An Open, Very Candid Letter to All New MBA Applicants

“This is the true story of one former business school applicant who chose to take the GMAT, blog and have his journey documented. Read on to find out what happens when he stops being polite and starts getting real. Let’s just say that I used to be obsessed with The Real World – which, if you didn’t know, is where that opening is from.

In any event, I wanted to take this time to write a “letter” to you new applicants who are A) just stumbling upon my blog and/or B) all other folks who will be applying to business school this upcoming year.  This post is actually inspired by my friend who I can see going down the same road I went down. So I wanted to take this time to write very candidly to everyone as you prepare to go through what me and so many other folks went through last year.

So… The GMAT!  Friggen exam was the bane of my existence last year, especially around this time.  If I remember correctly, and I don’t feel like checking my blog to see exactly what I was doing at this time last year, but I was a week out from taking my first official GMAT exam.  I had prepared for four months and in my head I was telling myself that I was ready, but then in my heart I knew that I was not ready.   I do remember that the week before the actual exam my practice CAT scores were decreasing and I was losing hope.  Then essentially right before my exam I “gave” up and told myself that I would most likely have to take it again.  Sure enough… I had to take it again… AND AGAIN! But more on that later…

I wish back then I had someone telling me…. forget all of the business school information sessions and visiting schools and stuff.. focus on the GMAT and only the GMAT.  But of course I thought I had everything under control and had given myself enough time to essentially Beat the GMAT.  I will say that I did have one friend in particular who was telling me to block out everything.  Don’t get me wrong, I definitely blocked out everything but I got more caught up in how to prepare for the GMAT than actually PREPARING for it, if that makes sense.  I thought that as long as I went through the motions and read the right books and all that stuff, that I would be fine.  Well, let me tell you!  THAT IS NOT HOW IT WORKS!  Not for me at least!  Actually not for most people!  The GMAT is the exam that will knock people out of the race immediately.  While yes people say “oh it’s only one part of the application” (and they are right) it is still an important part of the application and one must do all he/she can to get the highest score possible… but more on this later.

As many of you know the GMAT was a year long struggle for me.  I did not have it easy at all, but the worst part is that I think that much of my distraught over the GMAT could have been avoided.  My advice to you guys now is to forget about everything else not related to the GMAT and then bang out the test in two months.

If you do this, you will thank me for it!  There is nothing worse than having to think about the GMAT during the summer.  Studying is not fun…studying in the summer time when you could be having fun is certainly not fun!  Now I know that you may be saying, “well if it has to do with my future then I won’t mind doing it!”  and to that I say.. .yeah right!

The reaching out to current students and talking to professors and even your research into schools can all be done AFTER you take the GMAT for the last time.  Trust me it will be much easier.  You don’t want to get into a situation where you’re calculating the opportunity cost of writing and essay vs. studying for the GMAT because in all actuality they are equally important but you will inevitably slack on both by doing them simultaneously.  (don’t say no you won’t…because you will!)

Then god forbid you are taking the GMAT again in the summer and the outcome is not ideal, you’ll have to take it again in the fall or late summer.  Now this is the worst because now everyone is back to working hard because summer is over.  Now you’ll also be attending all of the school information sessions in your city…. Now you’ll HAVE to be writing your essays because they’ll need to get done… You’ll have to visit schools… You’ll have to start the conversations with your recommenders and sit down with them to keep them on track… Preparing to take the GMAT in the fall is horrible which is why I thinkthat everyone should bang it out in late spring/early summer!  I’m telling you this now because I would not wish the type of 4 months that I had in the fall on anyone.  Carrying GMAT books around is not cute… well maybe to other folks taking the GMAT but it’s more like being hazed.  You know you have to do it because it’s a necessary evil, but no one wants to do it.

When I commute to the city now for work I’ll see people studying the official guide or carrying MGMAT books around and I get that empathetic look on my face and say “I feel your pain” and they automatically know what I’m talking about.  But then I proceed to tell them that by trying to get the GMAT out of the way now, they are in much better shape!

So with all that being said… the GMAT is not everything!  We’ve heard this time and time again and I can attest to that statement!  It is not everything!  I spent a year of my life preparing for something that is NOT everything!  Thankfully it worked out perfect for me, but imagine if it didn’t?  If I had to do it over again I would study the CORRECT way going hard for two months straight!  Take the GMAT…and be done with it.  Now The CORRECT way is the key here and maybe that’s for another post.  My life and my essays would have been 100% better if I could have worked on them all throughout the summer and the fall.

I’m telling you guys this because I’ve been there.. my friends have been there.. the test is evil and stupid…but it must be conquered.  Get the GMAT out of the way as soon as possible.  Once the application essays questions come out in June/July – your focus will change to the applicant so you should get the test out of the way.



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:

Should You Hire an MBA Consultant?

Study for the GMAT or Polish Off an Essay?

Am I Really Cut Out For This?

My First Round Applications Are Looking Elusive

A Frustrating Day and Night on GMAT Prep

Having Trouble Hitting the Submit Button

It’s Nearly Midnight. Where Are All My Friends?

“Why An Admissions Consultant Objected To My Essay on Coming Out”

“Brain Racing at 4 a.m. Thinking About Business School”

“After Scoring a 620 on My GMAT, I Want To Die”

“Walk Me Through Your Resume” – My Interview at Dartmouth’s Tuck”

“My GMAT Students Are ‘Totally Obsessed Weirdoes With Unbelievable Work Ethics”

“With Apologies to Paul Simon, 50 Ways To Tell You’re Getting an MBA”

“My 30-Day Countdown to an MBA Acceptance”

“Tis’ The Season For Racing Hearts & Sweaty Palms”

“East Coast Blizzard Means More Time To Work on MBA Applications”

“Fear, Loathing & Panic In the Wee Small Hours of the Night”

“The Waiting Game Kicks In & It’s Brutal”

“If I Get Into a Top B-School, It Will Be the Happiest Day of My Life. If not….”

“25 Reasons I’m Over Obsessing About B-School.”

“An Invite to Interview from Cornell”

“Eight Things for New B-School Applicants”

“The Sheer Joy of an Acceptance”

“After Getting An Acceptance, I’m Thinking About…”

“A 20-Day Emotional Roller Coaster: One Acceptance, Five Rejections”

“How Will I Pay for My Cornell MBA? Good Question.”

“Preparing for Business School”

“Countdown to Cornell’s Johnson School of Business”