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by Mike Chen | July 23, 2007

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Application Timeline: Part II

 

Last time, we discussed the initial steps you should take even before beginning the admissions process. This included components such as the GMAT, Academic Records, Recommendations, and learning about the various schools. Today, we look at essays and interviews, as well as a suggested timeline for the upcoming months.

 

 

Essays

 

Some applicants will retake the GMAT many times (and spend countless hours of preparation in doing so) in the hopes of increasing their scores by a measley 20-30 points.Yet these same applicants will be doing a spell-check on their rushed essays 30 minutes before an online application deadline.Essays are the most underrated part of the application but, if anything, they should be overemphasized by applicants.

 

 

In the first blog of my Essay Advice series, I advocated that you should spend as much time planning your essays even before writing your first word.Creating an overall theme for your application takes careful consideration and significant time.For each school you apply to, that theme may be significantly different depending on the schools reputation and individual strengths.

 

 

To give you a ballpark figure of the amount of time you should be ideally spending on essays for a typical school, consider the following.If a school's application has three primary essays (500 words maximum each) plus one optional essay (no limit), you should plan on spending at least 10-15 hours from start to finish - that is, from the time you start brainstorming to the time you finish proofreading your essay.Spend a lot of time error-checking so you don't end up making obvious errors (such as writing "Harvard Business School" name on an application to Stanford).

 

 

Interviews

 

Once you finish your application and hit that submit button, you can breathe a sigh of relief, but often only briefly.In fact, for many of you, the big time part of the application process will just be beginning: interviews.In some cases, you can conduct interviews locally with alumni, but in many others, you will need to visit the school (perhaps a second time if you already visited) to do an interview.Not only do interviews often require travel time, they also require preparation.We will discuss interview strategies later this fall.

 

 

When it all goes wrong

 

Should disasters happen, such as a recommender being hospitalized the day before an application deadline, you will need to budget even more time to rectify some problems.I have even heard of disasters such as computers crashing a few hours before a deadline.In many cases, this is not a death sentence - you can always apply later in the application season if you start early - but it does speak to the need to budget time for unexpected events.

 

 

More common than injured recommenders and equipment failure is the unfortunate situation of being rejected to every school to which you have applied.You should have a contingency plan, and this includes designating second-choice schools to apply to in the latter half of the application cycle.

 

 

Getting waitlisted to a school can be even more disheartening than being rejected to every school.At this early point in the application cycle, you should obviously not be concerned about being waitlisted, but you should set aside time mentally for such a situation.

 

 

Your Timeline

 

 

In summary, here is a recommended timeline for the next six months.Your actual ideal timeline will obviously vary depending on your individual situation.

 

 

July:

  • Start considering whether you want to make a serious attempt at applying to business schools for fall 2008 entry.
  • Take the GMAT if you have not already done so.
  • If you are applying to schools with Early Decision or Early Action admissions, you should have all transcripts secured and recommendations completed.

 

August:

  • Take the GMAT if you have not already done so.
  • Contact your undergraduate institution and order official transcripts.
  • Initiate discussions with potential people to gauge their suitability for writing you recommendations.
  • If applicable, submit Early Decision and Early Action applications.

 

September:

  • Make a final attempt at the GMAT if needed, but do so no later than mid-October to ensure you have your score in time for first-round deadlines.
  • Decide which schools you will apply to and make plans for fall campus visits.
  • Download essay questions for schools and begin brainstorming ideas for overall themes for specific schools.
  • Select people to write recommendations.Download recommendation forms and have meetings with your recommenders to confirm their ability to write you positive recommendations on time.

 

October:

  • Create a final list of schools to which you will apply.
  • Determine which schools on this list you will apply to during the early part of the admissions cycle and to which you will apply later.
  • Make campus visits.Attend MBA fairs and local informational sessions if appropriate.
  • For early round schools, write your essays.
  • Ensure that you have all GMAT scores reported to your targeted schools and that you have all of the necessary official transcripts.
  • Send friendly reminders to any recommender(s) who have yet to complete their forms.

 

November:

  • Continue to submit applications for early-round schools.
  • Try to learn from any mistakes made while completing early applications, especially with writing essays, and make the necessary improvements to your upcoming applications.
  • Continue to visit schools even if you have submitted early-round applications.Should you be invited to interview or become waitlisted later on, you can communicate the positive things you have learned to the Admissions Committee.

 

December:

  • Do a mid-season application assessment.(Congratulations if you have already been admitted to your top-choice school!)
  • If you have yet to be admitted to a school and are still in the middle of the application process with some schools, such as being invited to interviews, you should begin doing applications for later-round schools as well.
  • If you feel there are other parts of your application which can use improvement for these schools, such as repeating the GMAT or taking a supplementary math class, consider doing so if you have the time.
  • Oh yeah, try to enjoy the holidays!

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