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While Round 1 applications may seem far away, preparing now will allow you to develop a well thought out and comprehensive application. Here are 7 things you should be thinking about in February:
- Spend time doing self-assessment and reflection. Relax. Forget that you are thinking about getting an MBA. Instead, think about your proudest moments. What are the landmark experiences that have shaped who you are? What really motivates you? What do you love to do? What you want to do in the future? Dream big!
- Identify gaps or weaknesses in your profile. Assess your weaknesses in key areas such as academics, leadership, community involvement, and global exposure. Were you a humanities major? Haven’t taken a math class since high school? Have you not been able to give back to the community with long work hours? Are you strictly an individual contributor at work? Don’t have exposure outside of your home country?
- Create plan to address your weaknesses. If you don’t have a strong math background, consider taking a math course. If you have not had the opportunity to volunteer in the community, identify an organization that is aligned with your career goals or passion and get involved. Think creatively – look here for some ideas: Build Your MBA Leadership Profile Through Community Involvement Ask your manager for new opportunities at work – managing a project, mentoring juniors. Look for opportunities to engage globally – either through work or an outside activity.
- Establish GMAT/GRE test and study plan. First, decide which test is the right for you.(See Five Things You Need to Know About Taking the GMAT/GRE.) Next, schedule a test date, ideally in April, that you can work toward. Sign up for a test prep course if that is your best method of preparation. Otherwise, develop a study plan and stick to it. The best way to maintain momentum is to plan a little bit of studying every day. Taking the test early will provide you adequate time to re-assess your situation before you decide where you will apply.
- Attend MBA Fairs and info sessions. Research schools. Research MBA Fairs in your area and when schools will be coming to do local information sessions. If they are not coming to your area, sign up for information sessions or student chats online. Use the internet to your advantage; research the school before you meet representatives so that you can ask questions to learn how that program will lead you to YOUR goals.
- Identify a list of 6-8 people who could be your recommenders. Think about who would be enthusiastic about your going to business school. It is more important to have someone who knows you well and can share specific examples of your contributions than someone who has an impressive title. For more thoughts around selecting recommenders, view 4 Tips for Selecting the Right MBA Recommenders.
- Start to clarify short and long term goals. By the end of the month you should have a good idea (or perhaps a few ideas) about what you want to do immediately post-MBA and longer term. Admissions committees expect you to have a clearly articulated and achievable path to your short-term goal. Develop an elevator pitch for schools when you talk with representatives at MBA fairs to help identify resources at that school that can help you reach your goals.
Getting started now will help make the application process less overwhelming and enable you to bring out your best self in your applications.