A Great 100-Hour MBA Application Strategy

If you feel that the GMAT quant is not going to move upward, you may want to consider beginning an online course in stats, finance or accounting to showcase your academic abilities in this arena.

We also see candidates who already have competitive GMAT scores but little in their profile beyond work and study who however still want to retake the GMAT to get a stellar score. We generally advise them to instead invest that time in their extra-curricular profile.

Woo your recommenders. Think early about who you will likely want to ask for a recommendation – you will need two, and at this stage you should have three or four options in mind. Proactively build your relationship with them – if you work with them currently, look for opportunities to go above and beyond the call of duty, so that they can then cite some great examples of your impact. If they work with your previous employer – make sure your relationship is current and that you are regularly in touch. If you can find a way to do them a favor, so much the better.  You should prime them now so that when the time comes to ask them to support your MBA application, they are ready to jump in and be an outspoken champion.

Round 1 vs Round 2. At the end of the day it is better to submit an accomplished and professional application, rather than something that is hurried and poorly prepared. There is all sorts of speculation online about the advantages of applying early, and certainly options such as Columbia’s Early Decision, or Fuqua and Tuck’s Early Action are a great way to demonstrate your commitment to these schools.

We also  know that Rounds 1 or 2 for the very top U.S. schools – Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Booth, MIT Sloan and Kellogg – are both very strong. Though these schools will expect to admit more than 95% of the class from these rounds, they know from experience that the pool of applicants in Round 2 is just as talented and qualified, so they avoid filling more than half the class in Round 1, and judiciously use the wait list for candidates that they want to compare to those in Round 2.

For the next tier of world class B-schools, such as Tuck, Haas, Fuqua, Yale SOM, Cornell, Michigan, NYU Stern, Darden and UCLA Anderson, these schools will see a spike in applications in Round 2 from all those applicants who were not admitted to their top choice in Round 1. They also want to boost their yield, and are looking for signs of your commitment to their school, so strategically speaking it may make more sense to apply to these schools in Round 1 if you really want to show them how serious you are.

That said, it is rarely feasible to apply to six or seven schools in one round, so come up with a shortlist that best matches your personal goals. The most important thing: To optimize the ROI of your time and energy between now and September.

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Matt Symonds is a Director at MBA admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions, author of “Getting the MBA Admissions Edge”, founder of Kaplan Test Prep in Europe and QS World MBA Tour.  Fortuna is composed of former Directors and Associate Directors of Admissions at many of the world’s best business schools, including Wharton, INSEAD, Harvard Business School, London Business School, Chicago Booth, NYU Stern, IE Business School, Northwestern Kellogg, and UC Berkeley Haas. 

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