You’ve clocked long hours at the office to keep clients happy, juggled GMAT study sessions amid competing commitments, agonized over essays, and exhausted loved ones with your seemingly obsessive commitment to perfecting your MBA application. Finally, you’ve pressed submit. Now what?
First, congratulations – what a huge accomplishment!
DO pause to celebrate this incredible milestone, you deserve it! Take a night off. Heck, take two nights off. Enjoy the afterglow of knowing you’ve given it your best shot.
But please, DON’T just sit back and wait.
For one, it can be a long five weeks before you hear from your schools about whether you’ve been invited to interview. Contrary to any impulse you might have to downshift and focus solely on your work, there are several things you should be doing while you wait. As an expert coach for Fortuna Admissions, I’ve fielded many queries from anxious clients eager for something to do other than compulsively refreshing their email for news.
So, here are my top six tips and ideas on how to continue to enhance your profile, and to prepare for that potential interview invitation, coming up in a few weeks.
Stay in touch with students and alumni.
It’s very important that you continue to show interest in the school and to touch base with the contacts you’ve been cultivating, such as current students and alumni. If you mentioned specific students in your essays, which is quite common, know that admissions could talk to them. If this happens, admissions might say to your contact, ‘hey I see you’ve been talking to some prospective students,’ and you want to be top of mind if, and when, that happens. A simple email to say – thank you for your time and invaluable advice, I’ve submitted my application and hope to share good news in the coming weeks – is a great place to start.
It’s also wise to reach out to a few new people and continue to build those relationships.
Students and alums are often generous about offering insight and ideas on how they approached certain questions you might encounter in an interview. They might share some questions they received and how they answered them. Don’t miss the opportunity to ask.
Follow up with your recommenders.
It’s valuable to touch base with your recommenders, both to give them a heads up that you’ve submitted and to give them a sense of timeline. (I’m assuming you’ve already sent a generous thank you note, of course!) Also consider reviewing some of the points that they felt were important in their recommendation, which could be helpful as you’re prepping for the interview.
Continue to enhance your profile.
Stay engaged in your work and professional development, as well as your extracurriculars. Sometimes you’ll be asked in an interview, ‘What’s different since you applied?’ Or, ‘Have you had any developments? Has anything changed?’ It’s optimal to be able to reply confidently, ‘Yes, I’ve been very involved in this leadership opportunity at work’ or ‘Indeed, the board I’m involved with has been able to do X, Y and Z, and it’s been really fulfilling for me’ or ‘I have continued to master Portuguese in preparation for an upcoming trip.’ Whatever it is that you do, you want to stay motivated and build new stories to share.
Another reason it’s important to stay active is to have new information to share with… that waitlist committee. As much as you’d rather not envision the possibility, it’s real, so you want to continue cultivating other opportunities. Clearly, as you’ve applied to business school, you’re thinking about leaving your current firm or position. But while you’re still there it’s wise to stay committed and continue to feed yourself professionally as you wait to hear from schools.
Stay informed about developments at your schools.
Keep up with your research by monitoring the goings-on of the schools that you’re targeting. Be aware of any news or big developments that might happen, and continue to hone in on ‘why this school,’ which is such a key interview question as you get deeper into the process. Schools want to know that you’re interested and knowledgeable about what’s going on in their universe. Following them on social media and staying connected to students and alumni helps you start to prepare and practice those responses.
Make time for a campus visit.
If you can visit the schools that you’ve applied to, it’s a great time to do it. Time and resources being considerations, taking a weekend or a day off to go to spend time on a campus before you hear about the interview is another way to impart your familiarity with the school and its culture. Visiting campus on your own terms, outside of formal campus tours and admissions meetings during the summer, has many benefits. You’re more likely to feel the in-session energy, culture and vibe of the place, and you can sit in on a class. This may also help you feel more comfortable and confident as you prepare for the interview. Of course, if you chose to visit, it’s great to let your networking contacts know your plans. Perhaps you can meet a current student in person that to date, you’ve only spoken with over the phone.
Prepare for your interview.
Despite the uncertainty, it’s vital for you to use this time to start thinking through the MBA interview with your target schools. As you follow up with your contacts, start making notes on how you might approach anticipated questions, such as ‘walk me through your resume’ or ‘why business school, why now, why this school?’ These standard questions center around conveying your story, your career plan and your unique goals. In addition to these key questions, certain programs are more inclined to probe for opinions or behavioral examples. The key to success is practice. You’ll want to start training yourself to give confident, natural and informative answers, and be ready to go in depth on any topic.
Catherine Tuttle is an expert coach at MBA consulting firm Fortuna Admissions, a dream team of former admissions directors and business school insiders from 12 of the top 15 business schools. She’s also former Associate Director of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.