If you are more than twelve weeks from applying, you may be wondering what you can do to begin building the foundation for your future applications. There are a number of actions we recommend you take now to ensure that your absolute best application emerges once you start the 12-week MBA Prep Steps™ program. We recommend that you:
- Obtain Your Undergraduate Transcripts
- Complete Your Standardized Test(s)
- Start an Application Journal
- Decide Which Round to Apply in
- Strengthen Your Candidacy
- Begin Career Planning & Research
- Build Relationships With Potential References
- Select Target Schools and Begin School Research
- Visit Target Schools
Obtain Your Undergraduate Transcripts
Order your academic transcripts and review them carefully – long before the admissions officers will. Don’t just rely on your memory, because you might discover too late that the 3.1 GPA you remember graduating with was actually a 2.9 – or that you repressed the memory of that “D” you earned in Psychology 101.
If there are red flags in your academic history, the sooner you know about them the better. Once you’ve identified them, you can take steps to counterbalance poor performance with additional coursework or by tackling professional or personal projects that require the skills that you might have struggled to master in your undergraduate days.
Complete Your Standardized Tests
It’s best to get the GMAT and other standardized tests completed in this preparatory stage. If English is not your native language, and you didn’t go to an English-only university, you may be required to take the TOEFL – which is short for “Test of English as a Foreign Language.” You don’t want to have to worry about studying for and taking a standardized test in the final months before the deadline while you’re holding down a full-time job and doing the heavy lifting required to assemble a great application.
Start an Application Journal
Although this might sound odd, you need to take steps to assess your capabilities and get to know yourself better. If an admissions officer asked you right now what you are most passionate about, what your three greatest strengths are, and what accomplishment you are most proud of, would you have an answer ready? If you haven’t invested time in self-assessment, then you might not. We recommend that you start writing in a journal every day, exploring questions like those. By doing so, you will develop content for your future essays and limber up your “writing muscles” for the essay-writing marathon ahead.
Strengthen Your Candidacy
In the months (and even years) before you apply, you need to start thinking like an admissions officer so that you can identify the strengths and weaknesses in your MBA candidacy and take proactive steps, before you apply, to reinforce your strengths and counteract your weaknesses.
Don’t just write yourself off for a top-tier MBA program because you have a few weaknesses in your profile. As you will learn in the next unit of the course, given enough lead-time, there are a number of things you can do to address potential weaknesses in your academic transcripts, resume, and leadership portfolio.
Decide Which Round to Apply In
There are plenty of opinions about which application round is the best one to apply in. In our opinion, there is an advantage to applying “early decision” or, if that’s not an option, in Round 1. The deadlines for Round 1 are typically in early October. Keep in mind that the small edge you will enjoy by submitting an application in the first round is never enough to make up for an application that is even a few percentage points below the best you are capable of given more time.
Round 2 in early January is when most applicants will apply; so this is indeed a highly competitive round. The simple answer is that you really can’t go wrong by applying in the second round; it is certainly competitive, but by completing the MBA Prep Steps™ program you will be well prepared to compete.
Which brings us to Round 3. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but Round 3 in March is like one of the rings in Dante’s inferno – a place of heart break and eternal suffering. Unless your profile is beyond exceptional and exotic and you are one of the luckiest people you know, you would be joining a game that is pretty much already over. Rather than applying in Round 3, our advice is to wait until Round 1 of the following year to apply.
Taking the preceding advice into account, if you have at least twelve weeks until the Round 1 deadlines, then we recommend that you begin our 12-week MBA Prep Steps™ program with the goal of submitting your applications in Round 1. That way if you are not ready by the time the deadlines arrive, then applying in Round 2 will be your failsafe.
Another strategy that has worked well for applicants who are applying to multiple schools is to apply to your “reach” schools in Round 1 and your “safer” schools in Round 2. That way if you receive an acceptance letter to your dream school in Round 1, you can withdraw your applications from the safety schools. By the same token, if you aren’t accepted to the schools you applied to in Round 1, you will have applications in progress to your backup schools that will be ready for second round submission.
Begin Career Planning & Research
Just about every school you apply to is going to ask you about your career goals; so you’ll want to start your career planning work long before it’s time to sit down to write your career goals essays. If your short-term and long-term career goals are already clear to you, great! If not, we encourage you to start your career planning work well in advance of the application period.
Build Relationships With Potential References
Relationship building is another step in the application process that can’t be rushed. Can you name three people right now who would happily write a letter to a business school professing that you’re in the top 10% of your peer group? If you want to go to a top-tier school, you’re going to need two to three reference letters that say exactly that. Our belief is that if you start thinking about building these relationships now, you’ll have had the opportunity to be of service to your future references long before you ask them to be of help to you.
Select Target Schools and Begin School Research
In addition to self-awareness, you need to increase your “school awareness.” Too many candidates rely too heavily on the rankings and what other people have to say about where they should apply. You need to invest a good deal of time and effort in “school due diligence” to determine which schools best match your academic goals, career goals, and cultural expectations. Time invested in school awareness at this stage will allow you to make the best-informed choice of schools. More to the point, in your essays and interviews, you’ll be prepared to clearly explain to the admissions officers your specific reasons for applying to their school.
Visit Target Schools
Attend information sessions in your home city and, if at all possible, visit the campus of schools on your target list. School visits are critical for ascertaining culture and campus dynamics. Take careful notes in your journal about what impresses you because first hand observations are many times more powerful than quoting the school’s website and other people’s opinions.
If you plan to apply in Round 1, then you should visit your target schools in the academic year prior to applying so you can visit the schools while they are in session.
Unit Review: Preparing for the MBA Prep Steps™ Program
Prior to beginning our intensive, 8-12 week MBA Prep Steps™ Programs, to ensure that your strongest application emerges, these are the steps you should take:
- Obtain Your Undergraduate Transcripts: Order your academic transcripts and review them carefully long before the admissions officers will.
- Complete Your Standardized Test(s): Take the GMAT and other standardized tests in the preparatory stage.
- Start an Application Journal: Start an application journal to increase self-awareness and limber up your writing muscles.
- Strengthen Your Candidacy: Identify the strengths and weaknesses in your MBA candidacy and take proactive steps before you apply to reinforce your strengths and to counteract your weaknesses.
- Begin Career Planning & Research: Begin your career planning work long before it’s time to sit down to write your career goals essays.
- Build Relationships With Potential References: Build mentor relationships now so that you’ll have had the opportunity to be of service to your future references long before you ask them to be of help to you.
- Select Target Schools and Begin School Research: Invest time and effort in “school due diligence” to determine which schools best match your academic goals, career goals, and cultural expectations.
- Visit Target Schools: School visits are critical for ascertaining culture and campus dynamics.