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7 Things You Should Do Before Applying To Business School

Posted by Chioma Isiadinso

The business school application process can be long.

And nerve-wracking.

While the application process itself is extremely important, preparing yourself for it a few months in advance is also crucial to your chances.

From taking the GMAT to revising your resume, there are many things you need to do before you start filling out your first application.

In this detailed post, we review seven important things you should do before applying to business school that can help you put together a solid and cohesive application for each of your target MBA programs.

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Ace the GMAT

Undoubtedly the GMAT is an extremely important component of your business school application.

Give the test the respect it deserves. Research potential test dates and register for the one that leaves you with plenty of time to prepare.

It’s recommended you leave enough time between your GMAT and business school application deadlines to re-take the test if need be.

Most people need between 3-6 months to prepare for the GMAT. While preparing, aim for a score of 20+ points above the average for the school you are applying to.

This will allow you to track your progress as you take practice tests. If you run into trouble with specific sections, enlist the help of a private tutor.

If you struggle with getting your desired score in the GMAT you could opt to take the GRE.

However, you should double check with the schools you are planning to apply to to make sure they accept the GRE.

Some people perform better with the GRE, so go with the test where you have the best score.

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Understand Your Motivation

An MBA isn’t like an undergraduate degree, where you go to college because it seems like the next logical step.

Instead, an MBA is a highly specialized program.

Due to limited seats, the admissions board wants to accept candidates who can demonstrate how an MBA is the next logical step in their lives.

Explore your motivation for wanting an MBA degree.

Is it going to help you change careers?

Will an MBA help you improve your business?

What are you hoping to get out of an MBA?

How does the business school you are interested in fill those needs?

The more you think on this, the better prepared you will be to address applications and essay questions.

Contact Your Recommenders

You need to send the strongest possible recommendations with your application.

In order to get the best recommendations from your network, start contacting them well in advance of the deadline.

Reinforce the relationship before you ask for the actual recommendations.

Schools want recommendation letters from people who know your work and have seen you operate in a professional capacity.

Meet with your supervisors (former or current) a few times prior to finalizing the list of schools you are applying to.

Share your reasons for wanting an MBA.

You want to be sure they understand your motivation, and how this ties in with your career trajectory, so they can echo these thoughts in their recommendation for you.

Once you’ve asked for the recommendation, give them at least 4-6 weeks to complete the recommendation forms.

Visit a Few Business Schools

A campus visit can really help you nail down which school matches your needs best.

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Make sure you visit while classes are in session, usually between September and April, so you get a firsthand experience of what the environment is like.

You’ll get a whole lot more from one visit than you will from endlessly reviewing websites and brochures.

Talk to current students one-on-one as well as attending the officially organized Q&A sessions organized for prospective candidates.

This will help you write a more specific and personal application, as well as ensure the shortlist you make consists of schools you will get the most out of.

Fill Any Gaps in Your MBA Resume

Before you start applying, you need to take a hard look at your resume and analyze it for any “gaps” that would weaken your application.

For example, you might have a stellar work record, but not enough extra-curricular activities.

You could spend the next few months honing in on these “gaps”, take up some charity work or leadership positions either through work or local organizations.

Similarly, you could look into strengthening your academic base by taking some part-time courses.

Or you could re-take the GMAT/GRE if you feel you can get a better score.

You should review your resume with a critical eye, and if possible ask a mentor to do the same and provide you with additional feedback.

Consider Hiring an MBA Admissions Expert

You’re going to be spending thousands of dollars on your MBA.

Hiring admissions experts to help you with your application can be a sound investment, as it will substantially increase the odds of you getting into your ideal school.

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Before you decide on the expert, thoroughly vet them.

They should be willing to share their success rates, provide references, and have been in the industry for a few years.

Look for experts that have solid background in the industry and, preferably, have been on admissions committees for business schools in the past, so you can get insight into the application process.

Almost 40% of business school applicants use an admissions consultant, so make sure you’re not at a disadvantage and consider hiring one yourself.

Finalize Business School Selections

When you start thinking about your MBA, you will need to run through a long list of potential schools. Ideally, however, you should only be applying to 4-6 schools only.

Because targeting too many schools will leave you stretched thin, make you lose focus and reduce your chances of success.

So once you shortlist your target schools, you can start preparing for the actual application process.

Look at the deadlines of each of your target schools, including the different application rounds, decide when you will apply, and mark hard deadlines on your calendar.

Review previous year’s applications and essay questions to prepare yourself better.

Wrapping it Up

The steps you take to prepare yourself prior to the application process can set you up for success in the long-term.

Spend a considerable amount of time ensuring you have all your ducks in a row before you start on any of the actual “application process”.

This will help ensure you have a solid application, resume, and are able to better convince the admissions office about your suitability for their program.

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