I loved applying to business school. I actually wish I could do it again; I know that’s crazy. But I do! I loved working on something I really cared about. I loved the soul searching the application questions required of me: what do I want to do with my life? I loved carving out time on Saturday mornings with a cup of tea and my laptop and sitting on the sun porch writing and editing essays before my roommates woke up. I loved the feeling of accomplishment when I submitted applications and eventually got a voicemail from Dee Leopold with my acceptance notification!
But I promise, none of this would have been as enjoyable if I hadn’t been extremely organized and process-oriented. I was a management consultant at the time, so project timelines were my jam. And I decided to take the same approach with my MBA applications. I want to share this with you because I truly believe that if you take your time with it – rather than rushing to get an application in before the deadline – you will get so much more out of this process. Not only will you have a more polished application by the time it’s due, but you’ll have a greater understanding of yourself. You’ll have taken the time to reflect on who you are, what you’ve accomplished, and what motivates you – which will serve you long after the round one application deadline.
In addition to the timeline, I want to share some secrets to this process – because why not try to actually enjoy it?
Secret #1: Take the GMAT (or GRE) as early as possible.
Take it while you’re still in college (when math is fresh) if possible. The sooner you take the GMAT (and take it again if you have to), the sooner you’ll know how competitive of an applicant you are and the less you’ll have to fret about it while you’re soul searching.
Secret #2: Use a consultant.
(It doesn’t even have to be me!) Yes, I’m sure you have really smart parents, friends, partners, mentors who can help you edit your essays, but they don’t know what they’re doing. I mean this in the nicest way possible. Even if they applied to business school, they’re going to advise you based on their own experience, not with an expertise of the programs or a thorough understanding of your skill-set. Plus, it helps so much to have someone who will hold you accountable.
Secret #3: Learn about yourself.
I mean this two ways. 1) Learn when you write and reflect best. Is it in the mornings or late at night? Carve out time when you’re at your peak to work on applications. And make it special: eat ice cream on the couch or work from your favorite coffee shop. Anything to treat yourself while you’re grinding will go a long way. 2) Take the time to learn who you really are. Reflect on stories from your childhood, from school, from your year abroad, that defined you as a person. Oftentimes we’ll find stories from a really young age that reflect who we are today; those are nuggets!
Secret #4: Take a break after you submit your applications.
Best case: you won’t even need to start round two since you will have gotten in to your 1st choice school in round one! Worst case: if you find out you didn’t get an interview from any of your R1 schools, then you can start working on R2, and hopefully now you’ll have a better idea of what you want to submit.
Secret #5: Send thank you notes.
To your recommenders, to your parents, to your mentors, anyone who helped you out in the process. Let them know where you’re headed and thank them for their help getting you there.
I’m sharing these tips with you because I really hope they help. I’ve been in your shoes before and the process felt daunting. But as long as you’re organized, it’s possible to do great work in a short amount of time – even if you’re starting late and still want to apply round one! Don’t let this timeline deter you.
I use this process and these secrets to coach my clients to amazing outcomes, while bringing out their best life nuggets, capturing their authentic voices, and ensuring they get more out of the process than just a stellar application. I hope the same is possible for you!
I have a much more detailed version of this I use to help my clients reach their MBA dreams as efficiently as possible.
Britt Williams is an Engagement Manager at Career Protocol, a firm that provides no-nonsense career advice and professional development coaching. She helps MBA applicants get into dream schools and land dream jobs while staying true to themselves. Britt got her MBA from Harvard Business School and scoops ice cream on her days off.