Who knows better how to get into the school of your dreams than those currently at the schools of their dreams?
MBAInsight.com, a review site for counseling and test prep services, collected responses from more than 1,000 current MBA candidates on what they would say to those who are at the beginning — or even earlier — of the applications process. They found that while the candidates offered no advice dramatically different from what a professional consultant might, they did have some practical thoughts on how best to get into one’s top choice of school.
“I really like the Yelp model, if you will,” says John Karageorge, president of MBAInsight.com, which also profiles MBA candidates at top schools in the U.S. and Europe. “The rate-and-review aspect is very valuable to prospective MBA students.”
TOP ADVICE: START EARLY, TAKE GMAT FIRST
MBAInsight.com solicits reviews from current MBAs on 23 admissions consulting firms and 16 GMAT test prep courses. Since launching last year, Karageorge’s company has also asked respondents to offer words of advice for their would-be colleagues, then parsed that advice for similar themes and compiled a top 10. It released the information Jan. 8.
“There were hundreds of different responses, but the top responses were given by about 100, 110 MBAs — so about 10% of the population,” Karageorge tells Poets&Quants. “We felt it was a pretty good pool of respondents and responses.”
The top two pieces of advice: Start the research process early, and get your GMAT done first, before embarking on the arduous application process at individual schools.
WISE TO NARROW ONE’S CHOICES
What do MBA candidates mean by “start early”? Karageorge says it’s an acknowledgement that the process of applying for business school is long and arduous.
“It takes a long time to start researching schools and applying to schools, getting the essays ready, getting ready for the interview process, getting the GMAT out of the way,” he says. “So when they say to start early, the reoccurring theme was, to increase your prospects of getting into a better school, you have to start that process early.”
Pointing out that GMAT test results are good for five years, Karageorge, whose site compiles reviews of such GMAT prep courses as Veritas and The Economist GMAT Tutor, says it makes sense to get a GMAT score before putting together the other pieces of a B-school application — if for no other reason than to narrow down the choices of schools to apply to.
FROM VAGUE TO CONCRETE
Other pieces of student advice range from the frustratingly vague — “Be yourself in interviews, essays, and application,” for example, or “Research how each school is different in terms your personal and career goals” — to the more practical, such as “Meet with current or former students of the school you’re interested in,” “Take as many practice exams as you can,” and “Hire an expert.”
Karageorge says he was surprised by how many respondents said some form of “Be yourself” or “Don’t pretend to be something you’re not,” saying the biggest fear expressed about going counter this advice is that “people will see through you.”
He says the final piece of advice on the list, “Don’t apply to too any schools,” was the closest any response came to surprising him.
“A lot of these students came back and said they only applied to two or three schools, and to me that was a bit of a shock,” says Karageorge, who has owned and operated websites in the student loan space since 2007. “I think the thought there is, you’re more concentrated, more focused on those schools, and you do better research and can home in on your essay.”
See next page for an illustration of MBAInsight’s survey responses.