The cadence of the business school application process means that right now in the end of February/almost beginning of March, there are really three groups of people.
The first group is the group that I fall into which is those who have completed the application process and are now just waiting to head back about decisions from schools.
The second group is the group that is applying in the 3rd and 4th rounds for schools this cycle.
The third group is the group that is just embarking upon the process and will be applying either in the Fall of 2011 or even in 2012. This post is for those who fall in to this group. This is a list that I wish I could have found back when I was in the research/gmat stage. These are things that one would hear over and over again but may not completely understand why. But I will candidly tell you why each one of these things is necessary.
1. TAKE THE GMAT! – This stupid test is a necessary evil…well you could take the GRE as well. Honestly just get this out of the way so that you don’t have to dwell on it for a year like I did. If you say to yourself “Oh I won’t dwell on it for a year.” To that I say… hey you never know until you get the first one other with. It’s not a fun time when all of your spare time doing “fun” things is spent thinking “I should be studying right now.” Or in the middle of the summer your friends ask you to go out and you say “I can’t I have to study!” GET IT OVER WITH!!! Do whatever you need to do in order to only do it once or twice.
2. START THINKING ABOUT YOUR STORY – Your story will become who you are for the next couple of years so you might as well start thinking about it now. Everyone everywhere you go will ask you “what do you want to do post-bschool?” “Why do you want to do it?” “How does what you’ve been doing fit into what you want to do?” You better have an answer for this otherwise people will give you the ::side eyes::
3. Get A FIVE-RING BINDER – I told my friend to do this the other day… Get a five-ring binder and ONLY use it when you talk to current students, past students, other applicants, people at MBA Fairs, people when you visit b-school… basically anything. Keep this binder until you begin writing essays because it will come in handy! What happens is that if you go to one event in say April about a school or something, when you’re leaving or a week later, you’ll think of questions that you meant to ask. If you write them down you’ll be able to follow up on them. My binder goes back to September of 2009. I can find notes from the first time I listened to Admissions Officers speak at my first MBA Fair. It’s amazing how little I knew back then, but I did write some amazing questions to follow up on. In my binder I also have notes from when I spoke to current students on the phone. YOU NEED TO TAKE NOTES AND FOLLOW UP ON THEM. THAT’S HOW YOU DIG DEEPER…
4. MAKE A LIST OF WHAT YOU WANT IN AN MBA PROGRAM – This list will be a work in progress but that’s okay. But you need to have an idea of what YOU like… then you find schools that have those qualities. You want to end up in the best place otherwise you will be miserable for 2 years and trust me… as a prospective applicant who has visited many schools… YOU CAN TELL WHEN STUDENTS ARE NOT FULLY VESTED IN THEIR SCHOOLS. It’s so obvious, but that’s something I’ll write about in a later post.
Just make sure you know that if you hate cold weather and I mean despise it, then Cornell may not be the best place for you. Some would argue that Dartmouth may not be the best place for you either, but what you have to remember is that the first years at Dartmouth stay in the residence dorms that are connected to the classrooms and dining hall, so one doesn’t really need to go outside as often as a first year at Tuck as they do Cornell. Just saying – so those are the types of nuances one must contemplate.
5. IDENTIFY WEAKNESSES IN YOUR APPLICATION – This is important because whatever you think your weakness is… it WILL be brought to light during this process. You’ll hear over and over again that you should focus on what you do well and don’t call out the negatives… but.. what I say to this is… while you may not want to DWELL on the weakness, you WILL need to address it. It’s much easier to address the weakness if you can follow up and say “I know my weakness is ______ but I’ve done X, Y, and Z to counteract it.” People will tell you that it won’t make a difference but trust me… IT DOES. I want to write a whole blog post on this in a couple weeks so stay tuned.
6. REACH OUT TO CURRENT STUDENTS – Who do you think knows more about how to get into say…. Harvard? Someone who is applying to Harvard the same cycle as you or someone who is a 1st year at Harvard? This is a #NoBrainer, so make sure that you start reaching out to students now! If you don’t think that you have anything to talk to this current student about well.. you better think of something! More importantly, connect with the student. Hopefully you’re applying to a school where the students don’t mind prospective students. There are some where students are not so friendly! #IDidn’tApplyToThose. But in reaching out to current students, do understand that they are busy! No need to email everyday because that’s annoying and a sure fire way to get blacklisted lol. Students do talk to one another…
7. NETWORK WITH OTHER PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS – This group of students is another one that will become your lifeline throughout this process! I cannot tell you how important my other applicant friends have become! At 1am when you’re studying for the GMAT or writing essays and you need to vent about how fed up with the process is… these folks will be there to listen to you! Trust me.. while your friends and family do care what you’re going through… they don’t want to hear about it as often as you’re thinking about it. Nor… will they understand! I’ve met all of my prospective student friends just from random mba fairs and information sessions! You WILL see the same people over and over again, so might as well get to know them! They will even become your classmates and then part of your professional network! Plus when you start to visit schools and need people to split a hotel room with… you’ll be able to tap into this pool of people to find out whoelse is going to said event.
8. SAVE YOUR MONEY – All I’m going to say about this one is… Application fees! Campus visits! Plane tickets! Train tickets! Bus tickets! Hotel rooms! GMAT Prep! Drinks for doing either well OR poorly on the GMAT. (Either way you’ll drink to that!) Needless to say there is a huge cost in applying to business school… Then should things go in your favor, once you apply you have about two months to get a deposit together!!!!!
This report is adapted from Richard Battle-Baxter’s blog posts at “Ellipsing My Way…To Business School.”
Previous posts by Richard at Poets&Quants: