Step Two: Systematically evaluate where you are today.
Now that you have taken time to examine where your first application went wrong, you can significantly increase your likelihood of being admitted when you reapply.
First, you must undergo a thorough evaluation of your brand, identifying who you are and what you have stood for throughout your life. This is your brand audit. In your brand audit, review your history and identify salient themes that reoccur consistently across every part of your life (academics, personal and professional). Then, choose the life stories that reinforce your brand message and use these as the examples in your essays.
Understanding your personal brand also helps you to identify professional examples that reinforce the overall positioning of your brand. It enables you to select reviewers who have worked with you or observed you during those periods of time. A word of caution: even though these reviewers may have worked with you, make sure to sit down with them and educate them of the overall positioning of your story before they begin writing your recommendations.
Invest time in thorough research of the programs to which you intend to apply. When possible, you should visit the MBA programs, attend classes, and engage the faculty and current students to uncover substantial insight into the programs. Go beyond what is published in the programs’ brochures and websites. The insights gleaned from your research will be useful when writing your essays.
Plan to spend at least 3-4 months on your application. I have even worked with candidates who have delayed their reapplication by as much as a year to address issues, such as not having enough work experience, compelling leadership examples, or weak community involvement. It’s better to move slowly and effectively than to rush through and create a second, weak application.
Step Three: Create and execute a reapplication strategy.
Call it inertia, but I’ve seen many applicants identify their application issues and talk about the problems, yet struggle to take action and resolve then. Once you have figured out what held you back the first time and you have spent time researching, you must make the changes required.
First, create a plan with actionable steps and a timeline to help measure your progress. What, specifically, must you tackle to eliminate the initial issue(s) that kept you out of your dream school?
- If the issue is weak academic profile, invest in test preparation and take classes in quantitative subjects to highlight your ability to achieve A grades.
- Seek professional projects that can offer the leadership exposure that you’re missing.
- Choose wisely when it comes to your school list, recommenders, and the topics you wish to write about. Don’t resubmit the same old materials, it will send the wrong signal to the admission board and lead to an automatic rejection.
- Start early and do your homework to ensure a fit between you and the school. There is a plethora of resources available today to research a program. Start with the schools’ website and social media (Facebook and Twitter), and then augment that with perspectives covered on websites such as Poets and Quant, MBA Podcaster, and Bloomberg Business Week.com.
Second, find someone who will keep you accountable and on track with your plan. This may a friend or an admission consultant.
The power of having someone who is willing to coach you through the challenges of self-assessment and the fears that come with tackling personal issues prevents you from taking short-cuts – or from avoiding the issues that exist. An accountability partner keeps you moving in a consistent, forward direction and helps you to achieve the milestones that you’ve set for your re-application process.
Much effort goes into making an application successful. Fortunately, since this will be the second time that you apply to a MBA program, you have the benefit of already knowing where your weak spots are. So, step back and evaluate where you are today and the type of school that may truly be a good fit for you. Then, establish an action-oriented plan to complete your best application. Leverage the support of others and start making changes. In no time, you’ll be enrolled in your dream program.
Chioma Isiadinso is a 12-year admissions veteran who served on Harvard Business School’s Admissions Board and was a former Director of Admissions at Carnegie Mellon University School of Public Policy and Management. She is the founder and CEO of EXPARTUS and the Author of The Best Business Schools’ Admissions Secrets. Chioma regularly fields questions on Poets and Quants’ Ask Our Expert.