Are you sure you are going to apply for an MBA, but not quite ready to apply this year? Are you feeling overwhelmed when you think about everything that needs to go into an application capable of earning you a spot at a top business school? Don’t stress – MBA Prep School is here to help with a timeline so you’ll know what to do this year to stay ahead of the curve.
Even if you’re planning to apply a year or more from now, you’ll want to get started now so you don’t miss out on opportunities to begin building your edge over other applicants.
Let’s start with what you should do a full year before you apply for an MBA.
Get to Know Yourself:
You need to know yourself well before you can present yourself well. While that might seem obvious, the path to achieving self-awareness may not be as clear. We recommend regular journaling over the next year to provide a record of your experiences, strengths and weaknesses, and career goals. Not only will a journal help you practice writing about your experiences and aspirations for your application essays, but it will also prove useful as a reference during the application process. Take this time to do career research to solidify your short- and long-term career goals and how an MBA will help you achieve them.
Get to Know the Schools:
The top business schools made it to the top for a reason. Look into the faculty, curriculum, research centers, and alumni testimonials of schools that interest you. Most programs will provide career reports; if a business school places lots of alumni into your desired post-MBA field, it will provide you with more opportunities to network with recruiters and fellow alumni in that field before and after graduation.
Take the GMAT:
Taking the GMAT (or the GRE) should be a priority at this stage of the application process. Completing the GMAT early will ensure that you have enough time to retake the exam if you don’t achieve your target score the first time. Furthermore, when it is time to refine your list of schools, knowing your GMAT score in advance will help. Since a majority of MBA programs accept GMAT scores within a 5-year window, completing your exam as early as possible will give you one less thing to worry about as you move forward with your application.
What steps should you complete 6 months before the MBA application deadline?
Pick Your Schools and Get Involved:
Narrow down the long list of MBA programs you might apply to and focus on the schools that most appeal to you. Pick a few schools that best match your interests and goals. Make sure that you choose schools where your profile is going to be most competitive. Start accumulating touch points with these MBA programs: join mailing lists, attend information sessions, reach out to alumni and professors, and visit campus if you can. Remember to keep detailed notes on your conversations and what impresses you about each program – this information will be useful later when you are answering Why Our School? essay questions.
Write (Very) Rough Drafts:
Six months before applying is a good time to start pulling together the best ideas from your journal entries as outlines for the most commonly asked essay questions, like the “Why our School” essay or the “Career Goals” essay. While schools generally won’t publish their essays for each application year until June or July, many schools only make minor changes to their essay prompts and word limits from year to year. Drafting essays will allow you to practice working with common themes and expressing yourself in a stricter format than personal journal entries. If you’re not feeling confident yet, check out MBA Prep School’s previously published six-part Essay Boot Camp Series for helpful essay writing tips.
Think About Who Might Write Your Recommendation Letters:
Start thinking about the people in your network who are best suited to write a strong letter of recommendation for you. Most top business schools require two letters, with one of the letters submitted by a direct supervisor. Your recommendations could make or break your application, so choosing recommenders who know you well enough to provide a genuine, glowing review is a vital early step. It will focus you in on the importance of shining in front of your current supervisor and keeping in close contact with a past supervisor whom you might ask to write your second reference letter.
You’ll want to do everything you can to stay ahead of the tough competition that you will face when applying to top MBA programs. Be sure you bookmark our next post, which will detail the things you need to do in the months leading up to the application deadlines to further enhance your odds of getting into a top MBA program.
Learn from Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, and the other top MBAs how they wrote essays that got them in!
Tyler Cormney is the co-founder of MBA Prep School, a full-service, boutique MBA admissions consulting firm that specializes in helping aspiring MBA candidates realize their dream of attending an elite business school. As a graduate of both Harvard Business School and USC’s Professional Writing Program, Tyler draws upon his unique blend of creative writing, strategic thinking, and coaching skills to help applicants stand out from the competition for a place in the most selective MBA programs, including Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton.