Planning Ahead for your MBA Part 5: November - January
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, November through January.
Prepare Second-Round Essays/Applications
With the first round behind you, you do not have much time to relax, given that second-round application deadlines are only nine or ten weeks away (early January). Get started on the applications for your next few target schools, recognizing that the second round is a de facto final round for most applicants. Generally, most candidates are admitted in the first two rounds and only truly unique or powerhouse candidates manage to eke their way into the classes in round three.
Plan Interviews with Target Schools
Good news: the admissions committee has read your first-round applications and…you have been invited to interview! Some interviews occur on campus with students or admissions staff. Other interviews take place with alumni in your city. Candidates will always fret about whether one kind of interview is better than the other, and admissions committees consistently tell applicants that all interviews are treated equally. The interviewer is not as important as you, the interviewee. To prepare for your interview, you should review your essays, and your resume in particular, and contemplate judgments and decisions that you have made. In 99% of cases, your interviewer will ask you questions only about your life (never inquiring about the economy, politics, etc.). Although the interview process can seem stressful, you should know the answers to all questions, because they are yours already.
Note: Check out mbaMission’s Managing the MBA Interview series for more tips.
Complete First-Round Interviews
First-round interviews will continue through December. You may wonder why a friend of yours was asked to interview in November and you were given a later interview decision. Stop worrying—the top schools do not show preference for candidates by inviting some ahead of others. The admissions committees read applications randomly and either ask individuals to interview as they complete the applications or will hold and then release interview invitations in batches. Either way, the timing is not important, but what is important is that you prepare thoroughly for the meeting and do your best. Again, review your own story and know it cold—your interviewer will inquire about you.
Await First-Round Decisions
By December, first-round decisions will start to be announced. Some schools will release them all at once online, whereas others will slowly release them via phone calls or online over a period of a few weeks. As with interview invitations, if your friend hears from the school before you, you generally have no need to panic. Avoid the temptation to call the admissions office and ask whether a decision has been made about your candidacy. Admissions personnel are easily frustrated by such calls and will not give you the answers you seek. Sit back, try to be patient and the school will contact you in due time.
Submit Second-Round Applications
As you approach your second-round deadlines, which typically fall in the first two weeks of January, you should of course do whatever you can to submit your best work. As with any applications you submitted in the first round, though, you should also focus on letting go once your materials have been submitted. So, take a deep breath, submit your application and then start looking forward instead of backward.
Await First-Round Decisions and Indecisions
If not by December, then by January (or early February at the very latest), your first-round decisions will be announced. Once again, avoid the temptation to call the admissions office and ask whether a decision has been made about your candidacy. Ideally, you will be admitted at target schools across the board. Receiving a notification of “indecision,” meaning that you have been placed on the school’s waitlist, can be quite a frustrating turn of events. However, it is actually a positive sign—your target school does not want to lose the option to admit you.
When you are placed on the waitlist, you will likely get a letter from the admissions director at your target school, and you should read this letter carefully and follow the school’s instructions precisely. Some schools want no contact from you at all while you are waitlisted and will let you know of their decisions whenever they are made. Others will entertain additional letters from you and your recommenders, or will accept a new GMAT score or other new or supplementary materials. If you find yourself on a school’s waitlist, the game is hardly over, and in some cases, the indecision may linger until the week before the MBA program is scheduled to begin. Some schools continue to admit students until the very last moment, so be prepared to work on your patience.
Complete Second-Round Interviews
Second-round interview invitations should trickle out by the end of January, then a wave should be released in February and a few invitations will finally be released in March. As with first-round interviews, some second-round interviews occur on campus with students or admissions staff, while others take place with alumni in your city. Candidates will always fret about whether one kind of interview is better than the other, and admissions committees consistently tell candidates that all interviews are treated equally. The interviewer is not as important as you, the interviewee. To prepare for your interview, you should review your essays, and your resume in particular, and contemplate the various judgments and decisions you have made in your life and career. In 99% of cases, your interviewer will ask you questions only about your life (never inquiring about the economy, politics, etc.). So, although the interview process can seem stressful, you should know all the necessary answers.
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.