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Posted by Chioma Isiadinso
Whether you’re fresh out of undergrad or you’ve got a couple of years in the workforce, summer almost always brings with it thoughts of vacation, relaxation, and getting away from work for a while.
Unfortunately, if you want to get admitted to a top business school, you’ll need to snap out of that mindset as soon as possible. Applying to an MBA program takes a lot of time, and a lot of work – often, more work than candidates anticipate.
Most business schools release their applications for the upcoming year in June or July, with round one deadlines falling in late September and October (although some top business schools, like Harvard and Yale, have early-September deadlines). There are many reasons that you should apply in round one if possible:
Increase your chances of getting in – Later rounds get significantly more competitive, as most of the seats have already been filled and admissions committees are only looking for truly exceptional applicants.
Make living arrangements – A two-year MBA program is a big disruption to your life. Applying in round one gives you as much time as possible to make arrangements with your job, look for on- or off-campus housing, and (for MBA candidates with families) determine where your family members will work or attend school.
Scholarship opportunities – Many scholarships have deadlines in the earlier rounds and applying later in the process could keep you out of the running for scholarships.
Apply for a visa – International applicants are strongly encouraged to apply in earlier rounds so that they’ll have enough time to get their visa requirements in order before classes begin.
If you’re hoping to apply in round one, there are a couple of things you need to do this summer to make sure you’ll be ready to go by the time the application deadline rolls around.
I am going to assume that you’ve already got a GMAT or GRE score you’re comfortable with, because otherwise you’re going to be extremely hard-pressed to find the time to complete everything you need for your application. With that being said, here’s where you need to focus your attention this summer:
Your personal brand is the thread, the theme, that runs through your entire MBA application package. Before you can create a compelling resume or an effective essay, you need to get a firm handle on who you are, why you want to go to business school, and what you bring to the table.
An MBA application resume is not the same as a standard employment resume. Instead of cataloging your responsibilities and capabilities, it should be designed to highlight your career trajectory, reinforce your personal brand, and demonstrate your leadership skills and experience.
You’ve probably had a mental list of dream schools, safety schools, and “maybe” schools running in your head for a while. But as summer rolls on and it’s time to get serious about your application, you need to narrow it down to your actual target schools. Aim for a mix of stretch and safety schools, and don’t stretch yourself too thin by applying to too many schools. Keep your applications between 5-6 and the most.
MBA application essays are make or break. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that since they’re generally relatively short, they’ll be quick to write. You’ve got a lot you need to accomplish in a short space. Give yourself ample time for brainstorming and thinking through examples; the best application essays are highly specific and provide plenty of details to illustrate the story you want to tell.
Many schools place a lot of weight on recommendation letters, but there is an art to choosing the right MBA recommender. Look for someone who has worked directly with you, knows your work well, and is enthusiastic about supporting you in growing your career.
Business schools want students who have demonstrated leadership potential, so supervisors who encourage you to take initiative make for better recommenders than micromanagers who want to be consulted on every little thing. Don’t make the mistake of choosing a recommender based on title alone, or of asking for the recommendation and then never checking up before the deadline to see if it got done.
When it’s time to look over your application package as a whole, it can be incredibly difficult for candidates to judge their own work objectively. Getting a second or third opinion can be invaluable.
Be careful about who you choose, though; friends and family can often be too close to you to provide truly objective feedback. Sometimes a neutral third party, like an MBA admissions consultant, can be the best choice to help you identify strengths and mitigate weaknesses in your application.
If it’s at all possible, you should find a way to visit the campus – or at least attend an admissions event – for your top choice schools. Admissions committees love to see candidates who are engaged enough to visit their campus. It shows genuine interest and gives you great fodder for essays and interview questions that ask about why you want to attend their school in particular.
If you’re planning to apply to business school this fall, especially in time for the round one deadline, summer doesn’t mean the living is easy – it means it’s time to buckle down and get to work.
This article has plenty of tips to get you started with a summer MBA application plan, but you can also delve deeper with our advice on writing an effective MBA application essay, or how to develop your personal brand.
And if you’d like some outside perspective, whether it’s determining which schools would be the best fit for you or developing an application strategy that will make you a clear choice for admission, EXPARTUS can help. You can get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or sign up for a free MBA application assessment today.