Planning Ahead for Your MBA Part 4: August - October
We at mbaMission always recommend getting started with your MBA applications as early as possible. By taking action now, you can dramatically improve your chances of gaining admission to a top MBA program in the coming years. It is never too soon (and certainly not too late) to take several crucial steps to shape your MBA candidacy. So we’re presenting a five-part series to provide a step-by-step timeline to help guide you down the long road of applying to business school. These guidelines assume that you are setting out a year ahead of the January deadlines. Even if you are starting later, you should be able to leverage this timeline to help you prioritize each step along the way.This week, we lay out what you should be doing during the last leg of the application process, August through October.
Complete Additional Coursework
We hope that by August, at the latest, you will have completed your supplemental coursework and earned an A grade (or multiple As). If so, you will have managed to complete another “checked box” and can focus more fully on your essays.
Complete the Short-Answer Sections
Many candidates will work painstakingly on their essays, prepare rigorously for their interviews and endlessly contemplate their choices of recommenders. Candidates, however, often leave completing the short-answer sections of their applications (the actual application forms) to the last moment—an approach we don’t recommend. The short-answer sections of business school applications should never be ignored and should instead be completed with the same spirit of diligence that candidates ideally bring to all aspects of their applications. We advise candidates to refrain from pasting bullet points from their resumes in the career section, and to contemplate the questions that are asked and write out complete answers in sentence form. (Further, bullets from a resume often lack the necessary context.) While the information conveyed is quite important, we consider the overall message—namely, that candidates are giving care and thought to all aspects of their application—even more crucial.
Follow Up with Recommenders
Experience has shown that many recommenders will not make writing recommendations a priority and will wait until the last minute to write these letters. Inevitably, many MBA aspirants will wonder, “What if my supervisors don’t get their letters done by the deadline?” In our opinion, the easiest way to ensure that your recommenders complete this task on time is to present them with your own deadline, rather than the school’s. If the application to your program of choice is due on October 10th, for example, tell you recommenders that you are submitting on September 30. By setting this advanced deadline, you can put some mild pressure on your recommender (if he/she misses the fictitious deadline) and not be forced to deal with a major problem (i.e., if this were to have happened on the actual deadline day).
As we have noted, writing standout essays takes time and patience. Still, you should not become so attached to your work that you are afraid of a solid critique. We recommend that you share your essays with and seek feedback from one or two people—from a professional consultant or an individual who has insight into the application process—but that you limit your feedback loop thereafter. Because the application process is subjective, you will discover that as you add readers, you will also add new and different opinions. Soon, a multitude of alternatives might appear, and while these ideas will not necessarily be “right” or “wrong,” as there are countless ways to market a single candidate’s stories, they can create unnecessary uncertainty. So, we are not suggesting that you ignore critical feedback, but rather that you not complicate your process and create doubt where it may not be due. If one or two readers support your ideas and agree that your application needs minimal work, you are probably best off ending your feedback loop there and continuing the application process with confidence.
Complete and Submit First-Round Applications
As you approach the first-round application deadlines, which typically fall within the first two weeks of October, you should of course do whatever you can to submit your best work—but you should also focus on letting go once your application has been submitted. If you later realize that some part of your application included a typo, this is unfortunate, but it is not a reason to panic. Admissions committees are not looking for reasons to reject you; they are seeking to get to know you through your files. So, press submit, and start to look forward instead of back. At this time, you might consider a brief break of about one week to clear your head and recharge for the second round of applications. The application process can be exhausting, and you will need to be at your best to compete.
Visit Remaining Target Schools
As we noted earlier, a priori experience is crucial in that in it enables you to get to know a target MBA program better and also to more easily make a case for your fit with the school. Most class visit programs commence in October, just prior to first-round deadlines. If you have any additional schools that you plan to visit, you can ideally do so before the first-round submission date, so that you can learn from your experience and apply your learning to your applications.
Since Ambassadorial Speechwriter and MBA Jeremy Shinewald founded mbaMission in 1999, the firm has worked closely with business school candidates from around the world, successfully guiding them through the entire MBA application process ("From Start to Finish") and ensuring that their unique attributes are showcased in a creative, compelling and focused way. mbaMission senior consultants are published authors/elite communicators with top-MBA experience, who work one-on-one with applicants to help them discover, select and articulate the unique stories that will force MBA admissions committees to take notice. mbaMission collaborates with candidates on all aspects of their application, reducing stress levels and maximizing their chances of being admitted to the business school of their dreams.
mbaMission offers mock interviews using actual questions posed to previous applicants to their specific target schools.
Next week: Planning for your MBA November-January