If you intend to submit business school applications in Round 1, you have 100 days (possibly fewer!) until the first deadlines.
Before you read on, visit the websites of ALL the programs you are considering and then sign up to receive information from them if you haven’t already done so. You will be notified when each school’s essays are released and when its application is available, and you’ll hear about webinars, chats, and other resources that provide insight about program offerings.
Now, what else should you be doing in the month of June?
1. Solidify your short- and long-term goals.
Although many people start out with a range of ideas for their post-MBA goals, NOW is the time to identify the path about which you are most passionate. For your short-term goal, specify the type of role and either a sample company or an industry in which you want to work (e.g., “I want to work as a product manager in a fintech startup such as Betterment.”). Your goal should be both ambitious and achievable. Then, think about where you want to be in the long term; this can be higher level. Make sure to connect the dots and show that your short-term goal will help you achieve your long-term goal. Alternatively, you can approach the process in reverse if you know where you want to be in the long term and then work backward. Having a defined career path can be helpful when reaching out to current students and alumni because they can direct you to others with similar paths. If you are planning a larger career change, check out “How to Use an MBA to Change Careers.”
2. Nail down your answers to “Why MBA?” and “Why Now?”
The admissions team is looking for you to know what you need from an MBA. Think of this as a gap analysis. How have your experiences prepared you to add value in the classroom, in small groups with peers who have skills needed in your post-MBA role? What specific skills or experiences do you need from an MBA to help you achieve your short- and long-term goals? If you are outside of the 80% range of years of work experience for full-time programs (typically three to eight years), you will need to explain why NOW is the right time for you to pursue an MBA. In this case, you may want to consider a part-time or executive program, both of which typically cater to applicants with more work experience.
3. Assess your GMAT/GRE score.
Are you happy with your current standardized score? Have you taken practice GMAT and GRE tests to ensure you are taking the best test for you? Have you built a retest plan? June is a great month to take the GMAT or GRE, especially if it is your first time. Taking the test now will give you time to reassess and retake before you get too deep into the application process for Round 1. Remember that there is a required wait time between tests, so be aware of that time frame. If you haven’t reached the score you think you are capable of, you might want to reconsider your test prep strategy. See “GMAT, GRE, or Even EA—Which Test Should I Take?” for more insight on these tests.
4. Update your resume.
Your professional profile will not significantly change in the next few months. However, the resume that you used to get your current job is likely NOT what MBA admissions committees are looking for. Make sure you focus on the impact you have made in each role rather than just listing your responsibilities. Keep in mind that your resume is only one component of your MBA application, so be careful about duplicating material that a reader will find elsewhere. The one time that your resume will need to stand alone with respect to business school applications is for an interview. Make sure that anything you might want to discuss in an interview is referenced on your resume. “How to Create the Best Possible Resume for Your MBA Application” provides more helpful resume tips.
5. Select recommenders.
Now is the time to choose your recommenders. Make sure your recommenders are aware of your interest in obtaining an MBA, and gauge their enthusiasm—you want to choose people who have the insight to say that you are the best of your peers. Use this time to informally update recommenders on your goals and why an MBA is the right path for you. Put together materials to share with your recommenders so they have something to reference as they write. These could include a copy of your resume, reminders of your accomplishments and impact, your short- and long-term goals, the schools to which you are applying, what those schools value, and their submission deadlines. See “Four Steps to a Five-Star Recommendation” for more details on selecting the best recommenders.
6. Continue your school research.
Once you have identified your areas for development, locate resources at each program to which you are applying that will enable you to address your gaps. Dig into the curriculum: Which electives might you want to take? Does the school have a major, concentration, or pathway that aligns with your goals? What teaching methodologies are used, and do they align with your learning style? Explore clubs and extracurricular activities—is there a professional club that aligns with your target industry and/or function? Does the school host or take part in a conference or offer career treks so you can engage with industry leaders? Start by exploring online resources and school webinars, and then make personal connections with students and alumni to fill in the blanks. “Nine Tips for Reaching Out to Students to Learn More About MBA programs” and “21 Questions to Ask Students and Alumni While Researching MBA Programs” provide more information on researching schools.
7. Outline first!
As business school application essays become available throughout the month, take the time to create an outline before you write—because it’s much easier to move ideas around in an outline. Be sure your story is sound and that you are answering the question. After you have completed your outline, put it away for a day or two, and then review it and assess the structure/flow—then you can start writing! If you are applying to multiple schools, beware of repurposing content, and think about how many different sets of essays you are comfortable working on at a time. Applicants often learn a lot while writing their first set of essays, so you may want to get through one school’s essays before you start tackling others.
8. Create a plan.
As submission deadlines are announced, develop a project plan to prioritize your work based on the application due dates. Build key professional deadlines and personal commitments into your plan to create a realistic and achievable schedule for the application season, and make sure to give yourself an occasional evening or weekend off to rejuvenate. Consider building your plan to ensure you complete all applications a couple of weeks before the deadline. If the last year has taught us anything, it is to plan for the unexpected. The business school application process is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself!