career goals essay. We even created a video course to teach our students a step-by-step process for writing their career goals essay.
Study MBA Application Policies and Procedures
Three to four months before the first round deadline, the moment everyone’s been waiting for arrives and the business school applications and essay questions are published. We want to make sure everyone listening to this lecture pays careful attention to the fine print on the school’s application policies – read them as carefully as a tax lawyer looking for a loophole. It would be tragic to have all your preparation work and brilliant application strategy go to waste because you didn’t follow directions.
Coming Attractions: Execution
The focus of your final three months to the MBA application deadline is the execution of your application strategy — in the form of your essays, recommendation letters, and interview preparation. In the next article in our 5 Steps to Applying for an MBA series, we show you how to put the communication plan you designed into action.