An Open Letter To 2016 MBA Applicants

application timeline

Dear 2016 MBA Applicant,

I would like to have heart-to-heart with you. Yes. That means YOU. If you are hoping to have an application ready for round 1 of the next application cycle, but have not yet thought about why you want an MBA, taken the GMAT/GRE, researched schools, or evaluated your qualifications, have a seat. Let’s talk.

I’ve been thinking about sending you this letter since the last two weeks of December. That’s when our phones were ringing off the hook with calls from frantic MBA applicants trying to prepare their applications for this year’s round 2 deadlines. They had holiday parties, family gatherings, gifts to buy or return, and sales to take advantage of. Some even had to work; some were off.

Deadlines loomed.

In any case, I’m writing this letter now, because I would like to help you avoid the harried hassle and diminished quality that those who start their applications in the weeks leading up to the deadlines experience. Instead follow the example of those many applicants who started their applications months before the deadline and worked steadily to complete them by those deadline dates circled in red on the calendar.

I don’t have stats for you, and know you love numbers, but my twenty years in this business tell me that those who start the application process 9-12 months before they actually apply:

Get into more and “better” schools;

Are more likely to get scholarships; and

Are more prepared for b-school when they arrive on campus.

They simply fare better in the MBA application process than those who wait until the eleventh hour to get themselves in gear.

Those better prepared applicants – they are your real competition.

“How can I compete with them in the admissions marathon?” you ask.

Good question. Begin now. Not tomorrow. Not next week or next month or next quarter. Now.

Start Your GMAT or GRE Prep

Once you determine that you have a goal that requires an MBA, start preparing for the GMAT or GRE. It’s February. January is over. Even the Super Bowl is old news. Don’t wait for the summer or for “later.”

Realize that your test score is a critical element in your application. Choosing schools without knowing your test score leads to all kinds of heartache and unpleasant surprises.

For example in mid-December “Stormers” wrote on the Accepted blog that he was anticipating a GRE of 325 (Q162, V163). On January 4th he wrote that he “belly flopped on [the] GRE and scored a 315.” He then asked if he should retake the exam or wait for Round 3.

Lower than expected test scores can throw a major monkey wrench in your plans when you take the test within two months of your target deadlines. However if you “belly flop” in the spring, you still have months to prepare again and retake the exam before the deadlines.

Where to Apply: Dartboard vs. Intent

And then there are the applicants who don’t understand the importance of fit in the application process. They just know they want an MBA from a “top N-ranked school.” They may or may not have a purpose, and for all the shallowness of their thinking, they could just as easily be throwing darts at a list of schools to determine where to invest their time and money.

Or maybe they just started too late to do the research and reflection that they could’ve and should’ve done had they started earlier. Like now.

In any case, this superficial approach in and of itself could lead to rejection, a very expensive mistake, or to a less than optimal MBA experience.

Apply purposefully to specific programs that support your goals and where you are competitive. Don’t apply to rankings. You won’t attend them.

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