Applying for an MBA is a time-intensive process that inherently requires work and introspection, but there is a lot you can do now to lessen the last-minute stress of submitting your application. My hope is that the checklist below will provide helpful guidance as you think about the next steps in your MBA application journey.
Take a good look at your resume.
Your resume is likely as recent as your latest employment search. If it does not (yet) reflect the work you have done recently, take some time to update it. Having a resume that is representative of your work output, skills, interests, and community involvement will allow you to highlight specific meaningful aspects of your experience. It should be a snapshot of your experiences and achievements, showing that you have the transferable skills needed to succeed at Tuck and beyond.
Keep in mind that composing effective bullet points for the experience section of a resume requires effort. If you take the time to do so now, you will free yourself up later in the application cycle. Curious about how to structure those bullet points and format the resume? Use this guide as your starting point.
Additionally—and starting with your resume for this might seem counterintuitive at first—looking at your past accomplishments provides time for introspection. Think about what motivated you to join your current or past employer, what you enjoy most about your current job, and what has led you to this point of wanting to change your career through an MBA. Thinking about all this will lead you to the next point on this list.
Solidify your goals and become comfortable articulating them.
Do your desired post-MBA goals align with and support what you enjoyed doing in the past? Do you need an MBA from Tuck to achieve them? What is your personal unique combination of skills and strengths? If you need help solidifying your list, refer to your resume, look back through your recent performance reviews, have a conversation with your mentor—all this will help you in the process.
Once you have answered these questions, identified your skills, and considered what brought you most satisfaction in the past, put it to paper and make sure there is alignment with the path you plan to pursue post-MBA. Next, research your target industries and companies, and explore what roles are available to MBAs in these spaces. Tuck’s career advisers suggest going through this initial introspection and research early in the process in order to find the right intersection of your skills, your interests, and jobs that are available.
Do your research and get to know us better.
Really getting to know Tuck (and other programs you might be applying to) will help ensure you select the program that challenges and supports you the most and is best aligned with your future trajectory. For Tuck specifically, consider how you can contribute and thrive in our mutually beneficial, distinct community, curriculum, and culture.
Engage with us through events, and connect with our admissions team, current students, and alumni. By doing so, you will not only learn more about Tuck but also be able to articulate how the Tuck MBA can help you reach your goals, while telling us how your individuality will add to the fabric of Tuck. We will be asking you about this in our essays, conversations, and during the interview, so do the legwork now to have a clear answer when the time comes for you to shine. We will be asking you about this in our essays, conversations, and during the interview, so do the legwork now to have a clear answer when the time comes for you to shine.
Identify and connect with your recommenders.
While the application deadline might seem far away, spend some time now thinking about who to ask for a Letter of Reference (LOR). The most helpful LORs will be professional in nature, and will come from someone who directly supervised you, preferably from your current and former direct supervisors. You want your reference to be someone who has the knowledge, desire, and time to advocate for you. You also want them to have plenty of notice as last-minute requests are rarely appreciated.
Once you have identified those two persons (or one if you are a reapplicant who applied during the previous year), reach out to them and have a discussion to explain why you are applying to Tuck, and how you see the MBA advancing you towards your long-term goals. Remind them of the traits, abilities, and accomplishments you brought to their organization, and keep them updated on your application process to ensure their awareness of not only where you stand but also—and most importantly for the LORs—your application deadline.
Schedule your test date and start your GMAT/GRE prep.
Spend some time familiarizing yourself with the two tests to determine which structure and format is best suited to your abilities; we do not prefer one test over the other. Then, dive into test prep and practice tests. I often hear from candidates and current students that they wish they gave themselves more time to prepare, so try to give yourself plenty of buffer to study, practice, and re-test if needed. While these tests are not the most important part of your application, we see them as reflective of your academic aptitude, and use them to evaluate how you meet our smart criterion.
Ideally, you will want to have your strongest score about a month before the application deadline to give yourself time to focus on other parts of your application (essays, interview prep, etc.). While Tuck does not have a minimum GMAT or GRE score requirement, our class profile might be a helpful resource to you. Consider the ranges, not just the averages, to realize the diversity of successful applicants for admission.
Start working on your application form.
This might be the part most commonly overlooked by applicants. Yes, some of it is fill-in-the-blank information that’s very straightforward, and if you need a break from studying for the GMAT/GRE, or from crafting your essays, this could be an “easy” checklist item to complete.
We ask about your extracurricular activities and any awards you might have received. You can use this section of your application not just to name them, but to help us understand your time commitment, and by providing a brief description to highlight your involvement or achievements to emphasize how you are accomplished and encouraging.
You will also fill out the Employment History section, so spend some time early on collecting, and writing down the information you will need to provide, such as a description of your organization, the size of your team, and your responsibilities. Your job description is a good place to start drawing from when speaking of your responsibilities, your first employment contract will remind you of your starting salary, and if you work more than 40 hours/week, spend some time roughly tracking your hours worked so that you are able to provide an accurate answer to that question.
While everyone has a different approach to working on their MBA applications, I hope that this guide helps highlight application components that you can start working on now, giving yourself plenty of time to put forth an application that is most reflective of how you are smart, accomplished, aware, and encouraging. My colleagues and I look forward to getting to know you better, and hope that we’ll have a chance to connect with you at our events over the next few months.
Amy Mitson is director of admissions, recruitment, and marketing at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and has been at Tuck since 2000. Amy serves on the admissions committee and leads recruitment and diversity-focused initiatives. Her student services and admissions experiences have helped acquaint her with Tuck’s operations, history, vibrant campus, and alumni community. Amy’s favorite aspect of Tuck is the people; working with current and prospective members of the Tuck community is a consistent source of motivation and inspiration.
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